How many favorites end up holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year? Last season, only eight of 36 ESPN.com experts picked the Seattle Seahawks.
That's why I went with the Philadelphia Eagles as my Super Bowl pick. The Eagles are trending upward with an innovative head coach (Chip Kelly), the best running back in football (LeSean McCoy) and a defense that allowed 19 points in its last seven regular season games.
Only two other ESPN contributors -- Titans team reporter Paul Kuharsky and ESPN the Magazine's Seth Wickersham -- picked the Eagles, too. In the Super Bowl, I have the Eagles beating the Indianapolis Colts, who get there on the strength of the best young quarterback in the game in Andrew Luck.
In the AFC, I primarily went with the favorites to win the AFC East (Patriots), AFC South (Colts) and AFC West (Broncos). My other pick -- which will be an unpopular one in Baltimore -- is the Steelers winning the AFC North. I do have the Ravens and Bengals earning both of the wild card spots.
In the NFC, I again went with the popular teams to win the NFC East (Eagles), NFC North (Packers) and NFC South (Saints). The toughest decision was the NFC West, where I have the 49ers taking the division. The wild card spots go to the Seahawks and Lions.
As far as individual honors go, I have Kelly winning Coach of the Year, Peyton Manning earning another MVP award, Sammy Watkins capturing the NFL offensive rookie of the year award and C.J. Mosley taking the NFL defensive rookie of the year award.
I also offer my annual disclaimer that I'm terrible at preseason predictions. Case in point: Last year at this time, I predicted the Atlanta Falcons to beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Here are all of the 2014 predictions from the AFC reporters, NFC reporters, national contributors and other ESPN personalities.
Of the 64 ESPN contributors who offered their 2014 forecast, only 12 predict the Ravens will win the division. That's 18.7 percent, ranking a distant third.
The Cincinnati Bengals are the favorites with 29 experts (45.3 percent) voting for them. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the clear-cut second choice with 23 contributors choosing them (35.9 percent).
Overall, 23 of the 64 experts (54.6 percent) predicted the Ravens to make the playoffs, whether it's as the AFC North champion or a wild card. The Ravens had made the postseason for five straight seasons before narrowly missing out last season.
No one had the Ravens winning the AFC championship. The Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts were the popular choices.
The only Ravens player who received individual recognition was linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was predicted by three voters (Titans team reporter Paul Kuharsky, Giants team reporter Dan Graziano, and myself) to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Flacco is 5-1 in season openers, and he's been unbeatable when he starts the year off at home. He's 4-0 at M&T Bank Stadium with a 100.8 passer rating. Flacco has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 959 yards (an average of 239 yards), throwing eight touchdowns and one interception.
The Bengals know first-hand about Flacco's fast starts to a season. Flacco used a no-huddle attack to rout Cincinnati, 44-13, in the 2012 season opener. His first throw was a 52-yard strike to wide receiver Torrey Smith. Flacco finished 21-of-29 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Flacco's first start came against the Bengals. In 2008, he led the Ravens to a 17-10 win over Cincinnati, beating the Bengals more with his legs than his arm. His 38-yard touchdown run in the third quarter proved to be the difference in the Week 1 victory.
Flacco has brought more than just season-opening wins to the Ravens. He's given them stability.
This is Flacco's seventh consecutive season opener. Before Flacco, Kyle Boller had the most season-opening starts for the Ravens with three. The Ravens had eight quarterbacks start the first 12 openers in team history.
Turnover at quarterback is a frequent occurrence in the NFL. This year, a quarter of the teams will have a different quarterback starting this year's season opener than last year's one.
Flacco is in a select group of quarterbacks in terms of longevity. There are only nine quarterbacks scheduled to make their seventh straight season-opening start since 2008: Flacco, Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers and Tony Romo.
