Baltimore Ravens: What to Expect from the Latest Undrafted Free-Agent Signings
Yesterday the Baltimore Ravens added five more undrafted free agents. With four undrafted rookies being cut to make room for these additions, the Ravens now have a total of 21 undrafted players looking to make their roster.
That's a lot of competition for a 53-man roster and the odds are definitely stacked up. The best scenario for most of them would be a practice squad position or a backup role.
It doesn't mean these players won't try. With undrafted players like James Harrison and Tony Romo becoming superstars at their positions, there's always the possibility that one of these new Ravens could shock the world and become elite players.
As these players prepare to begin their NFL careers, I'm going to break down what can be expected from them in 2012.
Matt Balasavage, TE Temple
Matt Balasavage comes to a Ravens team that is very deep at the tight end position. 2010 draft picks Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will take all the first team reps as the Ravens hope to develop a dual tight end system similar to what the New England Patriots have.
This leaves second-year player Davon Drew, undrafted rookie Bruce Figgins and Balasavage to compete for the third-string tight end position. Barring injuries, Balasavage will mostly be used as a blocking tight end with the opportunity for one or two catches during the season. It's even possible that the Ravens could opt not to carry a third-string tight end and instead settle for keeping one on the practice squad.
In all likelihood, Balasavage will not be seeing the field for the Ravens in 2012. During his four years at Temple, he never had more than two receptions in a season as he was clearly overshadowed by starting tight end Evan Rodriguez. It also didn't help that Temple averaged 256.5 rushing yards a game with the nation's seventh-best running game while only managing 126.8 passing yards a game with the nation's 116th best passing game.
The best-case scenario for Balasavage would be a practice squad position where he could work on becoming a better pass-catching tight end. With Drew and Rodriguez offering formidable competition, Balasavage will have his work cut out for him to simply make the roster.
Nigel Carr, LB Alabama State
Formerly a big-time recruit at Florida State, Nigel Carr's college career has now essentially been defined by his chronic off-the-field character concerns. In July 2010, Carr was arrested on auto burglary and credit card theft charges. The charges were so severe that Carr was dismissed from Florida State and he wound up finishing his collegiate career at the more obscure Alabama State.
Carr's troubles did not end at Alabama State either as he failed to maintain academic eligibility during his senior year. As a result, he missed nearly two months of the 2011 season. With his overwhelming character concerns it came as no surprise when he went undrafted in April.
Since the Ravens are taking a chance on him, they are hoping that his natural athleticism and versatility can overpower his off-the-field issues. Carr is the type of player that can line up at defensive end while also showing the ability to play outside linebacker. The Terrell Suggs injury has opened up the possibility of Carr becoming a situational pass-rusher for the Ravens.
The character concerns could be very tough to overcome though. When adding all his missed games into the equation, it's easy to come to the conclusion that Carr isn't ready for the NFL yet. He would do very well to make it on to the Ravens' practice squad this season.
Bruce Figgins, TE Georgia
For the first three years of his college career, Bruce Figgins played mostly as a backup tight end. Stuck behind starter Aron White, Figgins didn't get much opportunities and this resulted in him getting a total of nine receptions for 83 yards and three touchdowns during his first three seasons. For his senior season, Figgins changed positions and instead became the Bulldogs' starting fullback.
The change was a good one for Figgins who had his best season with seven catches for 96 yards and one touchdown. However despite his success at fullback, he is listed as a tight end on the Ravens' roster.
With only three tight ends expected to make the Ravens' final roster, Figgins will be competing with Matt Balasavage and Davon Drew for that last spot. Although it's early, Figgins has to like his chances as his college statistics are better than Balasavage's in every category. He also has more upside than Drew who has so far shown himself to be a career practice squad player.
Figgins will not be passing Ed Dickson or Dennis Pitta on the depth chart anytime soon regardless of how good his offseason is, so it could be interesting to see if the coaches attempt to move Figgins over to a stint at backup fullback. Vonta Leach is arguably the best fullback in the league, however, it couldn't hurt to have someone else play the position in case of injuries.
Jordan Mabin, CB Northwestern
The cornerback position has suddenly become one of immense strength for the Ravens. Lardarius Webb has developed into a legitimate shutdown corner while younger players like Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith have shown lots of promise. Even solid backups like Danny Gorrer and Asa Jackson will make it difficult for any undrafted players to make the Ravens roster.
But if any undrafted cornerback is suited to make the roster, it's Jordin Mabin. Mabin was named as an All-Big 10 honorable mention for two seasons in a row. He led Northwestern with five pass breakups and complied 62 tackles during his senior season.
Mabin's draft stock dropped thanks in large part to a shoulder injury that ended his season early. With five months gone by since the injury, Mabin finally feels physically caught up. He's going to have to do better than his combine numbers though, especially his 4.53 40-yard dash.
At best, Mabin could be a dime corner this season. Although he has a good chance of making the Ravens' roster, there's no reason to expect much from him this season with so many talented players ahead of him on the depth chart.
Chester Stewart, QB Temple
With Joe Flacco entrenched as the Ravens' starting quarterback, there is virtually no chance that any of the undrafted quarterbacks on the Ravens' roster will see playing time this season. The same goes for Curtis Painter, who was 0-8 as the Indianapolis Colts' starting quarterback in 2011. The only other quarterback that Ravens fans can expect to see on the field is Tyrod Taylor, who is Flacco's undisputed backup.
This leaves Chester Stewart as a practice squad hopeful for 2012. The embattled quarterback had a rough senior year at Temple where he was one of three quarterbacks to start during the season. All three quarterbacks had mediocre numbers as much of the credit for Temple's success was a result of the running game headed up by Bernard Pierce, who coincidentally is also on the Ravens' roster.
In 2011, Stewart completed 54 out of 83 pass attempts for a team-leading 743 yards. He had two touchdowns to go with two interceptions and finished the year with a 65.1 completion percentage.
Given the fact that he couldn't ever grasp full control of Temple's sad quarterback competition, it's hard to expect much from Stewart's NFL career. Still, it helps that college teammates Pierce and Matt Balasavage will be working with Stewart during training camp. For now though, he's going to have to hope that he can make an NFL team and get a position as a backup so he can increase his chances of getting on the field again.