The Ravens are dealing with injuries throughout their offense, with wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman having already been ruled out for tomorrow’s game against the Browns (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). While Baltimore’s receiving corps may be in doubt, the team did get some good news regarding their running back depth.
The Ravens were really forced to dig into their running back depth against Indy. J.K. Dobbins, of course, has been ruled out for the season, and with Hill missing the contest, the Ravens were expected to lean heavily on Gus Edwards. However, the veteran suffered a concussion during that contest, and the Ravens ended up giving Melvin Gordon and Kenyan Drake a combined 40 snaps.
While Fowler notes that Gordon is still expected to be called up from the practice squad for Baltimore’s Week 4 game, it sounds like the team should be able to roll with their top-two options at the position. Edwards returned to practice this week, an indication that he’s cleared concussion protocol and should be good to go for this weekend.
With Hill also expected back, it will be interesting to see how the Ravens divvy up the RB snaps. Hill outsnapped Edwards when the two played alongside each other in Week 2 (43 to 32), and Hill also got more snaps when Dobbins went down during Week 1.
With options like Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette in free agency and a player like Jonathan Taylor reportedly available via trade, no one would blame Harbaugh and company for bringing in an experienced starter to tote the rock. Instead, the Ravens feel confident in the options they have in-house to take over with Harbaugh even indicating that they will be operating with a committee in the backfield.
When Dobbins exited Sunday’s game, fifth-year backup Justice Hill stepped in and immediately scored a touchdown, his first since the 2019 season. While he later scored a second touchdown, matching his career-high for a season, Hill only amassed nine yards on eight carries. Veteran backup rusher Gus Edwards, who has filled in as a starter at times in his career, was a bit more productive with his eight carries, racking up 32 yards.
Adding veterans didn’t quite deliver the desired result two years ago when Dobbins, Edwards, and Hill all missed the 2021 season with season-ending injuries before the year even began. That year, Baltimore turned to a committee featuring veteran backs like Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, and Le’Veon Bell in conjunction with Ty’Son Williams. Freeman and Murray each reached 500 rushing yards and delivered six scores apiece, but overall, the running game was dependent on quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Still, the Ravens added veteran rusherMelvin Gordon in the offseason, ultimately cutting him and signing him to the practice squad before the regular season. Gordon seems like an obvious callup to help carry the load without Dobbins. The Ravens also saw some impressive preseason performances from undrafted rookies Keaton Mitchell and Owen Wright, landing both on the team’s roster in some capacity to start the year. Mitchell currently resides on injured reserve himself, so he’s unable to contribute at this time. Wright, though, landed on the practice squad and may also hear his number called up to the active roster this season.
Dobbins is now expected to undergo surgery to repair his Achilles tendon this Friday, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Pelissero points out that Rams running back Cam Akers recovered from a similar surgery in less than six months two years ago. Dobbins will be aiming for a similar timeline, bringing him back shortly after the start of the 2024 league year.
In other injury news, Harbaugh confirmed that starting free safety Marcus Williams “will be out for a while” after suffering a pectoral muscle injury, according to Ravens editorial director Ryan Mink. Williams missed seven games in his Baltimore debut last year and will be forced to miss more in 2023, but the team is holding out hope that he will not be out for the season. He’ll be forced to make a decision soon on whether or not he will undergo surgery, as well.
Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum suffered a sprained knee and ankle, respectively, forcing them both to leave the game early, as well. Both players are reportedly “week-to-week” but could miss the trip to Cincinnati this Sunday. Versatile sixth-man Patrick Mekari stepped in for Stanley yesterday and is an easy choice to start as an injury replacement as he’s done so often in the past. Offseason addition and practice squad callup Sam Mustipher filled in at center and will likely continue to do so, if needed.
The team will certainly hope that they won’t need to rely on Mekari and Mustipher for too long, and though they are clearly missing many bodies for the upcoming matchup with their division-rival, they’ll hope to get some back, too. Both cornerback Marlon Humphrey and tight end Mark Andrews will have a chance to play this weekend. There’s still work to be done, but things have been looking up recently for both players.
