After much thought and a couple failed rough drafts, here's my final projection of the Ravens' 53-man roster.
I went back and forth on the final three spots, but feel pretty confident (scratch that; somewhat confident) with the group listed below. Feel free to share your thoughts, and don't be afraid to disagree with what you see here. Debate is welcomed.
Quarterbacks: (3) Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Free agent pick-up TBD
Notes- This is a tough call without knowing the full details surrounding the shoulder injury Taylor suffered last night, but I think that if there's any uncertainty at all about Taylor's status for Week 1, the Ravens need to go sign a veteran QB as an insurance policy. If they do so, it wouldn't happen until after the initial cut deadline, however, as the front office would sift through the quarterbacks let go around the rest of the league.
Running backs/fullbacks: (4) Ray Rice, Vonta Leach, Ricky Williams, Anthony Allen
Notes- One of the tightest decisions left for the Ravens to make is whether to keep Allen, a rookie seventh-round pick, or Jalen Parmele, a four-year veteran. My bet is that they go with Allen, whose physical running style has turned heads throughout camp.
There's a chance the Ravens keep Parmele and try to pass Allen through waivers so they can sign him to the practice squad. I'm guessing they won't want to take the chance of another team swooping in and signing him to their 53-man roster. Damien Berry is a practice squad candidate.
Wide receivers: (6) Anquan Boldin, Lee Evans, Tandon Doss, Torrey Smith, David Reed, LaQuan Williams
Notes- Here's another situation where a previously unknown rookie has a prime opportunity to unseat a veteran. Williams, an undrafted free agent out of Maryland, appears to have done enough to earn a spot on the 53-man, and he'll likely push Marcus Smith out of a job in the process. There's a chance the Ravens go with seven receivers, or even a chance that they try to sneak Williams onto the practice squad, but my bet is the rookie stays on the active roster, and Smith is cut loose.
Tight ends: (3) Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Kris Wilson
Notes- The Ravens might go with just two tight ends and let Dickson and Pitta handle the full workload, but assuming they go with three again this year, Wilson has beaten out Davon Drew for that third spot.
Offensive line: (9) Bryant McKinnie, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, Jah Reid, Mark LeVoir, Bryan Mattison, Ramon Harewood
Notes- The only question mark among this group is Harewood, who is on shaky ground after last night's poor performance. The Ravens have three options with the 2010 sixth-round pick: keep him on the 53-man roster; cut him, sign a veteran free agent and hope Harewood clears waivers and can join the practice squad; or put him on Injured Reserve because of his knee issues. The latter option would allow them to hang on to Harewood for another year and let him develop. My guess is they develop Harewood, but do so with him on the active roster.
Defensive line: (6) Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody, Cory Redding, Arthur Jones, Brandon McKinney, Pernell McPhee
Notes- Very little suspense here. McPhee, a rookie fifth-round pick, has clearly earned a roster spot and might even work into the gameday rotation. Lamar Divens has a shot at the 53-man, but likely gets let go. Michael McAdoo is a practice squad candidate.
Linebackers: (10) Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, Jarret Johnson, Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle, Dannell Ellerbe, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Prescott Burgess, Tavares Gooden
Notes- Coming to a decision here was no easy task, especially regarding Gooden. The Miami product is injury prone and hasn't done much this camp, but the coaches love him and the effort he brings. Burgess is one of the top special teams players, and despite the lack of kickoffs this year, he has value. It was tough not to include Jason Phillips on the 53, but he gets boxed out. If let go, the former TCU Horned Frog will catch on somewhere. Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan are practice squad candidates.
Cornerbacks: (5) Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams, Domonique Foxworth, Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb
Notes- Foxworth presents questions because his $4.4 million base salary and $7.4 million salary-cap figure don't match up with his standing on the roster as he works back from ACL surgery. The Ravens might approach the veteran corner about renegotiating his contract, but I seriously doubt he gets cut. We're all aware of the importance of cornerback depth. I can't see rookie fifth-round pick Chykie Brown making the 53, but he's practice squad candidate, as is Talmadge Jackson.
Safeties: (4) Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Tom Zbikowski, Haruki Nakamura
Notes- This is a strong foursome. It appears Pollard has earned the starting strong safety spot over Zbikowski, but the coaches will work in packages that allow all four safeties to see playing time. Mana Silva is a practice squad candidate.
Specialists: (3) Billy Cundiff, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Notes- No surprises here. Cox appears fine after shredding his knee last season. Cundiff and Koch both have a shot at Pro Bowl seasons.