The Ravens have signed former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver and return specialist De’Anthony Thomas, and he could immediately be a factor for a special teams unit that has drawn criticism from head coach John Harbaugh.
To make room on the 53-man roster, the Ravens waived defensive back Maurice Canady.
Thomas, a fourth-round pick by the Chiefs out of Oregon in 2014, spent six seasons in Kansas City but was cut two weeks ago. He has experience as both a punt returner and kick returner and could challenge for both those roles with the Ravens.
Cyrus Jones has been the Ravens’ punt returner all season, averaging 9.4 yards on 12 returns, but he fumbled away a return in the Ravens’ 37-20 win against the New England Patriots this past week.
At his weekly news conference the next day, Harbaugh said he had confidence in Jones but added, “We’re always looking for players.”
As for kick returners, neither rookie Justice Hill nor veteran Chris Moore has made a convincing case for the job. The Ravens rank 28th in kickoff return average at 19.3 yards.
Hill, the rookie fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma State, was given the first opportunity, and while he has the team’s longest kickoff return of the season at 46 yards, he also has bobbled a couple of returns. The Ravens then looked to Moore, a special teams standout who has held that role in the past, and he has averaged 20.3 yards on four returns.
“Special teams generally is inconsistent right now,” Harbaugh said. “Kickoff coverage wasn’t good enough [against New England]. Kickoff return and punt return weren’t good enough. So we’re not happy with it. And we missed an extra point. … We have to get better there.”
In his six-year career, Thomas has averaged 8.8 yards on 85 punt returns and 24.5 yards on 58 kickoff returns. He had a punt return touchdown as a rookie in 2014. But he also has had issues with ball security, with six fumbles in his career, including two this season.
Thomas’ role as a receiver has been limited, with one catch for 6 yards this season and three catches for 29 yards in 13 games last year.
Canady could be a candidate to end up back on the Ravens’ practice squad if he clears waivers. The four-year veteran began this season on the practice squad after being cut at the end of training camp, then was promoted to the active roster one week later. He has played in five games this season, totaling 20 tackles, and recorded his first career interception against Cleveland in Week 4.
PRACTICE SQUAD SHUFFLE: The Ravens also have re-signed defensive end Michael Onuoha to the practice squad but lost running back De’Lance Turner, who was signed off the Ravens’ practice squad by the Miami Dolphins.
Onuoha (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) originally signed with the Ravens as an undrafted rookie this spring out of Texas A&M-Commerce but broke his wrist in the preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars and was waived with an injury settlement.