ESPN.com Baltimore Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Cincinnati Bengals
The Ravens are banged up in the secondary, but they tend to be at their best against Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Baltimore is 3-0 against Dalton at home, picking him off seven times. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Pittsburgh Steelers
On a short week, the benefit of playing an easier season-opening opponent (Cleveland Browns) is a definite edge for the Steelers. Plus, the Ravens haven't dominated Pittsburgh at M&T Bank Stadium, winning only two of the past four games played there. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: at Cleveland Browns
The Ravens have won 11 of their past 12 games against the Browns. They even get a few extra days to prepare for the Browns because they're coming off a Thursday night game. Prediction: Win
Week 4: Carolina Panthers
If this game is close, wide receiver Steve Smith will find a way to will the Ravens to a win over his former team. Is there any way Smith doesn't get 100 yards receiving in this game? Prediction: Win
Week 5: at Indianapolis Colts
The Ravens are vulnerable in the secondary, which is why they'll struggle against elite quarterbacks this year. And Andrew Luck is an elite quarterback, especially at home, where he is 13-3. Prediction: Loss
Week 6: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 7: Atlanta Falcons
Week 8: at Cincinnati Bengals
The Ravens historically don't play well in Paul Brown Stadium. Baltimore has lost four of its past five games in Cincinnati. The Ravens even lost there last season when Dalton threw three interceptions. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens haven't been swept by the Steelers since 2008. But this could be the season when Pittsburgh takes back the AFC North. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: Tennessee Titans
Joe Flacco is 11-1 at home in November with a 98.2 passer rating. Look for the Ravens to pick on former teammate Bernard Pollard in the passing game. Prediction: Win
Week 12: at New Orleans Saints
The Ravens return to the site of their Super Bowl championship, but this is far from a neutral field. This is the Ravens' most difficult road game of the season. The Saints are 20-4 at the Superdome over the past three seasons. Prediction: Loss
Week 13: San Diego Chargers
In his past four games against the Ravens, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has averaged 295 yards passing, throwing seven touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating is 102.3. Only Peyton Manning has a better rating (131.2) against the Ravens since 2007. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: at Miami Dolphins
Flacco is 4-0 against Miami, which includes a divisional playoff win in January 2009. He has completed 61.9 percent of his passes against the Dolphins and has a 95 passer rating. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Jacksonville Jaguars
Since 2009, the Jaguars are tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns for the worst record in December. The Jaguars have lost 16 of 22 games in that month. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at Houston Texans
New Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will want to prove something to all the Texans fans who thought his attack was too predictable. Plus, could the Ravens be facing rookie quarterback Tom Savage at this point? Prediction: Win
Week 17: Cleveland Browns
The schedule is set up for the Ravens to finish strong, and history heavily favors the Ravens in this one. The Browns are one of two teams who haven't won a regular-season finale since 2010 (St. Louis is the other). Cleveland's average margin of defeat in the past four season-enders is 15.7 points. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 9-7
A 2012 seventh-round pick by New Orleans, Jones was put on injured reserve in 2012 and spent last season on the Saints' practice squad. He is a 6-foot-7, 320-pound lineman who played right tackle at Nebraska.
The rest of the Ravens' practice squad is: quarterback Keith Wenning, linebacker John Simon, guard Ryan Jensen, cornerbacks Tramain Jacobs and Deji Olatoye, defensive tackles Jamie Meder and A.J. Pataiali'i, tight end Phillip Supernaw and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Click here for more information on the practice squad players.
The number that jumps out is nine, the number Ravens players who first joined the team as undrafted rookies, which is more than the team's first-round picks. Of the 22 projected starters (when you include Courtney Upshaw as a starting linebacker over Elvis Dumervil), 16 are draft picks, four are free agents and two came to the Ravens via trade.
Here is how this year's Ravens were built ...
First round (6): Joe Flacco (QB), Terrell Suggs (LB), Haloti Ngata (DT), Jimmy Smith (CB), Matt Elam (SS), C.J. Mosley (LB). Note: All six are expected to start the season opener. Only two have reached the Pro Bowl (Ngata and Suggs), although Flacco was a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and Smith could be the team's next Pro Bowl player.
