OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens took a calculated gamble by cutting Justin Forsett and bringing him back two days later.
When the Ravens reached the mandatory 53-man limit by releasing the former Pro Bowl running back on Saturday, Forsett could have signed with any team as a free agent.
Instead, the 30-year-old laid low. When Baltimore re-signed him on Monday, the controversial move to cut him ended up being a win-win situation for the Ravens and Forsett.
“No guts, no glory,” coach John Harbaugh declared Tuesday. “You can’t achieve anything unless you’re willing to take some risk. But certainly, you take calculated, smart risks. That’s what we did there.”
The Ravens struck a deal with Forsett, promising to pay him his $3 million salary for 2016 if he would allow himself to spend a couple of days off the roster.
By dropping Forsett and waiting an extra day to sign free agent kick returner Devin Hester, Baltimore was able to place safety Matt Elam and defensive Carl Davis on injured reserve Monday.
Either Elam or Davis can be given the “designated to return” label in the weeks ahead. Any player placed on IR before the final 53-man cut cannot receive the return designation.
“Hopefully it helps us in the end,” Harbaugh said. “I mean, it was a small thing, but it’s not a small thing for those two guys who have a chance to come back on the roster. It’s a big thing for those two guys and for our team. I just see it as a plus all the way around and well executed move.”
Forsett provided foreshadow to the Ravens’ about-face with this tweet Saturday: “the plot thickens.”
“I thought Justin handled it exceptionally well,” Harbaugh said. “It was a team move on his part and didn’t hurt him in any way financially or otherwise. We knew what the plan was all along.”
The Ravens reached agreement with Hester on Sunday but didn’t make the deal official on Monday. Turns out, the two sides had been in contact long before the holiday weekend.
Hester missed the first 11 weeks of the 2015 season while recovering from toe surgery and did not participate in any organized team activities with Atlanta before being released by the Falcons in late July. Not long after that, he heard from the Ravens, who desperately needed a sure-handed kick returner.
“They were one of the teams that reached out right away,” Hester said Tuesday.
The Ravens signed him to a one-year deal after being convinced he was fully healthy and ready to go. Hester practiced Tuesday and is expected to be in uniform for Sunday’s opener against the Buffalo Bills.
“Seems like he’s actually in very good shape and ready to play,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not worried about him being able to handle the job at all.”
For the first time since Saturday’s cuts, Harbaugh addressed the release of former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who was signed to the practice squad on Monday. Reynolds was a star at Navy but is trying to make in the NFL as a receiver and kick returner.
“He understood kind of where he stood, where he needs to go and what the plan is,” Harbaugh said.
Now that the roster shuffle is over, the Ravens can turn their full attention toward rebounding from last year’s 5-11 disaster. Many changes have been made, and at this point there’s really no telling if Baltimore will be significantly improved in Harbaugh’s ninth season in Baltimore.
“I cannot wait to see what this team is, and where it’s going,” Harbaugh said.