Ravens make final roster cuts (UPDATED)

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens chose youthful promise over the special-teams experience of veteran fullback Harold Morrow, terminating his contract and waiving eight others to reduce their roster to 53 players.<br><br> Parting ways with Morrow allows the defending AFC North champions to retain wide receiver Clarence Moore, defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin and quarterback Josh Harris.

"It's always good when you can get down to your roster and you don't want to have players go," general manager Ozzie Newsome said Monday afternoon. "Two years ago, we didn't care who was 45 to 53. It didn't really matter.

"I think that's how we've grown as a football team with our depth is that we were afraid to let some young players go because somebody would claim them."

Morrow, 31, had 140 career special teams tackles, and the former Minnesota Vikings' wedge-buster was often singled out for praise by special-teams coordinator Gary Zauner.

By letting Morrow go, though, the Ravens didn't have to risk losing: Moore, a 6-foot-6 project loaded with potential, Franklin, who lost weight and excelled in NFL Europe, or Harris, the team's third quarterback.

The Ravens also released offensive tackle Tony Pashos, last year's fifth-round draft pick, wide receiver Todd Devoe, cornerback Lance Frazier, defensive tackle Jesse Mitchell, tight end Brett Pierce, seventh-round guard Brian Rimpf and center Lenny Vandermade. Several of those players were at the team's training complex Monday, including Pierce and Vandermade, and are expected to join the eight-man practice squad that will be announced this afternoon.

Meanwhile, rookie wide receiver Devard Darling (strained quadriceps) wasn't placed on injured reserve.

"It's a medical thing, but he's practicing and Devard will be given every opportunity to stay on this 53-man roster because I think he's demonstrated enough to us to understand that he can help us this year," Newsome said of the team's third-round pick.

The composition of the roster is now heavy on linebackers (eight) and defensive backs (nine) and light on depth at offensive tackle (three).

Ethan Brooks is the primary reserve at left and right tackle behind All-Pro Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Brown, respectively, but Ogden is a question mark for the season opener against Cleveland after spraining his medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Damion Cook, the swing player on the interior behind center Casey Rabach, has some experience at tackle.

Although Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware and quarterback Anthony Wright are on the physically unable to perform list and center Mike Flynn is out until October after breaking his collarbone, the Ravens are relatively healthy heading into Sunday.

"We came through pretty much unscathed," Newsome said. "Flynn is doing better. We get a chance to get Anthony and Pete back in the middle of October. That's going to be a strength for us. I think we have enough depth on the roster to be able to withstand most injuries that we have."

The organization retains high expectations for its first season under new principal owner Steve Bisciotti.

"The majority of the team got a taste of the playoffs last year," Newsome said. "I think the hunger and the thirst that Kevin [Johnson] and Deion [Sanders] brings to this team just elevates our ability not only to get into the playoffs but to contend for the Super Bowl."

NOTE: Sanders will advertise his age on his chest. The seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback chose No. 37 after ending his retirement last week to become the Ravens' nickel back, senior vice president of public relations Kevin Byrne said.

Sanders' number was formerly worn by Ravens special-teams ace Bennie Thompson, the team's special-teams assistant. The NFL Defensive Player of the Year of a decade ago is listed on the depth chart as the backup to right cornerback Gary Baxter. …

Newsome said the Ravens continue to negotiate with the representatives for Ogden and Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister, the team's franchise player.

Ogden is seeking a lucrative contract extension, and the Ravens are looking for long-term salary-cap relief. And McAlister wants to be paid among the top cornerbacks in the league, coveting Denver cornerback Champ Bailey's $63 million deal that includes an $18 million signing bonus.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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