OWINGS MILLS – Dawan Landry had two divergent paths he could take after reaching a career crossroads once the NFL lockout ended.
He could remain with the Baltimore Ravens, the team that drafted him in the fifth round and immediately installed him as the starting strong safety as a rookie opposite star free safety Ed Reed.
Or he could sign a far more lucrative deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ultimately, the superior money the Jaguars could afford to pay Landry versus the salary-cap strapped Ravens made his decision an easier dilemma.
Landry signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract that included $10.5 million in guaranteed money. The deal included a $6.5 million signing bonus.
“It basically came down to financials and things like that,” Landry said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters in advance of Monday night’s game against his old football team. “It was a great organization, but I was looking at Jacksonville and the moves they made in the offseason and I wanted to be a part of that.”
If the money had even been close to equal, Landry would probably still be a part of the Ravens’ secondary and playing on a winning team.
“It would have been something I would’ve definitely looked into,” Landry said.
However, the Ravens wound up signing kicker Billy Cundiff, punter Sam Koch, offensive guard Marshal Yanda and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to new contracts.
“They just had to sign guys,” Landry said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them.”
Landry has started every game for the Jaguars, ranking third on the defense with 36 tackles.
He has intercepted one pass and deflected three.
“We’re happy to have him,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s got passion, he prepares hard, he plays hard and he’s a good tackler. He’s been active for us in our defense, and he’s really fit in well for us.”
The Ravens’ strong safeties, Bernard Pollard and Tom Zbikowki, have combined for 23 tackles, no interceptions and three pass deflections.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh emphasized that the Ravens did make an attempt to retain Landry.
“We wanted Dawan back, yes, and unfortunately it didn’t work out,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a heck of a player. We’ve got a ton of respect for him. He was a huge part of our defense the last three years and even before. He’s very physical, obviously, he’s an excellent tackler.
“I can understand what they wanted to do with his veteran leadership and his knowledge of the game and all those things. He was a great pickup for them. Obviously, we were sorry to lose him, but he’s made an impact on their defense.”
Accustomed to winning in Baltimore, Landry now plays for a last-place team that has lost five consecutive games.
And the Ravens (4-1) are atop the AFC North standings and have made it to the playoffs for three consecutive years.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars (1-5) are having trouble selling out games and are constantly rumored as a relocation candidate to fill the football void in Los Angeles.
“It’s not tough,” Landry said. “Just coming to work each and every day, taking the winning approach. At the same time, we lost a lot of those games by a few points, a play here, a play there, and we’re back in this. So, I look at it as we can easily be 5-1, 4-2. So, we’ve just got to keep working.”
Landry has remained in contact with his former teammates, including Reed.
The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year hasn’t broken ties with Landry, not after five years of patrolling the secondary together.
“I miss Dawan,” Reed said. “Me and him had a bond here, a chemistry here that me and him knew what it takes to work for either safety to be great safeties. You have to be on the same page and that’s one thing me and Dawan definitely worked on while he was here and I still talk to him about it. He understands how to play the game as a safety and what he needs to do.”
“I watched him grow as a young man to a man, and really understand how to play this game and understand the business. That’s how you wind up in Jacksonville. It’s a business at the end of the day and he understood that. He understood that whatever he did on the football field was going to help him in the long run.”
Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice shares the same agent as Landry and worked out with him this offseason.
“He was actually one of the hardest-working guys I know, he is a weight-room guy,” Rice said. “Well-deserved, what he got this year because he was definitely a guy that flew under the radar while he was here, but he got top dollar to be a great safety and he is doing a great job down there as well.”
Now, Rice is looking forward to a friendly encounter with his friend Monday night with a national television audience watching them clash heads.
“I am expecting for him to be in the box, making a few tackles. I always say that I have to win a fair share of the battles as well.”
Although he downplayed the emotions contained in this game, Landry couldn’t help but laugh when asked if he can tackle Rice.
Landry’s reply: “Yeah, I think so.”