Tough decisions have to be made when finalizing the 53-man roster. The Baltimore Ravens, as well as the other 31 teams in the NFL, have to do what’s best for their franchise. No one is ever safe. And that includes rookies, veterans, undrafted free agents, and second or third-year players.
Down below is my list of five players from the Baltimore Ravens who are facing make or break years.
Five Baltimore Ravens Players Facing Make or Break Years
1. Breshad Perriman, Wide Receiver
Breshad Perriman is a name that you expected to be on this list. The former 2015 first-round pick out of the University of Central Florida has not lived up to expectations. Perriman has had to deal with a load of injuries since joining the Ravens. A partially torn PCL in 2015 cost him his whole rookie season. A partially torn ACL sidelined him for all of training camp in 2016. And last year he missed the entire preseason with a strained hamstring. You can’t improve if you’re not on the field getting valuable reps.
Perriman’s inability to get open regularly and consistently catch the ball have also been major downfalls to his career. According to Pro Football Focus, Perriman was graded as the NFL’s worst wide receiver in 2017. Since being drafted in 2015, Perriman has a career total of 43 receptions for 576 yards and three touchdowns. These numbers are disappointing because first-round draft picks should ultimately develop into quality starters. However, this has not been the case for Perriman as he is fighting to make the roster this season.
The Ravens picked up Perriman’s $649,485 roster bonus to allow him every opportunity to make the team. So far this preseason, Perriman’s play has been up and down. In the Hall of Fame game, Perriman let the first pass thrown his way go through his hands and it was intercepted. He finished this game with two receptions for 19 yards.
In the second preseason game against the Rams, Perriman had a much better performance. He caught a deep touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III for 32 yards and finished the game with three catches for 71 yards. Ravens wide receiver coach Bobby Engram said it best, “… he (Perriman) just needs to go out and make plays.”
2. Kamalei Correa, Linebacker
Kamalei Correa was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft out of Boise State. Initially, Correa was drafted by the Ravens to rush the quarterback at the outside linebacker position. In college, Correa excelled when he had one hand in the dirt and attacked off the line. So far, he has struggled against the bigger and more physical offensive lineman in the NFL. During his rookie season, Correa’s playing time was spent mostly on special teams.
In his second year, the Ravens attempted to transition him to inside linebacker. Correa battled with Patrick Onwuasor for the starting job during training camp and the preseason. Correa won the job originally but was quickly replaced by Onwuasor after three games. He finished the 2017 season with no sacks and 15 total tackles. The Ravens hope they’ll get more production out of Correa by moving him back to his former position this upcoming season.
So far during the preseason, Baltimore has been playing Correa more on the outside. The belief is that Correa’s natural instincts and pass rushing ability will show more because of his comfortability. In game one of the preseason, he proved this to be 100 percent correct. Correa recorded an impressive three sacks, one interception, a team-high six tackles and two passes defended. This was his best game in the pros by far.
He fell back down to Earth in game two of the preseason and only recorded one tackle. This year specifically, Baltimore happens to be loaded with youthful talent at the outside/inside linebacker position. Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams, Kenny Young, etc. will all be battling for playing time as well, so Correa must take a huge step forward to make the final roster.
3. Maxx Williams, Tight End
Maxx Wiliams‘ career started off relatively well in Baltimore. In his first season, Williams broke the Ravens rookie record for a tight end by catching 32 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown. Yes, these are not eye-popping numbers but still a promising start for the former second-round pick out of Arizona State.
Williams’ first-year numbers surpassed Ravens legend Todd Heap, who was drafted by Baltimore in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft. Heap had 16 receptions for 201 yards and one touchdown during his rookie season. He ended up playing 10 years for the Ravens and went on to play in two Pro Bowls and made the All-Pro team in 2003.
Wiliams was widely considered the top-ranked tight end in the 2015 NFL draft. The Ravens were ecstatic to be able to select him in the second round. After his rookie season, the Ravens expected Williams to continue to improve and follow in Heap’s footsteps.
Unfortunately, a weird knee injury caused him to miss three-fourths of his second season in 2016 and he caught zero passes that year. Last year, Williams was only available for 11 games and he produced 15 receptions for 86 yards and one touchdown. The Ravens selected both TE Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews in this year draft. Maxx Williams has to stay healthy and play at a high level this year because his potential replacements are now waiting in the wings.
4. Brent Urban, Defensive End
The Ravens re-signed Brent Urban this off-season to a one-year deal. He missed 13 games last year due to a Lisfranc foot injury. Since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Urban has missed 39 out of a possible 64 games due to injury. He tore his ACL as a rookie and tore his biceps in his second year.
Urban flashed potential his third season when he was fully healthy and was able to play in all 16 games. He had two sacks, seven total tackles, and two pass deflections in 2016 without starting a single game. This impressive season propelled him into the starting defensive end position last season. Unfortunately, a player fell on his foot in Week Three against the Jacksonville Jaguars and his season was ended prematurely for the third time in four years.
Now fully recovered from his Lisfranc injury, Urban is out to prove that the Ravens made a smart investment. Standing at 6’7″, Urban is adept at getting his hands up before a quarterback throws and deflecting passes. He’s also shown that he can provide pass rush from the interior of the defensive line. Both of these skills are invaluable and add a whole another dimension to Baltimore’s defense. If Urban can stay healthy for 16 games, then he’ll prove the Ravens were right in bringing him back for one more season.
5. Tony Jefferson, Safety
The inclusion of safety Tony Jefferson on this list will be a surprise for some people. Last off-season, the Baltimore Ravens signed Jefferson to a four-year, $34 million deal with $19 million guaranteed. In his first season in Baltimore, he had 79 tackles (56 solo), 2.5 sacks, two pass breakups and one interception. This was a down year for Jefferson who was just coming off a 96 tackle season (74 solo) in 2016 with the Arizona Cardinals.
Towards the end of last season, Jefferson’s play with the Ravens improved dramatically. With more experience and familiarity with the defensive scheme, Jefferson will be even better this upcoming season.
Unfortunately, he has been slowed so far this off-season with a hamstring injury. This minor pull has caused him to miss six practices. Hamstrings are very tricky so it’ll be important for both the Ravens and Jefferson to be patient. Jefferson should not come back too early and re-aggravate the injury because that may cost him a few games.
This is an extremely crucial year for him due to the opt-out clause in his contract in 2019. The Ravens have the ability to opt-out of Jefferson’s deal after year two and will only suffer an $8,823,334 dead cap hit. However, as long as Jefferson stays healthy and continues to make positive strides then the Ravens will have no reason to release him. He is a key piece to their defense now and for the future.