Third round (7): Marshal Yanda (G), Lardarius Webb (CB), Bernard Pierce (RB), Brandon Williams (DT), Jah Reid (OT), Crockett Gillmore (TE), Terrence Brooks (FS). Note: Four should start the season opener: Yanda, Webb, Pierce and Williams. Reid has never developed as a starter-quality lineman. Gillmore and Brooks should play as rookies.
Fourth round (4): Dennis Pitta (TE), Kyle Juszczyk (FB), Gino Gradkowski (C-G), Lorenzo Taliaferro (RB). Note: Pitta is the star of this group, although Juszczyk seems ready for a breakout season. Gradkowski was replaced after a disastrous one year as as a starter. Taliaferro led the NFL in rushing this preseason as a rookie.
Fifth round (5): Rick Wagner (OT), Pernell McPhee (LB), Chykie Brown (CB), Asa Jackson (CB), John Urschel (G). Note: Wagner is the only starter of the current fifth-round picks on the team. McPhee will play a big role as a rusher on passing downs. Jackson beat out Brown to be the team's No. 3 corner. Urschel is a reserve interior lineman.
Sixth round (2): Tyrod Taylor (QB), Sam Koch (P). Note: Koch is in his eighth season as the Ravens' punter. The only players remaining from the 2006 draft are Koch and Ngata, who was the first-rounder that year. Taylor is in his fourth season as the Ravens' backup quarterback.
Seventh round (2): DeAngelo Tyson (DL), Michael Campanaro (WR). Note: Over the past four drafts, the Ravens have picked five players in the seventh round. Tyson and Campanaro are the only ones who made the cut. Running back Anthony Allen, wide receiver Aaron Mellette and cornerback Marc Anthony were all gone before this year's training camp.
Undrafted (9): Justin Tucker (K), Marlon Brown (WR), Deonte Thompson (WR), Morgan Cox (LS), Josh Bynes (LB), Albert McCellan (LB), Brynden Trawick (S), James Hurst (OT), Zachary Orr (LB). Note: Tucker and Brown were arguably the top rookies for the Ravens in each of the past two seasons. Bynes made the last tackle in the Super Bowl victory. Cox is in his fifth season as the long snapper, and McClellan led the Ravens in special teams tackles last season.
Free agents (12): Steve Smith (WR, Panthers), Daryl Smith (LB, Jaguars), Jacoby Jones (WR, Texans), Elvis Dumervil (LB, Broncos), Chris Canty (DE, Giants), Owen Daniels (TE, Texans), Darian Stewart (FS, Rams), Kamar Aiken (WR, Patriots), Justin Forsett (RB, Jaguars), Jeromy Miles (S, Bengals), Anthony Levine (S, Packers), Will Hill (S, Giants).* Note: Four starters from this group: Steve Smith, Daryl Smith, Canty and Stewart. Jones is the team's No. 3 receiver and an explosive returner. Aiken, Miles and Levine are key special-teams players.
Trade (2): Eugene Monroe (OT, Jaguars), Jeremy Zuttah (C, Buccaneers). Note: The Ravens traded a total of three draft picks for two starters on this year's offensive line.
*-Rice and Hill are on the suspended list.
Quarterback: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk
Wide receiver: Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken
Wide receiver: Steve Smith, Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson, Michael Campanaro
Tight end: Dennis Pitta, Owen Daniels, Crockett Gillmore
Left tackle: Eugene Monroe, Jah Reid, James Hurst
Left guard: Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel
Center: Jeremy Zuttah, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel
Right guard: Marshal Yanda, John Urschel
Right tackle: Rick Wagner, Jah Reid
Defensive tackle: Haloti Ngata, Timmy Jernigan
Nose tackle: Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson
Defensive end: Chris Canty, DeAngelo Tyson
Outside linebacker: Terrell Suggs, Pernell McPhee
Inside linebacker: C.J. Mosley, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan
Inside linebacker: Daryl Smith, Josh Bynes, Zach Orr
Outside linebacker: Courtney Upshaw, Elvis Dumervil
Left cornerback: Lardarius Webb, Asa Jackson
Right cornerback: Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown
Strong safety: Matt Elam, Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick
Free safety: Darian Stewart, Jeromy Miles, Terrence Brooks, Will Hill-x
Punter: Sam Koch
Kicker: Justin Tucker
Long-snapper: Morgan Cox
x - Suspended list
The initial reaction is that this class has been underwhelming. There's only one established starter (safety Matt Elam) among those 10 players drafted, and two of the first four picks are either buried on the depth chart (second-round pick Arthur Brown) or on the practice squad (fourth-rounder John Simon).
