The Baltimore Ravens will have to make cuts this offseason. Will linebacker Za’Darius Smith be one of those players?
As great as it is for players to get the opportunity to play for an NFL team, it doesn’t workout for everyone. Because of NFL rules, teams can only 53 players on their roster for the regular season. This means that there will be a number of cuts that will happen in the next month.
Aside from undrafted and lesser known players, there could be veterans on the roster bubble. All 32 of ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters gave their veteran on the bubble and for the Baltimore Ravens, it could be linebacker Za’Darius Smith.
"The 2015 fourth-round pick made a splash with 5.5 sacks as a rookie but now faces the challenge of making the team two years later. He was a healthy scratch for three of the last six games and he finished with one sack in 2016. Plus, the Ravens loaded up on pass-rushers in this year’s draft, which could mean Smith gets caught in a numbers game"
It was a confusing season for Za’Darius Smith last year. There was a lot of excitement about him after his rookie year, but we didn’t see much in 2016. Part of this had to do with the emergence of other young pass-rushers like Matt Judon. Judon finished with 4 sacks as a rookie in the little time he saw on the field. The Ravens really like him and think he’s got a ton of upside. With Elvis Dumervil gone, he could be primed to start on the other side of Terrell Suggs this season.
And as Hensley points out, the Ravens drafted two pass-rushers this year in Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams. They used a second and third round pick on the two, so I assume they will want to utilize them this season.
The Bottom Line
What concerns me the most is the healthy scratches. Even with the Elvis Dumervil injuries last season, Smith didn’t see much game time. Does that mean that Dean Pees does not have confidence in him? There are a lot of things we don’t know but being a healthy scratch is never a good thing.
For Smith, he will be battling for a spot on the roster during training camp. There’s going to be a lot of competition with the loaded depth chart.
I think there’s still a place for Smith on the roster, especially with the uncertainty at pass-rush. We don’t know what we will get from the two rookies and Suggs has dealt with a number of injuries in the past couple years. There’s no guarantee we get a 16-game season from him. Having Smith for depth purposes would be helpful.
It will be an interesting situation to monitor as the Ravens start up training camp and the preseason.