AUGUST 30: Gordon is among the players the Ravens retained on Wednesday by signing him to their taxi squad. A move sending him elsewhere could have been in the cards, however. The Score’s Jordan Schultz reports that the Vikings, Dolphins and Colts each inquired about the two-time Pro Bowler. Instead of taking a deal with those clubs, Gordon will instead look to earn an elevation to Baltimore’s active roster, one which currently includes four backs.
AUGUST 29:Melvin Gordon joined the Ravens in a bid to find a 53-man roster spot and help get his career back on track. That has not worked out as planned, however; the veteran back has been released, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Gordon signed in Baltimore last month in a bid to earn a depth spot in the team’s backfield. The Ravens are rostering J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwardsand Justice Hill, so many considered it a longshot for Gordon to carve out a role. With Dobbins absent for much of the offseason amidst unhappiness with his contract status and all three incumbent backs having missed considerable time in their careers, though, the team still entered training camp with some uncertainty at the position.
Dobbins has since reported to camp, and Baltimore is expected to have a fully-healthy stable of backs to begin the season. As a result, Gordon’s only path to a continued tenure with the Ravens will come via the practice squad. He could elect to take that route, as he did at the end of last season with the Chiefs following his Broncos release. For the time being, the Ravens will move forward without the two-time Pro Bowler in the fold.
Gordon signed for the veteran minimum in Baltimore, and no guaranteed money was included on his deal. The team will therefore see $1.12MM in cap savings with this release. The Wisconsin product had eclipsed 1,100 scrimmage yards and scored 10 total touchdowns in each of his first two campaigns in Denver, marking a succesful follow-up to his time with the Chargers. Fumbling issues led to his release midway through the campaign last year, though, and Gordon could be hard-pressed to find a notable role in the near future.
Amongst the rookies who have drawn praise through training camp and the preseason for Baltimore is undrafted running back Keaton Mitchell. The news of Gordon’s release could signal that Mitchell will find himself on the 53-man roster when the dust has settled, but it remains to be seen if the Ravens will carry four active running backs. In any event, Gordon’s future is now uncertain.
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.
The team went out this offseason and secured receiving reinforcements for the veteran passer. This offseason, the team added two speedsters of varying vintage. The younger Elijah Moore comes over from the Jets in a trade as he tries to find his footing in the NFL. He’ll have an established veteran to learn from in Marquise Goodwin, whom the team signed back in March. They also added tight end Jordan Akinsin free agency and used their top draft pick on Tennessee receiver Cedric Tillman in the third round.
Lastly, they gave Van Pelt the added title, a move that Watson reportedly endorsed heavily. Van Pelt has coached quarterbacks before for the Bills, Buccaneers, Packers, and Bengals, so the move isn’t completely out of left field. But the promotion of such an important coaching position shows just how far Cleveland will go to keep Watson happy.
Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC North:
It’s no surprise that the Steelers plan to start this year’s first-round pick, Broderick Jones, as a rookie. The surprise is that, in their efforts to start the tackle out of Georgia, they are resorting to shuffling around their offensive line configuration. Last year, Chukwuma Okorafor started every game at right tackle for Pittsburgh, while Dan Moore covered every game on the blindside for the Steelers. According to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, the Steelers opened up the first team period of camp this week with Jones at left tackle, pushing Moore over to the right side of the line. Neither Moore nor Okorafor were necessarily stellar at their positions last year, hence the drafting of a tackle in the first round, but to see Pittsburgh push Moore out of position to make room for Jones shows just how much they want Jones to be in a position to succeed. Keeping Moore in the lineup shows that the Steelers are more concerned with starting the best tackles than keeping their tackles specialized on either side of the line.
The Ravens added some veteran running back depth last month in Melvin Gordon on a deal reportedly worth up to $3.1MM. Jamison Hensley of ESPN was able to provide us a few more details on the deal, disclosing that the contract has a base salary of $1.17MM with no reported guarantees. The remaining $1.94MM to get to the potential ceiling of the deal comes from undisclosed incentives that are not likely to be earned, meaning they won’t count against the team’s salary cap this year. If Gordon does, in fact, earn the full value of the contract, the $1.94MM will be counted against the 2024 salary cap.
JULY 23: CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reports that the Gordon acquisition does not mean that the Ravens are concerned about Dobbins’ or Edwards’ prognoses (Twitter link). Rather, Anderson says the team simply wanted to add another talented player to the roster and that both Dobbins and Edwards are expected to be at full-speed (though it is worth noting that Dobbins was placed on the PUP list on the same day Gordon was signed). Gordon will at least serve as an experienced insurance policy, and he can handle the bulk of the carries in the preseason should Baltimore wish to continue slow-playing its top two RBs.
