In perhaps one of the more surprising cutdown day moves in the AFC North—though none more surprising than the Steelers’ trade for a woefully underachieving cornerback—the Baltimore Ravens yesterday released veteran running back Justin Forsett, their presumed starter, and carried only three in total at the position, in spite of one being injured.
The depth chart now consists of Buck Allen, former Browns castoff Terrance West, and rookie fourth-round pick Kenneth Dixon. Dixon, however, though he may ultimately prove to be the most talented of the group, is currently dealing with an MCL injury, and will not be a factor for a bit of time.
There is also to consider the fact that Lorenzo Taliaferro is still in the picture, as the third-year running back is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform List and would be available to the Ravens in about a month and a half or so, provided he would be healthy enough to return.
In his rookie season, Allen took over in the starting lineup after Forsett suffered a broken arm in November of last year. He played in every game and started six, carrying the ball 137 times for 514 yards and one touchdown. But he also had 45 receptions for 353 yards and another two touchdowns, and the Ravens obviously like his ability to be multifaceted.
For his part, Forsett was little but good for the Ravens. Last year, he started the first 10 games, averaging 4.2 yards per carry with 151 attempts for 641 yards and two touchdowns, plus 31 receptions for another 153 yards.
A veteran of many teams before he was picked up by the Ravens in 2014, Forsett made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career at that time, and set personal bests in pretty much every category, as he seemed almost ideally suited to running in Baltimore’s offense behind their line.
He carried the ball 235 times in 2014 for 1266 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and scored eight touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 44 passes for another 263 yards as he averaged nearly 100 total yards of offense per game.
An obvious factor in the decision would surely have been his contract that he signed after the 2014 season. Forsett was scheduled to earn a $3 million base salary. He received a $2.1 million signing bonus, so the Ravens will accrue a dead money hit of $700 thousand for each of the next two seasons, but they save a net of $2.3 million in each year.
There are some who believe that the release may simply be temporary, however, and it is a reasonable assumption when considering their circumstances. Neither West nor Allen have accomplished much to expect them to carry the load, and Dixon is untested and injuried. Forsett is the only vested veteran of the group, not subject to waivers, as well. He could be re-signed after the first week of the season, after which veteran contract are no longer fully guaranteed for the season.