COVID-19 has made this years NFL season an unprecedented affair. On top of a myriad of other changes, there will not be a preseason in 2020. This means that fans will not see their teams newest signings until the season opener in Week 1.
There are players on the roster bubble who will never receive their chance to get in game action to prove their worth ahead of 53-man cut down day. 37 players currently on the 90-man roster will not be cut before the team plays a game.
This week we will take a look at a few players on the roster bubble, and judge their chances to make the 90-man roster. Today, we look at a linebacker signing that excited many fans.
Drafted 41st overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2016 NFL draft, the former Alabama linebacker was a sought after prospect for his ability to both defend against the run and rush the passer. He ended up falling out of the first round due to poor athletic testing, but still walked onto the field as someone who should have been NFL ready from his rookie year.
Unfortunately, the linebacker suffered an ACL tear before Week 1 of his rookie season. He missed the entire regular season of his rookie year on injured reserve and then failed to secure a significant role on the Buffalo defense heading into 2017. The Kansas City Chiefs gave him a second chance by trading a 2019 fourth-round pick to the Bills for Ragland just prior to the start of that season.
Ragland spent three years in Kansas City. He played in 42 games for the Chiefs from 2017 to 2020, starting 32 of them. While not the most important linebacker on the depth chart, as a rotational starter he served in a valuable role on a team that ended up winning the Super Bowl in 2020.
The linebacker has underwhelmed throughout his career, though, and the Chiefs chose to move on from him in 2020. Detroit, a team that has struggled at the position for years now, decided to bring in Ragland on a one-year deal for $800k to compete for a roster spot in camp.
It is easy to see why the Lions would want Ragland. The Crimson Tide product seems to fit the archetype as to what the team likes at the position. He is 6’2, 252 lbs, with a wide frame. He is best as a run defender that can fill gaps and is hard to move. A player like Ragland is the perfect complement to fill in behind someone like Danny Shelton in the front seven.
He has unfortunately has not lived up to the lofty draft expectations throughout his career. He failed to make Buffalo’s starting lineup in his second year as a second-round pick. Then in Kansas City, Ragland was consistently the worst defensive starter when he did start.
Detroit will likely keep five or six off-ball linebackers on their opening day 53-man roster. Jarrad Davis, Jahlani Tavai, Jamie Collins and Christian Jones are all locks to make the team. That leaves at most two spots for Ragland to compete for against special team contributors Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Miles Killebrew. Anthony Pittman, who spent much of his 2019 rookie season on the practice squad, is a dark horse for the roster as well.
Whether or not Ragland makes the roster will likely come down to extra value. He is a back up at best, and does not provide the value that Killebrew and Reeves-Maybin do in the kicking game. Unless he really manages to impress in camp, it is hard to see how Ragland makes the team over the more versatile players Detroit has.