You can't win the Super Bowl and not have a very talented roster.
You also can't win the Super Bowl and hope to keep that roster intact.
Even though they lost five starters in free agency, the Ravens still have a lot of very talented players to choose from. In fact, many of the players who might have been back-ups may now start because of the players that signed with other teams.
Opportunity breeds competition. Young players whose ceiling might have been the practice squad now have a better chance to make the active roster.
Speaking of Baltimore's practice squad, seven of the eight players that were on it last year are still on the roster today. The one player no longer on the team is quarterback Dennis Dixon, who is now a Philadelphia Eagle.
Who will be there this year? The general trend is that players will spend, at most, three years on one practice squad. Then they will usually be picked up by another team, get cut or retire.
This is a list of five players who have the potential to make the active roster, but could likely land on the Ravens' practice squad if kept.
Before last season began (Sept. 3), Jack Cornell was placed on Baltimore's practice squad.
He didn't play last year, but will challenge for a spot on this year's active roster.
Besides the offensive linemen that started last year, Cornell has the most experience in Baltimore's system as anybody.
He's listed as a guard/tackle, which is definitely another advantage he has when coaches are looking at who to keep and who to let go.
But if you saw the Ravens in the playoffs last year, their offensive line is set and making that group this year will be very tough.
Adrian Hamilton played in the last two games of the regular season and made one tackle.
In college, Hamilton recorded 34.5 sacks in two seasons at Prairie View A&M. He was also an FCS first-team All-American and the FCS defensive player of the year in his senior season.
A very young and very talented pass-rusher like Hamilton should have no problem making an NFL roster.
No one is saying Hamilton will or should start, but when the possibility of not making the team is because of how good others are, coaches need to find a way to use you.
Ravens Senior Defensive Assistant Steve Spagnuolo, who coordinated the 2007 Super Bowl-winning New York Giants defense, recently spoke highly of Baltimore's defensive front (via Ryan Mink of baltimoreravens.com):
"Defensively, wow,” Spagnuolo said at the end of minicamp. “I had little visions of the Giants' front that I happened to be privileged to be working with."
A man who coordinated a defense that recorded 95 sacks in two consecutive seasons will be able to find a way to use a player like Hamilton, even if he has to start the year on the practice squad.
The 6'2", 217 pound receiver made first-team All-American in his last two collegiate seasons. He caught 44 touchdowns in 45 games at Elon.
When analyzing the current Ravens wide receivers, two thoughts come to mind. First, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones will start. Second, there is probably four spots up for grabs between the other 11 wide receivers on the roster.
Yes, Mellette is a rookie who has to compete with five other receivers who have been in Baltimore's system (besides Smith and Jones) for at least one year.
However, he's a big receiver. Smith's and Jone's biggest weapon is their speed. At some point Baltimore should maintain receivers, like Mellette, who utilize their size to beat defenses.
From 2009-10, Woodhead played in 11 games for the New York Jets, where he gained 151 total yards and no touchdowns.
When he got picked up by New England, Woodhead found his niche. He played in 45 games for New England, gaining 2,181 total yards and scoring 14 total touchdowns. Woodhead even caught four passes for 42 yards and one touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI.
The reason Woodhead comes to mind when thinking of Rainey is because both players have similar size and situations.
Rainey is 5'8", 205 pounds. Woodhead is 5'8", 210 pounds. Both players began their careers on teams that had crowded backfields lead by Pro Bowlers (Ray Rice in Baltimore and Ladainian Tomlinson in New York).
Rice and Bernard Pierce are unquestionably the top two backs in Baltimore. After that, pending the possible return of Vonta Leach, the Ravens backfield is going to get crowded in a hurry. But, Rainey has the skill to make a run for one of those spots.
He has good size for a defensive back (6'0", 211 pounds), but will mostly play on special teams. If Thompson does make the active roster, it would be a big surprise if he started this season.
The one thing Thompson does have going for him is that besides James Ihedigbo, he has the most in-game experience of any current Ravens safety. And of all the players on this list, Thompson probably has the best shot of making the active roster.
That said, I'm not sure Thompson has done enough to separate himself from the rest of the field. Yes, he has an entire training camp in front of him, but that looming suspension is not helping his cause.