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What does Le'Veon Bell's release mean for the Ravens' backfield going forward?

Letting the former three-time Pro Bowler go could signal more than one positive development.

Minnesota Vikings v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens release of veteran running back Le’Veon Bell on Tuesday came as no surprise to many as the former Pittsburgh Steelers star’s stay in Charm City was justly short-lived. He failed to make any meaningful contributions on offense outside of scoring a pair of short touchdowns and didn’t play on special teams.

His release likely signals that veteran Latavius Murray is set to make his return from an ankle injury that he suffered in Week 6 and has caused him to miss the team’s last three games. Murray was leading the team’s running backs in rushing yards (212), carries (59), and touchdowns (4) before he went down and will likely return to his regular heavily featured role as the short-yardage and goal-line thumper when he is back in the lineup.

During Murray’s absence, the bulk of the offensive snaps at the position went to eight-year veteran Devonta Freeman. While Freeman showed some flashes and more juice than many thought he still had during that span, some of his best outings came against subpar and shorthanded run defenses. His involvement in the offense might be reduced slightly but not by much since he has proven to be the best pass blocker and check-down receiving option currently on the depth chart.

The biggest benefactor from Bell’s release will likely be second-year pro Ty’Son Williams who had an impressive start to the season before having his role reduced since Week 3. The 2020 undrafted free agent leads the position group in yards per carry with a 5.5 average and has looked like the most explosive of the bunch in very limited opportunities. After not seeing a single offensive snap last week, Williams might finally be in store for more playing time down the stretch as the Ravens try to find more consistent production and potency from their rushing attack in addition to the tremendous contributions from their electrifying star signal-caller in Lamar Jackson.

The wildcard/darkhorse in the equation is rookie Nate McCrary who is currently on the practice squad and could be elevated twice before having to be permanently signed to the active roster. He signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent out of Saginaw Valley State, spent the summer, training camp and preseason with the team before getting waived during the final round of cuts. McCrary showed good speed, burst, and tackle-breaking ability in three exhibition games so he’d bring more explosiveness to the position group and contribute on special teams.

One could argue that kicking the tires on Bell did more harm than good. He admitted that it took a while for him to feel comfortable and fully grasp the Ravens’ offense. Williams, like McCrary, spent the summer, camp, and preseason with the team so he already knew and looked like a better fit in Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman’s scheme.