Getting that many starters out of a draft class is a strong accomplishment when you consider the number of multi-year starters from the Ravens' draft classes in 2009 (two, Michael Oher and Lardarius Webb), 2010 (three, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta and Arthur Jones), 2011 (two, Jimmy Smith and Torrey Smith) and 2012 (two, Courtney Upshaw and Kelechi Osemele).
When evaluating this class, it should be pointed out that the Ravens drafted at the bottom of each round because they were defending Super Bowl champions. The Ravens also did well after the draft, picking up undrafted receiver Marlon Brown, who tied a team rookie record with seven touchdown catches.
Let's go pick-by-pick in the Ravens' 2013 draft:
SS Matt Elam: The first-round pick didn't immediately live up to expectations of being the third safety taken in the 2013 draft. Elam finished with 76 tackles (fourth on the team), but he made only one interception and broke up three passes. He also missed 11 tackles and gave up two touchdowns. The Ravens are hoping Elam plays better after moving to strong safety, which is his more natural position.
ILB Arthur Brown: The second-round pick isn't close to becoming a starter anytime soon. Although he plays fast, Brown too often gets gobbled up by big-bodied guards. He got on the field last year in passing situations, but that may not happen with the addition of first-round pick C.J. Mosley. This isn't exactly what the Ravens envisioned when they traded three picks to move up to get Brown.
NT Brandon Williams: The third-round pick was inactive for six of the final eight games last season. There are heightened expectations for Williams this season. He is a first-year starter who made big plays in the preseason when the Ravens' defense was backed up. Williams doesn't want to be a space-eater inside. He wants to be a difference maker.
LB John Simon: The fourth-round pick was cut Saturday and later signed to the practice squad. He could eventually return to active roster, but he's had trouble playing in space.
FB Kyle Juszczyk: The second fourth-round pick wasn't able to handle the fullback job last season, which is why the team re-signed Vonta Leach. If the preseason is any indication, Juszczyk is primed for a breakout season. He led the team with 10 catches this preseason.
OT Rick Wagner: The fifth-round pick struggled mightily when he was forced to fill in for an injured Michael Oher in last year's opener. Wagner steadily improved throughout his rookie season, and he's been solid in his first preseason as a starter. He was the Ravens' highest-graded offensive lineman this preseason, according to Pro Football Focus.
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore: An injury sidelined the sixth-round pick for a second straight season. He was placed on injured reserve last week after being earmarked as the top backup to Chris Canty this season.
OL Ryan Jensen: The sixth-round pick took a step back and lost his roster spot to rookie John Urschel. Jensen was the Ravens' lowest-rated guard this preseason.
WR Aaron Mellette: The seventh-round pick spent last season on injured reserve and was released in June after failing a physical.
CB Marc Anthony: The Ravens' last pick in this draft was waived in the final major cutdown and spent last season on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad. Anthony was cut by the Tennessee Titans and Buccaneers this summer.
There were three former draft picks added to the practice squad: linebacker John Simon (fourth round, 2013), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (sixth round, 2013) and quarterback Keith Wenning (sixth round, 2014).
The Ravens can sign one more player to complete their practice squad.
