The Ravens signed running back Trenton Cannon to the 53-man roster on Sept. 8, giving them a badly needed third running back who can also play special teams. To make room for Cannon, the Ravens placed running back Justice Hill on injured reserve (Achilles).
The Ravens also made official the signing of veteran running back Le’Veon Bell to the practice squad, a deal that had been reported a day earlier as the team remakes its running back group in the wake of season-ending injuries to J.K. Dobbins (knee) and Hill.
Both were on the practice field for the Ravens Sept. 8, with Cannon wearing No. 39 and Bell in No. 17.
Cannon, 27, was released by the Carolina Panthers last week after they claimed running back Royce Freeman on waivers. Cannon, a sixth-round pick of the New York Jets in 2018, spent two seasons with the Jets before playing for the Panthers in 2020.
He had 10 carries for 33 yards and caught three passes for 16 yards in 2020, but he also played 169 special teams snaps, and that figures to be his primary role immediately with the Ravens as the No. 3 back.
Cannon averaged 29.8 yards on 10 kick returns last year, including a 98-yarder. He also recorded six tackles.
With the injuries to Dobbins and Hill, and with undrafted rookie Nate McCrary being claimed via waivers by the Denver Broncos last week, the Ravens were down to two running backs on the roster in Gus Edwards and Ty’Son Williams. For a team led by quarterback Lamar Jackson that runs the ball more than any other, that was an untenable arrangement, so reinforcements were certain to be coming.
Edwards and Williams figure to shoulder the bulk of the load in the Ravens’ season opener at Las Vegas Sept. 13, with Cannon a backup option.
Bell, 29, a three-time Pro Bowl pick with the Pittsburgh Steelers, played two games for the New York Jets and nine games for the Kansas City Chiefs last year before an acrimonious split in Kansas City. He totaled 82 carries for 328 yards last year, by far his career lows.
Bell had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons before sitting out the entire 2018 season in a contract dispute. He refused to play that season under the franchise tag that the Pittsburgh Steelers had applied, forgoing roughly $14 million.
Bell was not in any team’s training camp this summer, so he will most likely work back into shape on the Ravens’ practice squad while the Ravens assess how soon he could help them. They took a similar path with veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant last season.
RICHARDS RELEASED: To make room for Bell on the practice squad, the Ravens released veteran safety Jordan Richards. Under NFL practice squad rules, a team can have a maximum of six veterans with four-plus years of experience on the practice squad, and the Ravens already had six before singing Bell. The others are linebacker Josh Bynes, defensive end Justin Ellis, defensive back Anthony Levine, offensive tackle Andre Smith and linebacker Chris Smith.
J. SMITH RETURNS TO PRACTICE: Cornerback Jimmy Smith returned to practice for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in training camp a month ago. Smith, who went down in practice Aug. 6, took part in individual drills and did some conditioning work in the portion of practice open to the media.
Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe (back) remains sidelined, so his availability for the Week 1 game at Las Vegas is looking increasingly unlikely. Wolfe has not practiced since Aug. 26. Others not at practice during the open portion were tight end Nick Boyle (knee) and linebacker Daelin Hayes.