OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The biggest decision facing the Baltimore Ravens is whether to carry three quarterbacks for the first time since 2009.
With Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson already securing spots on the roster, the Ravens have nine days and two preseason games to determine whether they will keep, trade or cut Robert Griffin III.
Fellow Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith’s four-game suspension is “devastating” and “heartbreaking,” Brandon Carr said Thursday.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the decision will “go right to the wire.”
“There’s no question that the best quarterback thing to do would be to keep Robert Griffin. He’s proven it,” Harbaugh said. “He’s played exceptionally well, and it makes the team better.”
The decision will be heavily based on the Ravens’ confidence in Jackson, the rookie first-round pick.
Jackson has struggled mightily during stretches in the preseason. He has failed to complete at least half of his passes in any of the three preseason games.
If the Ravens feel Jackson can be the primary backup to Flacco, they will part ways with Griffin. If Baltimore believes Griffin gives the team a significantly better chance of winning — and ending a three-year playoff drought — if Flacco gets injured, the team will keep him.
“That’s going to be a choice that will be well-discussed within the next couple of weeks and already has been,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said.
Griffin has made a convincing case to stay in Baltimore. In three preseason games, he has completed 18 of 26 passes (69.2 percent) for 177 yards. He has thrown two touchdowns and one interception for a 97.8 passer rating.
His only interception was the result of a dropped pass by Breshad Perriman in the Hall of Fame Game. Griffin also had a 30-yard touchdown pass bounce off the hands of rookie Jordan Lasley during Monday’s preseason game. If that had been a touchdown, Griffin’s passer rating would be 118.5.
If the Ravens part ways with Griffin, it’s likely he will end up somewhere in the league.
“It doesn’t feel like I’ve been away from the game for an entire year,” Griffin said. “It’s truly a blessing to be playing again. I enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if it’s first quarter or fourth quarter.”
Griffin was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft and was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Injuries and inconsistent play led to him bouncing from Washington to Cleveland.
He was out of football last year, throwing passes to receivers at UCF to keep sharp. The Ravens brought him in for a workout this offseason and signed him to a one-year, $1.1 million contract. Only the $100,000 signing bonus is guaranteed.
Last year, half of the NFL teams carried three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster to start the season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The last time the Ravens had three quarterbacks on their season-opening roster was 2009, when they had Flacco, Troy Smith and John Beck.
“He has played at a starting-caliber level in the games that he’s played, and he’s an experienced guy,” Harbaugh said of Griffin. “I’d rather have him than not have him, for sure, but there are other factors that go into that and we’ll have to figure all that out. [GM] Ozzie [Newsome] ultimately will have to make that decision.”