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August 20, 2016: Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett (29) during the NFL preseason week 2 game between the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)
Baltimore Ravens

Ravens’ roster wrangling keeps a pair in play for season

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire
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On first glance, the Baltimore Ravens’ release of Justin Forsett sure seemed like a classic NFL adage in play, the thought being, it’s better to give up on a player a year too early than a year too late.

Forsett will be turning 31 in October, an age that is a red flag for any running back in this league, and followed up his career year in 2014 when he rushed for 1,266 yards at 5.4 per clip with an injury-shortened season last year in which he finished with 641 yards over 10 games with a significant drop to 4.2 yards per rush.

The move still caught the NFL by surprise, however, because there are extenuating circumstances with Forsett when compared with other runners in similar circumstances.

The powerful Forsett entered the league as the Seattle Seahawks’ seventh-round pick in 2008 and was never really a full-time runner until he broke out in Baltimore seven years later. So, the Sunshine State native doesn’t have the same wear and tear as most 30-plus backs.

Meanwhile, his injury last year was a broken arm and not anything involving his wheels, a very important distinction for a runner. Finally, the Ravens are not exactly proven behind Forsett at the position, with third-year running back Terrance West and second-year player Buck Allen on the depth chart, as well as rookie fourth-round pick Kenneth Dixon, who is currently struggling with a knee injury.

And it turns out the jettisoning of Forsett was a calculated gamble by Ozzie Newsome in an effort to keep two other players in the mix this season.

Forsett was back in Baltimore by Monday, along with veteran kick returner Devin Hester who was signed, two days after his release. A bit of roster wrangling enabled the Ravens to keep defensive lineman Carl Davis and safety Matt Elam on the original 53 despite the fact they are not ready to play right now due to injury.

That’s an important juggling act because by doing that and then placing the two players on injured reserve, each is eligible to be the one “designated to return” player for the Ravens at midseason. Had Newsome tagged each with the IR designation on Saturday like receivers Michael Campanaro and Chris Matthews, both would have been ruled out for the season.

It also comes with the opportunity lo lower Forsett’s original contract number of $3 million this season.

And it was always the plan, although an admittedly risky one because Forsett could have signed anywhere although it’s obvious the Ravens kept the veteran in on the strategy and his age and the time of year limited the possibility of another team swooping in and bowling over Forsett with a significant offer.

Dixon is still perceived to be the back of the future in Baltimore, but it wouldn’t be surprising if that gets pushed back another year in the case that the Ravens start feeding Forsett early and John Harbaugh sees some success, a scenario Forsett foreshadowed by using the WWE’s Undertaker to announce his return.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SBNation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.

Ravens’ roster wrangling keeps a pair in play for season



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