Here's a rundown on the nine who have been signed:
QB Keith Wenning: The rookie sixth-round pick was expected to be added to the practice squad after the Ravens kept two quarterbacks for the fifth straight year. Wenning improved throughout the summer and he showed potential by the preseason finale. He finished 10 of 17 for 140 yards for a 85.4 passer rating this preseason. Pro Football Focus graded him at No. 57 among quarterbacks, just two spots behind Tyrod Taylor.
LB John Simon: The 2013 fourth-round pick failed to make the cut, even though the Ravens kept 10 linebackers. Simon finished strong in the preseason finale with four quarterback hits. What works against Simon is he struggles making plays in space and he isn't a top special-teams player.
OL Ryan Jensen: The Ravens were so high on the 2013 sixth-round pick last year that they didn't place him on injured reserve after he broke his foot and kept him on the roster the entire year. Jensen, though, took a step back this year and slid behind rookie John Urschel on the depth chart.
CB Tramain Jacobs: The undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M became a favorite of the coaching staff. The Ravens believe Jacobs has great upside as a cover corner. His biggest problem is reducing penalties, which were a problem in the preseason and training camp.
DT Jamie Meder: The undrafted rookie out of Ashland was under the radar for most of the summer. Meder generally played on the third-team defensive line. He finished with four tackles this preseason.
CB Deji Olatoye: The undrafted rookie from North Carolina A&T generated buzz in spring workouts but he was unable to maintain that this summer. His struggles in coverage in the second preseason led to him getting waived in the first round of cuts. Olatoye, a former teammate of Jimmy Smith at Colorado (before he transferred to North Carolina A&T), has intriguing size and length for the position.
DT A.J. Pataiali'i: The undrafted rookie from Utah State was signed to the practice squad over nose tackle Derrick Hopkins, who received the biggest signing bonus of all the Ravens' undrafted rookies. Like Meder, Pataiali'i played most of the time on the third-team defensive line. He had one tackle this preseason.
TE Phillip Supernaw: The first-year player spent most of last season on the Houston Texans' practice squad before getting signed to the active roster in late December. Supernaw was signed by the Ravens in May, only five days after being released by the Texans. He didn't have a catch this preseason. Supernaw did work at fullback for the final preseason game after the Ravens cut Shaun Chapas.
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint: The undrafted rookie out of Michigan flashed his explosiveness in the preseason finale with several big runs. Toussaint ran for 103 yards at New Orleans, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. The Ravens hope he doesn't get signed away like Bobby Rainey did last year.
The Ravens may see Keenum as a better fit in Kubiak's system than current backup Tyrod Taylor. Keenum's familiarity comes from spending two years with Kubiak, who is now in his first season as the Ravens' offensive coordinator.
How much did Kubiak like Keenum? In Week 7 last season, Kubiak went with Keenum as his starter over backup T.J. Yates when Matt Schaub was injured.
In eight starts, Keenum completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,760 yards (average of 220 yards). He threw nine touchdowns and six interceptions for a 78.2 passer rating.
The Ravens are currently going with Taylor as their backup for a fourth straight season, and they are expected to sign rookie sixth-round pick Keith Wenning to the practice squad.
Taylor had a solid preseason, producing points on 12 (four touchdowns, eight field goals) of 21 drives. But he's considered more of a scrambler than a pocket passer. His lack of patience in the pocket and questionable decision-making has frustrated the Ravens in the past.
In the spring, coach John Harbaugh expressed disappointment with Taylor's recent performances. This may have been the reason the Ravens tried to sign Brandon Weeden in free agency. The Ravens then presumably drafted Wenning as the eventual No. 2 quarterback because Taylor is entering the final year of his contract.
How comfortable are the Ravens with Taylor as their backup now? The Ravens' level of interest in Keenum will let everyone know.
The Ravens keep two quarterbacks for the fifth straight year, and it's the fourth in a row with the duo of Flacco and Taylor. Expect the Ravens to put rookie sixth-round pick Keith Wenning on the practice squad.
Running backs (4)
No surprises here. Rice is suspended for two games, which allows the Ravens to carry an extra running back in Forsett.
