OWINGS MILLS — Reacting to a series of uneven preseason performances, the Baltimore Ravens released five wide receivers on Saturday during their final major roster cutdown as they parted ways with Justin Harper and Yamon Figurs while signaling interest in former New York Giants wide receiver and special-teams ace David Tyree.
Plus, the Ravens cut rookie kicker Graham Gano and informed Steve Hauschka that he’s their choice to succeed veteran kicker Matt Stover.
The Ravens cut Harper, a big, athletic former seventh-round draft pick who repeatedly struggled with his hands, and Figurs, a former third-round draft pick who was replaced as the primary returner by Chris Carr this offseason.
Currently, the Ravens have four receivers on the 53-man roster: Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Kelley Washington and Demetrius Williams.
However, the Ravens are expected to pursue Tyree, a former Pro Bowl special-teams selection. Team officials have been in contact with his representatives.
The unrestricted free agent, who emerged as an unlikely Super Bowl hero with his clutch reception that he clasped against his helmet set up the game-winning touchdown over the New England Patriots, has also drawn immediate interest from the Kansas City Chiefs.
"It was a tough thing," said Tyree’s agent, Michael Clouser, in a telephone interview. "David is healthy and ready to play for someone immediately. It’s the nature of the business. I think he can contribute somewhere right away. It’s not like he wasn’t prepared for this.
"He’s a proven special-teams player and he can help someone’s football team as a receiver, too. He’s got a history of overcoming the odds. We’re hopeful that Baltimore will be interested. The Ravens are one of the teams that we’ve identified that would hopefully want to pick him up.”
Another potential wide receiver target for Baltimore, former second-round pick Reggie Brown, made the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster.
The Ravens traded safety-cornerback Derrick Martin to the Green Bay Packers for offensive lineman Tony Moll.
The Ravens wound up cutting two draft picks, fifth-round tight end Davon Drew (East Carolina) and sixth-round running back Cedric Peerman (Virginia).
Both could be added to the Ravens’ eight-man practice squad if they clear waivers today.
The Ravens now have five running backs, which wasn’t expected as they retained both Jalen Parmele and Matt Lawrence after both turned in solid respective performances throughout the preseason. Le’Ron McClain, a Pro Bowl selection last season, is the lone fullback on the roster.
Plus, inside linebacker Jason Phillips, a fifth-round pick from Texas Christian, was placed on injured reserve. Phillips tore his lateral meniscus at the NFL scouting combine and was hampered by the injury throughout the offseason and training camp.
With Phillips sidelined for the year, the Ravens held onto inside linebackers Prescott Burgess and Dannell Ellerbe.
An undrafted rookie out of Georgia who was given a $2,000 signing bonus after the draft, Ellerbe impressed the coaching staff with his range and instincts before spraining his right medial collateral ligament.
He was one of the biggest surprises to make the team because he’s still not 100 percent healthy.
"I had a meeting with coach [John] Harbaugh and he told me I made it," Ellerbe said in a telephone interview. "It’s like a sigh of relief. At the same time, I have to prove myself. This is part of the stepping stone.
"I’m going to get my knee right and hopefully I can play in the first game. I’m rehabbing it strong. I’ve been on it every day, working hard. I appreciate the Ravens giving me a chance and believing in me."
Hauschka converted 5 of 6 field goals this preseason, locking up the job when he hit field goals from 46 and 33 yards in the final preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons
"Steve is really excited and has worked very hard," said Hauschka’s agent, Neil Cornrich. "He’s got a lot of ability and he’s honored that the Ravens chose him to be their kicker. Obviously, he follows a great kicker in Matt Stover. Steve has learned a lot from John Harbaugh and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. This is a great opportunity for him."
The Ravens brokered an injury settlement with undrafted rookie defensive lineman Will Johnson. Johnson suffered a three-week AC shoulder sprain against the Falcons.
The Ravens cut offensive guard Bryan Mattison, the son of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
The Ravens also cut offensive tackles Joe Reitz, a converted basketball player and Stefan Rodgers, tight end Isaac Smolko, cornerback Evan Oglesby, offensive guard Tre Stallings, wide receivers Jayson Foster, Ernie Wheelwright and Eron Riley, safety K.J Gerard, outside linebacker William VanDeSteeg, center Robby Felix, fullback Jason Cook and defensive tackle Nader Abdallah.
VanDeSteeg, Gerard and Cook are all regarded as strong candidates for the practice squad.
The Ravens cut undrafted rookie linebacker Tony Fein, a former Iraq war veteran who was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault Aug. 23 on a Baltimore City police officer during an incident at the Johnny Rockets restaurant in the Inner Harbor.
Fein, 27, allegedly shoved a police officer in the chest after refusing to stand up twice, according to police reports. Fein has maintained that he’s innocent and his agent accused the police department of racial profiling.
Figurs, who owns the franchise record as the lone Raven to ever run back a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same season, was limited to two receptions for 48 yards in the preseason.
Harper caught a 19-yard touchdown pass against the Washington Redskins in the preseason opener, but dropped nearly as many passes as he caught in four preseason contests.
He caught zero passes in the preseason finale against the Falcons, dropping two passes.
"It was a tough night," Harper said after the game. "I need to make plays consistently and I didn’t do that. Whether they still want me, that’s up to them. I need to make plays, so they can keep me."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.