The Ravens are coming off of its worst season in the John Harbaugh era. But following some fantastic offseason signing, and a stellar draft, the Ravens look to ready to contend for a playoff spot yet again. Additions such as Mike Wallace, Eric Weddle, and Jerraud Powers are just a few of the Ravens additions that will help fill holes from last year. But as we are getting closer and closer to training camp, the Ravens have to cut the roster down to 53 players. It’s a numbers game at this point, and there's almost always a player who is deemed as a surprise cut. So who will that player be for the Ravens this year?
Actually this year, the roster seems fairly clear cut. There seems to be a consensus top two to three guys at most positions, who won't be cut. The only thing left to decide is who of the top bunch will start and who will be backups. But for arguments sake lets say there is a Raven who is cut surprisingly.
I think the player that could happen to is Justin Forsett. The writing has been somewhat on the walls for the past year now. Frankly, it boils down to three main reasons.
1) Economics at Running Back
The Ravens signed Forsett to an extension last offseason, following a career year, in which he rushed for over 1000 yards. Forsett is still set to earn three million each of the next two seasons. No, that's not a huge cap hit in comparison to other players, Ronnie Stanley will earn more than Forsett this year. But in comparison to other running backs on the team, Forsett makes an astronomical amount. The next highest salary for a running back is Lorenzo Taliaferro, who makes $675,146 this season. Taliaferro isn't projected to get much playing them this season if any.
Sophomore Buck Allen and rookie Kenneth Dixon are considered the favorites to take the starting job from Forsett, should someone take it. I personally don't think Forsett is significantly better on the field than Allen or Dixon, and I get the impression most people think the same, why else would the running back completion have this much attention.
From Ozzie Newsome’s perspective, I can't see how he keeps a back on the roster who is just as good, if not a little worse, than the younger guys and has a much larger cap hit. If Newsome cuts Forsett, he opens up a decent amount of cap room, and he needs every penny he can get to keep a future free agent, Brandon Williams, in town.
As previously mentioned, many see Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon to be just as talented as Forsett. Besides having a much smaller cap hit than Forsett, the duo is much younger. Let's face it, the Ravens are an aging team. The team's star players, Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Steve Smith, and Marshall Yanda are all over 30 years old. Getting younger should be one of the Ravens number one goals. By giving the starting job to Allen or Dixon, and ditching Forsett is a good step in that direction.
Forsett is a great veteran presence to have in the locker room, but if he loses his job to Allen or Dixon, then the Ravens are spending three million for someone to give pep talks.
Plus, running backs tend to hit a wall after they turn 30. Forsett is 30. Except for a stellar performance in Pittsburgh, when Forsett was on the field, he was not the same guy from that magical year. Did he hit the wall, of was that career year just a fluke for a long time back up?
I'm a firm believer that Dixon is exactly the back the Ravens have been looking for. That said, Buck Allen performed very well in his opportunities last year, and it leads me to think that Allen could be the one who trots out with the offense in Week 1.
Forsett has been practicing with the first-team offense throughout the offseason. But Kenneth Dixon has been injured throughout most of OTA’s, and there was little news about Allen. But in the NFL, no news is good news, and that seems to be the case here.
In his daily "Final Drive", Ravens.com writer Garrett Downing talked players that no one is mentioning, but should keep an eye on, and one of the guys he talked about was Buck Allen.
Come training camp, Allen and Dixon will both earn snaps with the first team, and it's then that they will be able to show they are just what the Ravens are looking for. Allen and Dixon both are great runners out of the backfield. Both run with great speed, some power, and fantastic playmaking ability. But both are also dangerous receivers. Dixon could be found running deep wheel routes in college, and occasionally, lining up as a receiver.
Not to say that Forsett isn't versatile, but Allen and Dixon may be just a notch more than Forsett.
Overall, it comes down to Forsett being on the back end of his career, being paid much more than his competition, who, the Ravens would be no worse of with. The Ravens have spent a fourth round pick on a back two straight years. Both of those picks have major potential in Marc Trestman’s system. It just seems unnecessary to pay an aging back so much more than younger backs with more potential. The Ravens just can’t keep six backs on the roster.
Forsett getting cut would be a very surprising an unlikely move by the Ravens, and I really hope it doesn’t happen. There is just always that one guy that you never expected to be cut, that ends up being cut, and Forsett could fill that scenario.