JULY 21: The Ravens return all three members of their backfield from last season, but they will be making a veteran addition ahead of training camp. Baltimore has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Melvin Gordonworth up to $3.1MM, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link).
Gordon began the 2022 season in Denver, despite many feeling the presence of Javonte Williamswould make the veteran expendable. The latter’s ACL tear helped allow Gordon to appear in 10 contests with the Broncos (including six starts), but he was ultimately waived midseason. That led him to make another intra-AFC West move, joining the Chiefs as a free agent.
The 30-year-old did not feature for Kansas City, however, leading to a lengthy stay on the open market and questions about his playing future. He made it clear last month that he intended to continue his career, though, and this Ravens accord will allow him to once again serve in a rotational capacity. Gordon averaged only 3.5 yards per carry and fumbled five times last season, but he eclipsed 1,100 scrimmage yards during each of his two full campaigns in Denver.
Gordon is unlikely to reach those totals in 2023 in his new home, but he will provide experienced depth to a new-look Ravens offense. Baltimore has former second-round pick J.K. Dobbinsatop the RB depth chart, and he will aim to stay healthy and productive during the final year of his rookie contract. Dobbins remained efficient upon his return from a second knee operation late in 2022, but his uncertain future has been a talking point this offseason. Former UDFA Gus Edwards– who, like Dobbins, missed the entire 2021 campaign and part of the past season with a knee injury – remains in place as Baltimore’s backup.
Despite the presence of that pair – along with third-stringer Justice Hill, who inked a two-year deal this offseason – the Ravens have been mentioned as a team to watch on the depth running back market. Baltimore has a number of low-cost options to choose from, as this offseason has continued the trend of veteran backs struggling to find lucrative offers as free agents. Gordon is one of several member of his position who will likely find a training camp gig in the coming days.
Baltimore’s passing attack is expected to take a needed step forward in 2023 with a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken and a number of new receivers in place, including Odell Beckham Jr. and first-round rookie Zay Flowers. The team’s RB unit will still have a number of contributors, though, a group which now includes Gordon.
After fumbling his way out of a job in Denver, veteran Melvin Gordon spent the rest of the 2022 campaign on the Chiefs practice squad. This was obviously a humbling step backwards for the former Pro Bowler, but the practice squad gig hasn’t left him discouraged about his future NFL opportunities.
During an appearance on The Jim Rome Show, Gordon said he’s staying ready for his next job while also acknowledging the plight of today’s running backs.
“I still want to play,” Gordon said (h/t to Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com). “I still got some tread left on the tires. Andy, you know, coach Reid, kind of sat me down and he told me that ‘you still can play.’ It’s just about the right situation. It’s just so tough for running backs right now. And you have a lot of running backs out there and we just don’t get no love. It’s literally the worst position to play in NFL right now. It literally sucks. I’m just staying ready, man, because I know what I can do. I know once I get in camp, I get in any camp, I can turn some heads. I know what I need to do.”
This isn’t the first time a veteran running back has expressed displeasure about the current state of their positional market. Josh Jacobs has said he’s taking a stand for the position while negotiating an extension with the Raiders, and Saquon Barkley has hinted that his extension offers haven’t come close to matching his on-field production.
Gordon doesn’t necessarily have the same complaints as Barkley or Jacobs, since the free agent RB would be hard pressed to earn even a modest payday on his next contract. However, all veteran RBs share a similar concern when it comes to teams’ reluctance to make any investment on older RBs, with front offices generally preferring to go with cheaper options on rookie contracts.
If Gordon has any hope of playing next season, he might have to once again settle for a practice squad gig. The 30-year-old had a rough go of it in 2022, averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per carry and fumbling the ball five times before earning his walking papers. However, Gordon isn’t far removed from 2020 and 2021 campaigns where he averaged more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns per season.
If the RB is hoping for a guaranteed spot on a 53-man roster, he’ll have to wait for injuries to hit during training camp and preseason. Even then, he’ll likely have to wait his turn, as running backs like Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott, and Kareem Hunt also remain unsigned.