Part of the reason for the Baltimore Ravens’ success in consistently building a playoff-caliber roster year in and year out is the front office’s ability to attack the undrafted free agent signing period with precision.
Early round picks compose the “impact” factor of a roster, but late round and undrafted players fill out the bottom part. With depth being such a key factor to success in the NFL, those players can often make or break a team.
The post-draft free agent signing period is not all based on scouting; teams pass up on these players during the draft for one reason or another.
Teams do not have complete control over which players they acquire, as the undrafted rookies have options of where to sign, unlike a draft pick who is locked in with one team.
Nonetheless, Baltimore’s annual success in finding roster-caliber undrafted players, from Marlon Brown, to Justin Tucker, to James Hurst, to Zachary Orr, has been one of the defining aspects of the front office. The Ravens consistently discover at least one player post-draft who can make the final 53-man roster. History suggests that should not change this year.
After a rather successful three days of drafting, the Ravens worked the phones and brought in a second wave of rookies: their 2015 undrafted free agent class. The list is too long to break down every undrafted player; however, some key free agents are worth dissecting as potential roster candidates.
Whether they make the final roster or the practice squad, a handful of Baltimore’s undrafted free agents promise to remain with the organization beyond training camp.
Which notable players have a chance?
DeAndre Carter, WR, Sacramento State
After releasing return man Jacoby Jones, the Ravens have yet to clear up the situation on special teams. Incumbents Michael Campanaro and Asa Jackson could fill in as rotational return men, but ideally the Ravens want to bring in a full-time returner who can provide some value outside of special teams.
Both of Baltimore’s draft picks at wide receiver – Breshad Perriman and Darren Waller – do not figure to ever be used in that department. Of the team’s undrafted free agent signings, DeAndre Carter provides some potential value as a return man.
He totaled just 18 kick returns and 10 punt returns during his college career; however, the 5’8 speedster’s overall special teams value should help his roster chances.
Throw in his dependability on offense – 207 career receptions and 35 receiving touchdowns – and Carter has enough positive traits to make it a possibility that he can make some noise during training camp.
Terrence Magee, RB, LSU
After selecting Buck Allen in the fourth round, barring injuries, the Ravens seem to be set to go into training camp with a top three of Justin Forsett, Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro at running back. 2014 undrafted rookie Fitz Toussaint, who played sparingly last season, has an outside shot at the final roster as well.
But if the Ravens need a dependable practice squad running back, Terrence Magee could be the perfect match. He is a “gets what is blocked for him” type of ball carrier, but his consistency – 5.9 yards per carry on 226 career attempts – provides hope that he can step in when needed and provide chunks of yardage in necessary situations. His stocky 5’8, 213 pound frame gives him an edge in pass protection, and it would behoove the Ravens to keep Magee with the organization in some fashion in 2015.
Darius Allen, LB, Colorado State-Pueblo
Full disclosure: this is based almost exclusively off of Darius Allen’s college production. At 6’1, 229 pounds, Allen’s frame is not an ideal fit for an edge rusher in a 3-4 defense. Throw in his good-not-great pro day numbers – 4.73 40-yard dash, 19 bench press reps – and it would not be a surprise to see Allen fizzle out rather quickly as an NFL player.
However, all of those facts aside, Allen managed to total 29.5 sacks over his final two seasons for his championship-winning Division II team. He was also the recipient of the 2014 Cliff Harris Award, given to the nation’s top non-FBS or FCS defensive player.
The odds are against Allen, but perhaps his proven record – granted, against lesser competition – as a pass rusher will warrant some success as a pro. He could find himself on Baltimore’s practice squad as a developmental option.
Darryl Baldwin, OT, Ohio State
Last season, when North Carolina offensive tackle James Hurst was signed after the draft, it was almost universally assumed that he would compete and eventually earn a roster spot with the Ravens. The weak depth at the position gave Hurst a prime opportunity, and he seized that chance by starting seven games as a rookie, including both playoff matchups.
This year, there is no clear-cut undrafted roster candidate at offensive tackle, but given Baltimore’s need for more depth at both tackle positions after not selecting one during the draft, there is a chance for an undrafted player to latch on to either the final roster or the practice squad. Of Baltimore’s undrafted signees, Darryl Baldwin is the most intriguing.
Weighing in at 6’6, 305 pounds and posting 30 bench press reps at his pro day, Baldwin presents the athleticism, strength, and size necessary to succeed at the next level. Those factors, and the fact that he has had only one full year of starting experience (2014), offer some hope that he could be a developmental option. With Ricky Wagner recovering from foot surgery, Baldwin could earn some extra reps in camp. If he proves himself, Baltimore could see some potential and decide to keep him around.
Nick Perry, S, Alabama
One of Baltimore’s “needs” from a depth standpoint prior to the draft was the safety position. It is a safe bet that Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill enter training camp as the starters, with Matt Elam as the primary backup (Terrence Brooks is set to begin the 2015 season on the PUP list).
The fact that Matt Elam is the best backup should make some wary of Baltimore’s depth on the back end. That said, the Ravens did not feel the need to address safety depth during the draft, possibly due to a rather underwhelming safety class.
Nick Perry and USC safety Gerald Bowman were Baltimore’s two post-draft signings at safety. The more likely of the two to stick with the team is Perry. After taking a backseat to now-NFLers Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri in 2013, Perry emerged as a regular in Alabama’s secondary as a senior.
Perry hauled in 2 interceptions, 80 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss last season as a do-it-all safety for the Crimson Tide. With Brooks injured, there could be an opening on the final roster at safety, opening the door for Perry. He will have to prove his worth in coverage first and foremost. At the very least he could find himself on Baltimore’s practice squad come September.