When the Baltimore Ravens announced the release of veteran running back Justin Forsett earlier today, it came as a huge surprise to everyone.
After all Forsett wasn’t just any ordinary running back on the roster, he was the Ravens’ top dog. Although they have talented backups, no one thought that Forsett wouldn’t be lining up behind quarterback Joe Flacco when the Ravens open the season September 11 against the Bills.
And, honestly, no one had any reason to believe things would change so suddenly. Just two seasons ago he ran for a career-high 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had a ridiculous 5.4 yards per carry average during his Pro Bowl 2014 season.
The 2015 season seemed to be more of the same. Before suffering a season-ending arm injury in Week-11, Forsett ran for 641 yards and two touchdowns. His average had dropped to 4.2 yards per carry, but that is still respectable considering Baltimore’s poor offensive play as a team last year.
So that being said, why did the Ravens release him?
Well first-and-foremost, Forsett was going to cost the Ravens $3.7 million this year. He signed a three-year contract worth $9 million just last offseason with Baltimore and the Ravens were able to save themselves $3 million by releasing the veteran.
Beyond that, you have to imagine that the Ravens were worried that he would end up injured. The veteran has a history of injuries and he’s spent several years on the season-ending injury list, including last year with the Ravens. So the Ravens may have been saving themselves the hassle had they thought the 30-year old running back didn’t have the ability to stay healthy all season.
Now although both of those factors probably played a role in Forsett’s release on Saturday, they weren’t the main factor for it.
The main reason was the emergence of Terrance West.
The Browns originally selected West in the third round of the 2014 draft, and he was fairly successful during his short time in Cleveland. In his first NFL game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he ran for 100 yards on just 16 carries, a 6.3-yard per carry average.
The 2015 season was a different story, West apparently showed up to Browns’ camp overweight, and he quickly fell out of favor in Cleveland. As a result, the Browns traded him to the Titans for a conditional seventh-round draft pick shortly before the 2015 season.
But West could never catch on in Tennessee and he quickly became an afterthought to the Titans. They waived him in November after just 16 carries for 51 yards with them.
West then joined the Ravens’ practice squad a few days later and began to work his way up the Baltimore roster. When Forsett went down with the season-ending injury, West was promoted to the active roster and took control of the Ravens’ running back position.
And apparently, West was not prepared to give the starting spot back to Forsett this year, as he came to training camp prepared to battle. During the beginning of training camp, he was getting many positive reviews about his performance from several Baltimore coaches and players, including offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.
In the end, the Ravens saw enough from him to let go of their former starter and hand the keys over to West.