OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens cut linebacker Tavares Gooden from the roster Saturday after haggling with the San Francisco 49ers in trade discussions that fizzled out.
The Ravens were seeking help along the offensive line, preferably a center, but a proposed trade fell apart.
A speedy former third-round draft pick from the University of Miami, Gooden was the most high-profile player the Ravens released Saturday as they got down to the NFL roster limit.
Gooden could have remained on the team if he had accepted a reduction of his $1.2 million salary, but ultimately he declined the offer. Gooden’s tendency to get hurt was another factor in his release.
As the Ravens cut Gooden and fellow veterans in linebacker Prescott Burgess, wide receiver Marcus Smith and running back Jalen Parmele, the departures created opportunities for rookie running back Anthony Allen, outside linebacker Michael McAdoo, undrafted wide receiver LaQuan Williams and inside linebacker Jason Phillips.
Williams emerged as the biggest surprise of the Ravens’ preseason, outshining fellow former University of Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith, the Ravens’ second-round draft pick.
Williams’ blend of punt return skills and playmaking ability as a receiver earned him one of the final roster spots as he caught four passes for 84 yards and averaged 35.5 yards per punt return and 30.5 yards per kickoff return.
"It’s a great feeling," Williams told 24×7 in a telephone interview. "It’s something I’ve been working towards my entire life. I just needed the opportunity, and I made the best of it. It was just me coming in and knowing what I was capable of.
"I knew I had the talents. Now, I have to keep it up. This is the first phase for me. I’ve got to keep getting better. You can’t relax or take it easy. You’ve got to keep pushing every day."
Phillips made the team behind the strength of an interception and a fumble recovery during the Ravens’ preseason finale victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
The former Texas Christian standout had expected to make the squad.
"I want to make the decision as hard on them as I can," Phillips said before learning his fate. "I definitely think I helped myself out."
Meanwhile, rookie cornerback Chykie Brown also made a good final impression on the coaching staff and personnel department. The fifth-round draft pick from the University of Texas returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown against the Falcons.
By choosing Allen over Parmele in what amounted to a mild surprise, the Ravens kept all eight of their draft picks on the roster.
The Ravens held onto several young players rather than expose them to the waiver wire where they could potentially be claimed by another team. The team is upbeat about its rookie class, especially first-round cornerback Jimmy Smith.
"I was talking about that with Jimmy," Allen said. "This rookie class, we brought a little personality to this team. Hopefully, we can contribute right away and help the team win."
Parmele scored a touchdown, but he also lost a fumble and averaged just three yards per carry.
A seventh-round draft pick from Georgia Tech, Allen averaged 6.8 yards per carry and scored a touchdown.
"It feels great," said Allen, who got the news that he had made the team from coach John Harbaugh. "I feel like all the hard work I put out came back to me. There was some anxiety, but you can only control what you can control.
"I talked to coach Harbaugh and it was a short meeting. He came up to me and told me congratulations that I made the team, and he told me that he expects good things out of me and to make sure I learn everything I need to know on special teams."
In a move that speaks volumes about his long-term potential, McAdoo made the team after going undrafted in the NFL supplemental draft in late August.
McAdoo hadn’t played football in over a year after being declared ineligible due to NCAA and academic violations, but the athletic, lanky 6-foot-7, 245-pound had a sack and forced fumble against the Falcons when he hit quarterback John Parker Wilson.
"It’s a dream come true," McAdoo said. "Everything happened so fast. I had to take it how it was given to me. A couple weeks ago I wasn’t on a team and I didn’t know how it things were going to go. I’m so glad I’m here. I think how I played in the game helped me a lot."
It’s a gloomier outlook, though, for second-year offensive tackle Ramon Harewood.
He was placed on injured reserve for the second year in a row after a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed a torn ligament in his ankle that will require surgery to repair the damage. A sixth-round draft pick from Morehouse last year, Harewood missed his entire rookie season after undergoing surgeries on both knees. Dr. Robert Anderson, a specialist in Charlotte, N.C., is set to perform the procedure.
Kris Wilson beat out Davon Drew for the third tight end job, parlaying a team-high eight receptions for 101 yards into a niche after being signed during training camp.
Besides cutting Drew, Gooden, Burgess, Smith and Parmele, the Ravens also released center Tim Barnes, running back Damien Berry, center-guard Justin Boren, linebacker Josh Bynes, third quarterback Hunter Cantwell, defensive tackle Lamar Divens, cornerback Danny Gorrer, defensive tackle Bryan Hall, wide receiver James Hardy, cornerback Talmadge Jackson, wide receiver Brandon Jones, fullback Ryan Mahaffey, tight end Johdrick Morris, center Jason Murphy, offensive tackle Andre Ramsey, long snapper Patrick Scales, safety Mana Silva, defensive tackle Derek Simmons, cornerback Josh Victorian, linebacker Chavis Williams and safety Nate Williams.
A former Buffalo Bills second-round draft pick blessed with size, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Hardy was hampered for nearly the entire preseason with a hamstring problem.
Divens was beaten out by Brandon McKinney for the final defensive line spot.
A Baltimore native who lives near the Ravens’ training complex, Murphy is hoping to get another opportunity with the Ravens in the future."
"I told coach Harbaugh I appreciated the opportunity," Murphy said. "I’m a phone call away. I’m right down the street. He said the same thing."
Under NFL rules, the Ravens can form an eight-man practice squad as soon as today and have already informed several players to remain in town to be signed.
"It looks like I’m going to be on the practice squad," said Berry, an undrafted rookie from the University of Miami. "It’s a starting point. I’m not complaining. They could have told me to go home. I’m still a Raven. Luckily, I’m still here."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times