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Will Breshad Perriman’s special teams value be his only chance to make the roster?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Training Camp Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman has become an easy target in his three years with the team. Unfortunately for him, that doesn’t mean he’ll be getting a lot of targets from Joe Flacco this season.

In fact, he’ll be lucky if he gets any. Ever since Ozzie Newsome declared his mission to revamp the receiving corps this past offseason, Perriman’s spot on the 2018 roster was squarely in jeopardy.

Three free agency pickups and two draft picks later, and it might be fair to go even farther than that. Rather than his spot being in danger, fans are wondering if Perriman even has a spot at all with the team that made him a first-round pick just a few years ago.

The three starting spots are locked up, Chris Moore earned a role down the stretch last season, and Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley are near locks as well. This is all without mentioning players such as Tim White, Quincy Adeboyejo, Jaelon Acklin, and the other roster bubble guys who have gotten off to an excellent start to 2018.

So is their even a route for the embattled speedster to beat all of those guys out for a spot on the final 53?’s Gregg Rosenthal isn’t optimistic about his chances, stating he has little chance without any special teams value:

“Perriman could give Matt Elam some competition as the biggest first-round draft bust in team history, especially if Perriman can’t make the team in August. After only 43 catches in three seasons, the Ravens are no longer relying on Perriman to play a big role. The team recently picked up a $649,485 roster bonus that helps his chances to make the team, but it doesn’t guarantee a spot. He still needs to stay healthy and possibly beat out John Brown just to earn snaps this season. A No. 4 receiver without special teams value is a No. 4 receiver at risk of not making the team.”

To be fair to Perriman though, we don’t quite know whether or not he has value in that all important third phase of the game. When discussing a receiver and special teams value, the natural inclination is viewing it through a prism of them contributing as a returner.

While Perriman’s blazing sub 4.3 straight line speed might seem conducive to that, it isn’t the only type of value he could bring to special teams. To look for influence on how he could bring something unexpected to special teams, he should look to the Northeast.

The Minnesota Vikings drafted wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson with a similar profile as Perriman: an unrefined speed-demon who was more of a projection than your typical top pick. The New England Patriots recently acquired him in a trade with the Oakland Raiders, with NBC Sports’ Phil Perry breaking down his special teams value in an article assessing the acquisition:

“Patterson has solidified himself as one of the NFL’s best kick-returners. In five seasons, he’s ranked as the top returner in terms of average yards per return three times. He’s never been outside of the top 10 in the league in that category. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with a 28.3 yards per return average. Patterson has also become a highly-effective gunner on punt units, a role he thrived in once he embraced it, and he has kick coverage experience. Patterson has not been a punt-returner. He has just one punt return under his belt compared to 153 kick returns. Patterson has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice for his work in the kicking game.”

Patterson and Perriman have similar stories; first round busts who were over-drafted due to physical ability. However, Patterson has been able to find a role on special teams since flaming out in Minnesota, and Perriman would be wise to study his career renaissance.

Patterson’s straight-line speed translates well to not only kick-returns but also as a gunner on punt coverages. He was able to use that speed to carve out a position in both aspects with Oakland, as well as the occasional touch on offense to keep the defense on their heels.

If Perriman is going to make the roster in Baltimore (or catch on anywhere else), he’d be wise to try and utilize his tools in such a fashion. John Harbaugh has always had an eye for special teams talent and emphasizes the importance of them more so than most NFL coaches.

Perriman’s only road to making the team will likely involve a reinvention of this type. If he’s able to find form in that way, it wouldn’t be a total shock if he ultimately makes the team.

This might sound a bit too optimistic at this point, but crazier things have certainly happened. After all, they didn’t pick up his roster bonus for no reason, so look for an expanded special teams role from Perriman throughout the end of July and into August.

After all, it’s his last real shot to make it with the team that’s invested so much into him up to this point.