As stated by Ian Rapoport, Barner provides potential help in the return game, an area in which Baltimore lacked last season. Barner only rushed for 28 yards on four carries for Atlanta in 2019, making his mark at returner instead, where he returned 35 punts for 267 yards and a touchdown, as well as returning 17 kickoffs for 406 yards.
Barner’s longest return was for 78 yards on a punt return touchdown. Unfortunately, Barner also muffed four punts, a fireable offense under head coach and former special teams coach John Harbaugh.
At 31-years old, Barner will compete with much younger options for return duties. Other candidates for the job include second-year RB Justice Hill, fifth-year wide receiver Chris Moore, and rookie sixth-round WR James Proche.
The Ravens have been unable to find a reliable playmaker at returner since the departure of WR Jacoby Jones following the 2014 season. Although kickoff returns have been reduced in recent years, punt returns are still a relevant part of the game. Barner finished with the fourth-most yards on punt returns for the 2019 season.
The question is whether or not it is worth keeping a designated returner in today’s NFL, especially at a position of strength for Baltimore. With veteran Pro Bowler Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Hill, and second-round rookie J.K. Dobbins ahead of him on the depth chart, Barner would have virtually no chance to contribute on offense, severely limiting his value for a roster spot.
It’s also possible that Barner is simply a camp body signed to bring a veteran presence to the returner competition.