The Ravens' toughest decision was at wide receiver because Campanaro and Aiken had impressive training camps and Thompson turned it on in the preseason. In the end, the Ravens chose not to make a decision on who to cut and kept all of them. This is definitely a different situation for the Ravens, who have had trouble finding quality depth at receiver in their 19-year history.
Tight ends (3)
This is a completely different look from last year, when the Ravens began the season with Ed Dickson, Dallas Clark and Billy Bajema.
Offensive linemen (9)
- Eugene Monroe*
- Kelechi Osemele*
- Jeremy Zuttah*
- Marshal Yanda*
- Rick Wagner*
- Gino Gradkowski
- Jah Reid
- John Urschel
- James Hurst
This was the biggest surprise of the day. The Ravens cut A.Q. Shipley, who started nine games last season, and instead kept Hurst, an undrafted rookie out of North Carolina who struggled throughout training camp and the preseason. He was graded as the 111th offensive tackle (out of 141 tackles) by Pro Football Focus. Gradkowski becomes the top backup at center and guard, and Reid is the No. 3 tackle. How young are the backups? Reid is the most experienced, in his fourth season.
Defensive linemen (5)
The Ravens are thin at this position after defensive ends Kapron Lewis-Moore and Brent Urban both went down with season-ending injuries in training camp. Jernigan, the talented rookie second-round pick, backs up Ngata. Tyson will rotate with Canty. But there is a hole at nose tackle behind Williams. Cody (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list and will miss at least the first six games of the season. Even though Pernell McPhee can play on the line, it would be in the team's best interest to add depth.
- Terrell Suggs*
- C.J. Mosley*
- Daryl Smith*
- Courtney Upshaw*
- Elvis Dumervil
- Arthur Brown
- Pernell McPhee
- Josh Bynes
- Albert McClellan
- Zachary Orr
The Ravens overloaded at this position because of special teams. McClellan and Bynes are core players on the cover and return teams. The unexpected move was keeping Orr, an undrafted rookie out of North Texas, over John Simon, a fourth-round pick from a year ago. Orr was a long shot who made the team on the strength of his special teams (four tackles). It's a real logjam at inside linebacker where the Ravens are carrying six: Mosley, Smith, Brown, Bynes, McClellan and Orr.
It wasn't going to be a surprise if the Ravens had kept one of their veteran backups, either Derek Cox or Dominique Franks. But the Ravens released both, which raised some eyebrows. The Ravens can re-sign them after the season opener, so their salaries aren't guaranteed for the entire year. What helps the Ravens is the versatility of safeties Terrence Brooks and Anthony Levine, both of whom can play cornerback.
Special teams played a big part in the thought process here. Levine, Miles and Trawick were among the top five special-teams tacklers from a year ago. That's why the Ravens went heavy at this position. Plus, as noted earlier, Brooks and Levine are versatile defensive backs. Hill is suspended for the first six games of the season.
There was no decision to be made on the specialists. Tucker, Koch and Cox team up for the third straight season.
Surprise cut: Cutting guard A.Q. Shipley. This was the most unexpected release of the day for the Ravens. Shipley started the last nine games last season after Kelechi Osemele had back surgery. He wasn't the most athletically gifted lineman, but he was tough and experienced. It looked like Shipley was safe because he worked with the second team at guard and filled in for Marshal Yanda with the starters during training camp when the veteran took a day off. By releasing Shipley, the Ravens are left with two backups on the interior with Gino Gradkowski and rookie fifth-round pick John Urschel.
Quick exit: Waiving linebacker John Simon wasn't totally unexpected, but it's not a typical move by the Ravens. Simon was a fourth-round pick from a year ago, and the Ravens usually give their draft picks time to develop. Case in point: Only one other pick drafted in the first four rounds by the Ravens failed to last two seasons with the team and that was safety Christian Thompson, who was cut after he served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. This makes sense because the Ravens are stocked at linebacker, and Simon had trouble making plays in space. Many thought Simon earned a spot by playing his best game last Thursday. Cutting Simon also shows that how little the preseason finale really matters.
