On Monday, the Baltimore Ravens announced a move that felt inevitable. The Ravens cut special teams ace Justin Bethel in order to recoup a fourth-round compensatory pick.
Compensatory picks are additional draft picks given to teams that lose free agents in the prior year. The Ravens have been the kings of the system since Ozzie Newsome found ways to exploit the formula. The new general manager, Eric DeCosta, wants to keep that tradition going. Baltimore would have lost, what most project to be, a fourth-round compensatory pick if the team kept Bethel. This is because the formula is based on players lost and players gained, with other factors taken into account. Former Raven, Brent Urban, was released from the Tennessee Titans, meaning Baltimore would lose the pick unless the team cut Bethel.
The move shows that Eric DeCosta and the Ravens clearly value draft picks over special teams players. Bethel led the team in special teams tackles, with a total of six combined tackles on the year. Bethel was set to earn $2,500,000 this year. The Ravens will incur a dead cap hit of $1,000,000.
The Ravens announced the move on the team’s official Twitter page and included a note that the Ravens also released DT Jeremiah Ledbetter from the practice squad.
The Baltimore Ravens now have an open roster spot to fill. Bethel’s presence on special teams will surely be missed, but Baltimore simply could not turn away a fourth-round pick to keep Bethel, no matter how unfair this may be to him. The Ravens’ biggest need is in the pass rush department. Baltimore was already struggling to pressure quarterbacks, but the defense took a larger hit on Sunday when Pernell McPhee left the game with an arm injury. There’s no official timetable for his return, but according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, McPhee appears to be looking at a potential season-ending triceps injury. Baltimore could be in the market to sign or trade for a new pass rusher with the compensatory pick and wider cap space this move generates.