With training camp just around the corner, roster battles are some of the biggest headlines heading into the end of July. The end goal of a 53-man roster means the personnel of 90 players at the start of training camp has to be eventually whittled down before Week 1.
While most of that will be done through roster cuts, don’t be shocked if a player is traded, also. This isn’t a standard move for the Ravens, but a preseason trade is always something they are willing to explore and have done quite a bit in recent years. Rookie cornerback Shaun Wade was traded last year, kicker/punter Kaare Vedvik in 2019, and some others listed below.
Here are some players that might be on the table for 2022.
Clark has been the main guy mentioned in trade talks recently after the Ravens drafted Kyle Hamilton with the No. 14 overall pick back in April. That became even more apparent when Clark wiped his Twitter account of anything Ravens-related and sent out a somewhat cryptic tweet.
This can go one or two ways. It can go Up it can go Down. Either way I’m Prepared !!— Chuck Clark (@ChuckC36) May 7, 2022
While nothing has come up as of late and head coach John Harbaugh has since stated that they’d rather have Clark on the team, it is an option that cannot be ignored. While the other players on this list would likely be traded to bring the roster number down and net some draft picks, Clark could be the centerpiece in a trade to possibly fortify the wide receiver room.
While Chuck Clark is certainly the most talked-about option, let's talk about the most likely option. Last year in 2021, the Ravens traded second-year guard Ben Bredeson to the Giants, as well as center Greg Mancz to Miami. In 2019, they traded offensive linemen Alex Lewis to the Jets and Jermaine Eluemunor to the Patriots. As the Ravens’ draft-room sign says, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”
If a player is to be traded during preseason, it’s likely to be an offensive lineman. Of those players, Ben Powers seems like the odd man out — who could still be worth something to other teams. There aren’t enough center bodies to send someone packing early and with the lack of tackle depth over the past few seasons, it's difficult to see the Ravens shipping one out. That leaves the guard competition: Kevin Zeitler, Tyre Phillips, Ben Powers, Ben Cleveland, Patrick Mekari, and Khalil McKenzie.
Zeitler is an obvious starter, Mekari is too valuable as the sixth lineman who can play all five spots, Phillips provides additional tackle depth, and Cleveland is a second-year player who they view as having immense potential. McKenzie was mainly a practice-squad guy who won’t fetch a price in addition to having defensive line play. That leaves Powers, the fourth-year guard who has yet to really grab a spot on the line despite starting 12 games last year with opportunities on an injured line.
If there is a move that's going to be made before Week 1, this is where I’m placing my money.
In what has been a historically run-heavy offense, the lack of Justice Hill involvement would be a surprise when he was first drafted back in 2019 in the fourth round. Hill has shown flashes but has been stuck behind guys such as Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins thus far.
Last year seemed like a prime opportunity for him to make a name for himself after Dobbins was knocked out for the year, only for Hill to be knocked out for the year five days later. Now, the running back room is even more crowded heading into training camp: Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Mike Davis, Hill, Nate McCrary, and rookie Tyler Badie. While Dobbins, Edwards and Davis are different types of backs from Hill, the once unique “lightning in a bottle” trait that separated Hill is no longer unique.
Both McCrary and Badie are considered quick-burst running backs and offer third-down skill traits, especially Badie — who premiered as a third-down reception back in college and whose pass protection is noted as a plus skill. While running backs are rather undervalued in the NFL nowadays and the likelihood of a team trading for Hill is low, it won’t be shocking if the Ravens shop Hill if he’s not going to make the roster.
The 22-year-old rookie has been waiting for his chance all year, and he’s answered the bell in consecutive weeks.— Bobby Trosset (@bobbytrosset) December 29, 2019
Tackle-breaking Justice Hill to the house. Too much depth at the RB position in Baltimore. pic.twitter.com/077iPDIu6c
A former first-round pick, a trade involving James would continue a whirlwind of the last few years for him. In May of 2021, he tore his Achilles and was released by the Denver Broncos. This came after he signed a sizeable four-year deal in 2019 that saw him play three games due to a Week 1 knee injury and then an opt-out in 2020.
The Ravens signed him to a cheap two-year contract soon after, hoping to have him return either mid-season in 2021 or be ready for 2022 as a tackle option. Since then, Ronnie Stanley’s health has improved, Patrick Mekari has blossomed as a proven right tackle option, Morgan Moses has been signed, and the behemoth Australian rookie Daniel Faalele has been drafted.
As mentioned earlier, the Ravens have had poor tackle depth the past few seasons, accentuated by Stanley's injuries and the trade of Orlando Brown Jr. Shipping off a tackle doesn’t seem likely but if one were to go, James looks like the clear option.
The longest odds of all the dark horses, this one is pure speculation and trying to put puzzle pieces together that may not even exist. However, the Ravens’ tight end room is crowded. A newly revived Nick Boyle and rookie draft picks Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely back up arguably the best tight end in the league, Mark Andrews.
Greg Roman said Nick Boyle “looks like a completely new guy this year. It’s unbelievable the work that he’s done.”— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) June 1, 2022
That’s already four tight ends that seem like almost-sure locks to make the roster, without mentioning fullback Patrick Ricard — who certainly helps fill roles there.
With Tony Poljan a likely practice-squad guy, Josh Oliver is fighting to impress other teams to avoid being a practice-squad guy himself. If, and it's a big if, he can manage to make some noise for himself and show out a little, he might earn himself enough attention for pass-catcher needy teams to take a look. If all that happens, maybe the Ravens can swing something for a conditional pick.
Oliver made some noise last preseason and had fans and the team excited but failed to really turn that into regular season success. Maybe things can be different for him this time around on another team.