What's next: This probably won't be the 53-man roster that the Ravens take into the opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Players like offensive tackle James Hurst and Zachary Orr, two undrafted rookies, could eventually be headed for the practice squad. The Ravens need to find another defensive lineman (they're carrying just five) as well as upgrade at offensive line and cornerback. Someone like veteran guard-center Adam Snyder, who was released by the San Francisco 49ers, would be a good fit for the Ravens. Cornerbacks who are now available include Kelvin Hayden (Bears), Champ Bailey (Saints), Leon McFadden (Browns), and Johnny Patrick (Jets).
Ravens moves: Released two vested veterans, CBs Derek Cox and Dominique Franks. Waived QB Keith Wenning, G A.Q. Shipley, LB John Simon, OT Ryan Jensen, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, CB Tramain Jacobs, CB Sammy Seamster, TE Phillip Supernaw, DT A.J. Pataiali’i, OT Parker Graham, DT Jamie Meder, TE Nathan Overbay, OLB D.J. Roberts, C Reggie Stephens, DT Levi Brown, DT Derrick Hopkins. Placed RB Ray Rice (two games) and FS Will Hill (six games) on suspended list. Placed NT Terrence Cody (hip) on the reserve Physically Unable to Perform list, which means he'll miss the first six games of the season. Rookie WR Jeremy Butler (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve.
Would the Baltimore Ravens be interested in signing Michael Sam?
The St. Louis Rams cut Sam on Saturday, which stopped him from becoming the first openly gay player to make an NFL roster. The Ravens were interested in him leading up to the draft, and there were reports that the Ravens were going to make a run at him if he went undrafted.
Sam just doesn't fill a pressing need for the Ravens. He would be a 3-4 outside linebacker for the Ravens, and the team is already carrying 10 linebackers. So, the odds don't appear good for Sam to land in Baltimore.
If the Ravens or the other 31 teams don't put a waiver claim on Sam, the Rams are expected to sign him to their practice squad.
Hill is suspended for the first six games and won't be back until October 13.
Both players did have one final practice with the team Saturday.
"The challenge for any player on suspension is to go to work and to keep focused on what is important, which is what's coming down the road," coach John Harbaugh said. "You try to take the situation and make the most of it, make the best of it and make it right in the end. From a football perspective, that's what both of those guys need to do."
With Rice going on suspension, the Ravens had to be relieved that Bernard Pierce returned to practice. He had missed the past week of practice with a concussion and didn't travel with the team for the preseason finale.
Pierce is expected to fill in as the starting running back for the first two regular-season games. In addition to Pierce, cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (chest), Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle) all practiced, as well offensive tackle Jah Reid (concussion).
That meant every Ravens player was on the field.
"It's very encouraging to get all of those guys practicing," Harbaugh said. "Those guys all looked good. We'll just take it one day at a time from there."
When the Ravens took the field Saturday, there were 55 players practicing (not including suspended players Ray Rice and Will Hill).
The Ravens already announced five cuts: TE Nathan Overbay, OLB D.J. Roberts, C Reggie Stephens, and DTs Levi Brown and Derrick Hopkins.
There were 12 others not on the field: QB Keith Wenning, G A.Q. Shipley, LB John Simon, OT Ryan Jensen, WR Jeremy Butler, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, CB Tremain Jacobs, CB Sammy Seamster, TE Phillip Supernaw, DT A.J. Pataiali'i, OT Parker Graham and DT Jamie Meder.
Including those 17 players, Rice and Hill will be placed on the suspended list Saturday afternoon. Backup nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip) is also expected to start the season on the physically unable to perform list.
That would bring the Ravens' roster down to 55 players. It's surprising that linebacker Zach Orr and offensive tackle James Hurst are still with the team. But the Ravens may be holding onto someone like Orr as insurance because they could trade a linebacker before rosters need to be finalized by 4 p.m.