Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers moves are noted below.
Here are Wednesday’s AFC North transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.
The team also announced a handful of previously reported transactions, which you can find here.
Obviously Pernell and Levine are the two major names on this list, but there’s a chance the veterans land back in Baltimore once the team places a handful of players on IR.
Pernell spent the past two seasons in Baltimore, starting 20 of his 22 appearances. In those 22 games, the 32-year-old collected 53 tackles and six sacks. The veteran also started his career with the Ravens before bouncing between the Bears and Washington. Levine, meanwhile, isn’t a stranger to bouncing on and off the Ravens roster, but he’s still managed to miss only one regular season game for the organization since 2013. That missed game actually came in 2020, when the special teams ace finished with only seven tackles.
Justin Ellis reached an agreement Wednesday to stay with the Ravens. The veteran defensive tackle will remain in Baltimore on a one-year deal, veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson tweets.
The former Raiders draftee will earn $1.2MM on his latest Ravens accord; $400K of that is guaranteed, per Anderson. This marks Ellis’ third Ravens pact. This one will mark a slight bump from the 2020 contract Ellis inked.
Initially arriving in Baltimore as a late-season addition in 2019, Ellis re-signed to stay in Maryland last March. He played in 13 games in 2020 and started three, serving as a key role player for the Ravens. Ellis’ age-30 season included a 34% defensive snap rate — his highest usage since the 2017 slate.
The Raiders ended Ellis’ five-plus-year stay in 2019, reaching an injury settlement with him midway through the season. The team had previously signed him to a three-year extension. The former fourth-round pick has done well to craft a rebound effort with the Ravens.
Here’s the breakdown: Ryan’s base pay for 2020 will go down from $8MM to $1.05MM. Meanwhile, tackle Jake Matthews will see his base number trimmed from $10.55MM to $3.55MM. In both cases, the difference was converted to a signing bonus. In effect, it doesn’t change much for either player, but it does allow the Falcons to kick the can down the road and spend more this year.
Here are more deetz from around the NFL, with all links going to Twitter:
Ellis found a nice free agent payday in 2018 when he signed a three-year, $15MM with the Raiders. Unfortunately, injuries kept him out of action and his Oakland tenure ended with an injury settlement/release. In November of last year, the Ravens picked him up and he rewarded them with solid run defense in a handful of games.
To date, Ellis has appeared in 70 career games with 42 starts.
The Browns hired former Eagles’ VP of Football Operations Andrew Berry to be their GM and EVP of Football Operations today, and he will report directly to owner JimmyHaslam, just like new head coach Kevin Stefanski and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta. However, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks it’s fair to wonder whether Berry will really have final say over roster decisions, as his contract says he will. Of course, in order to pry Berry away from Philadelphia, Cleveland needed to give him such power contractually, but whether Berry will be permitted to fully use that power is another story. Stefanski and DePodesta may not be keen on consistently yielding to Berry, who was probably the team’s No. 2 choice behind Vikings exec George Paton.
In 2019, the Ravens made a number of in-season signings to bolster their defense that ended up paying major dividends. Baltimore has already inked one such acquisition, L.J. Fort, to a two-year extension, and Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic believes the club could also look to re-sign OLB/DE Jihad Ward and DT Justin Ellis.
Many have noted the Ravens‘ need to add pass rushing talent, and much of that discussion has focused on edge rushers. But in the same piece, Zrebiec says Baltimore will think long and hard about selecting a quality pass-rushing interior defensive lineman if one is available near the end of the first round. The Ravens haven’t really had such a player since the heyday of Haloti Ngata.
Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic lays out a number of moves he believes the Bengals should make this offseason. The entire piece is worth a read for Cincy fans, but one move that Dehner thinks is especially likely to come to fruition is an extension for running back Joe Mixon. We recently heard that director of player personnel Duke Tobin would explore a new contract for his RB1, and such a deal won’t be cheap.
The Ravens have signed veteran defensive tackle Justin Ellis, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter). Ellis was a regular member of the Raiders’ D-line since Oakland selected him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, and he even landed a three-year, $15MM contract with the Silver-and-Black in March 2018. But his 2018 season was marred by injury, and he was released with an injury settlement in October.
And while Baltimore scored its fifth straight win on Sunday, its defensive front was noticeably shaky, perhaps because starting DT Michael Pierce played just three snaps. Pierce exited the game against the Bengals with an ankle injury, and head coach John Harbaugh said that an MRI didn’t reveal any long-term concerns. But as Jeff Zrebic of The Athletic writes, Harbaugh was non-committal as to whether Pierce would be available for this Sunday’s crucial matchup with the Texans, instead calling Pierce’s status “day-to-day.”
In addition to Ellis, the Ravens are adding another free agent DT, Domata Peko, as Zrebiec tweets. The Ravens, who are intimately familiar with the long-time Bengal’s work, attempted to sign him earlier this season, but the two sides were unable to agree on terms at the time. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports that Baltimore will pay Peko $1MM for the remainder of the season (Twitter link).
Neither Ellis nor Peko are likely to create much of a pass rush in the interior of the line — which Baltimore could really use — but like the Ravens’ earlier additions of linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, both are experienced veterans who understand their assignments and who should, if nothing else, solidify the run defense. That will be essential given Pierce’s uncertain health and the fact that the Ravens are putting rookie DT Daylon Mack on injured reserve, per Zrebiec.
Baltimore, at 7-2 and in first place in AFC North, is doing everything it can to keep the second-place Steelers at bay while pushing for a postseason bye. Zrebiec says the club is expected to add rookie CB Iman Marshall to the active roster this week, and given that the Ravens’ kickoff and punt coverage teams have been uncharacteristically unsteady, Marshall may be asked to bolster those units.
In a corresponding move, the Ravens have waived return man Cyrus Jones, per Zrebiec. Jones muffed a punt in the team’s win over the Patriots in Week 9, and Baltimore signed De’Anthony Thomas shortly thereafter. Thomas operated as the kickoff and punt returner on Sunday and will presumably remain in that role moving forward.