Ravens let go of Maese, Richey in final roster cut

OWINGS MILLS -- There were only a few notable surprises as the Baltimore Ravens shaved their roster down to the NFL limit of 53 players Saturday.

The Ravens unexpectedly terminated the contracts of veteran long snapper Joe Maese and kickoff specialist Wade Richey in addition to releasing 15 other players, including tight end Trent Smith, linebacker Mike Smith and former Maryland safety Chris Kelley.

As vested veterans, Maese and Richey's salaries would have been guaranteed for the entire season under league rules if they had been on the team for the season opener. The Ravens could bring them back and cut them again without financial penalty after the first week of the regular season.

Rookie Matt Katula will take the spot of Maese, who had been with the team since 2001, and kicker Matt Stover or punter Dave Zastudil could handle kickoffs if Richey isn't re-signed. Rookie sixth-round pick Derek Anderson made the team as the third quarterback.

"I knew 50 of the 53 coming in, so I'm not too far off," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It was easy in that regard, but some guys made an impact here that were a little bit of a surprise.

"We have some good depth in some key areas. I like the balance of the talent that we have. It presents us offensively and defensively a lot of options to do the things we want to do."

A seventh-round pick in 2003 who missed the last two seasons with a broken leg, Trent Smith acknowledged days ago that the team was unlikely to carry five tight ends.

"We have let some pretty good players go," Billick said. "The flip side is we have some players here that we think are better. You always hate to let talent go, but we've done that because of the depth and talent that we have."

Added tight end Daniel Wilcox: "I've been on that bubble my whole life, so I feel for Trent. He's a great guy and I'm sure he won't be out on the street for long."

The Ravens decided to carry six receivers, keeping former third-round pick Devard Darling in addition to Derrick Mason, Clarence Moore, Mark Clayton, Randy Hymes and Patrick Johnson.

Darling was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam Saturday for a strained right quadriceps, but said that he's unlikely to be placed on injured reserve of the physically unable to perform list.

"I don't think it's serious," Darling said. "I just hope it's going to be all right."

The Ravens cut offensive linemen Dante Ellington, Phil Hawkins and Thatcher Szalay, keeping fourth-round center/guard Jason Brown as their ninth offensive lineman after a disappointing training camp.

Baltimore is carrying three fullbacks with starter Alan Ricard, backup Ovie Mughelli and versatile rookie Justin Green, who can also play tailback. The Ravens released running backs Tellis Redmon and Alex Haynes.

Letting Mike Smith go was somewhat puzzling considering the praise he had received for his gritty work at middle linebacker and on special teams. His speed was somewhat suspect, and Ward appears to have a greater upside athletically.

Mike Smith suffered a concussion Thursday and left M&T Bank Stadium in a padded neck brace. The Ravens already have a few linebackers who are adept at special teams, including Jim Nelson, Bart Scott and Adalius Thomas.

The team also waived defensive tackle Matt Zielinski and linebacker Matt Sinclair.

Baltimore will soon form an eight-man practice squad and the majority of the players will likely come from the group released Saturday.

The Ravens also released defensive backs Bill Alford, Calvin Carlyle, Mark Estelle, Zach Norton and Jamaine Winborne, choosing to keep undrafted rookie safety B.J. Ward.

A 6-foot-3, 208-pounder from Florida State, Ward's tackling and athletic special-teams presence created a niche in a talent-laden secondary that features Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle and Deion Sanders. Although he intercepted two passes Thursday, Norton was also beaten for two touchdowns.

"I don't have time to relax," Ward said. "They can still cut me at any moment. I've got to focus on making a name for myself and earn my stripes."

NOTES: Reacting to running back Jamal Lewis' complaints that he has yet to receive a contract extension and might be designated as the team's franchise player after the season, Billick attempted to defuse the situation. Lewis is entering the final year of his original six-year, $35 million contract. "How many times have I stood here and talked about a player in a contract negotiation and then it gets done?" Billick said. "Our history speaks for itself. We have a number of guys on this team that are coming up in the last year of their contracts. You try to hold it at arm's length, sometimes better than others. We are in negotiations. It never goes as fast as you would like. Hell, I would like it go faster."… Rookie offensive tackle Adam Terry is off crutches after spraining his left ankle. He was walking with a slight limp. "It's not a high ankle sprain," Billick said. "We're optimistic he'll be back sooner rather than later." ... The Ravens have the next two days off and will resume practice Tuesday.

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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