There have been a lot of questions recently about how the Ravens' roster will be impacted when safety Ed Reed and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo are activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list.
I figured I'd use my Tuesday morning to answer said questions. That's just the kind of guy I am.
Here's a quick refresher on the basics:
Head coach John Harbaugh said yesterday that Reed and Ayanbadejo will begin practicing with the Ravens on Wednesday after sitting out the PUP's mandatory six-week period, but that doesn't necessarily mean that either player will be activated for Sunday's game against the Bills.
If Reed or Ayanbadejo show in practice this week that they're far enough along health-wise to play on Sunday, they can be added to the 53-man roster and will be able to suit up. The Ravens will have until 4 p.m. on Saturday to make that decision.
So, who gets the ax when Reed and Ayanbadejo eventually return?
The name that immediately comes to mind as a possibility is offensive tackle Jared Gaither, who is still battling a back injury which has plagued him since early August. Gaither hasn't been cleared to begin practicing with the team, and if he doesn't take a turn for the better at some point very soon, the Ravens will have to seriously consider putting their projected starting right tackle on Injured Reserve.
Asked about Gaither's status in his Monday afternoon press conference, Harbaugh said that there isn't much news to report.
"I think that's unchanged right now," Harbaugh said. "I haven't gotten any report on Jared. I asked him how he's feeling, and he said it's unchanged through the weekend. So, [the possibility of putting him on IR is] going to be part of the equation."
Harbaugh declined to elaborate on the likelihood or percentage chances of Gaither going on IR, but that would seem to be a clear way to free up a roster spot sometime soon.
Outside of Gaither, there are a few players on the edge of the roster right now who cut be at risk.
Defensive tackle Lamar Divens might top that list. Divens has been active for three of the Ravens' six games this year, but Baltimore has a lot of depth along the interior of the defensive line, including rookie Arthur Jones, who could bump up and fill Divens' role.
Safety Ken Hamlin is a guy to watch because he would seem to be less valuable with Reed returning to the defensive backfield, but the Ravens apparently value what Hamlin brings to the roster. They made a bold move a few weeks ago, re-signing Hamlin and cutting veteran defensive end Trevor Pryce.
Newly-signed offensive tackle Scott Kooistra, who has been inactive both weeks since joining the Ravens, is another guy who could be let go, Jason Phillips is a possibility because Ayanbadejo would fill both of the roles that Phillips currently occupies (special teamer and inside linebacker) and I might even toss running back/kick returner Jalen Parmele into the mix as well.
It would be a bit of a surprise if Parmele was released, but he's been ineffective on kickoffs this season, averaging just 22 yards per return, and Harbaugh expressed displeasure yesterday with some of Parmele's decision making in the return game on Sunday.
Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome will be thrilled to see Reed and Ayanbadejo return to game action sometime in the next few weeks, but when those two do return, it will mean some tough decisions will need to be made.
"[I'm] looking forward to getting those guys back," Harbaugh said. "[I'm] not looking forward to losing anybody. That's the tough dilemma of it."