Elam, a 2013 first-round pick who has struggled with his consistency, will undergo arthroscopic surgery for a chip in his knee after he was making a push to make the Ravens' 53-man roster.
"It won’t be a season-ending injury by any stretch," coach John Harbaugh said. "They say it’s about some number of weeks into the early part of the season.”
That puts the Ravens in a difficult situation. Baltimore can either use a roster spot on Elam until he's healthy, release him before the start of the regular season or place him on injured reserve-designated for return. But Baltimore didn't use that IR designation on Elam last year, so that's probably not in play this time.
If the Ravens don't want to carry an injured backup, they could decide to give Elam an injury settlement and part ways with him three years after using the No. 32 overall pick on him. Baltimore could attempt to bring him back when he's healthy.
“(General Manager) Ozzie (Newsome) will deal with it roster-wise however he decides to deal with it," Harbaugh said.
This is the second straight year that a significant injury has curtailed Elam's chances of making the team. Elam, who had problems with tackling and giving up big pass plays in his first two seasons, was having a solid training camp last year when a torn biceps ended his season.
Last week, Elam was making major strides and was playing his best football in recent memory. He was breaking on passes in practice, and he was making open-field tackles in Saturday's preseason game.
Elam was starting to look like the safety the Ravens envisioned until he fell on his knee Saturday. He learned Sunday that he needed surgery.
The Ravens have never had to part ways with a first-round pick before his rookie contract expired. But Elam's latest injury might force the Ravens into cutting a player that was making a serious run at the season-opening roster.