OWINGS MILLS – Haruki Nakamura has yet to crack the ceiling in his quest to become an NFL starting safety.
In order to have the chance to compete for a starting job, the Baltimore Ravens backup is prepared to leave the AFC North franchise after four years via free agency.
Nakamura is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent Tuesday afternoon.
“I would love to be back with the Ravens, but I also want the opportunity to compete for more playing time,” Nakamura told 24×7. “That’s the next step I want to take. If Baltimore were to come back and say there’s something of a guaranteed opportunity to compete for more playing time, then I would definitely be very interested. It’s all about opportunity, it’s not necessarily all about money. That’s what this game is about. We’ll see where that takes me.”
Nakamura has been linked to the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts.
The Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals also might have interest in Nakamura.
“Buzz is a pretty good thing, but obviously we don’t know if it’s legit or not,” Nakamura said. “Hopefully, there are a good amount of seems that see there’s ability in me that I haven’t showcased 100 percent. I’m going to compete. There’s no holding back once I get an opportunity.
“I’m not looking for interest, I’m looking for a real opportunity and a contract. We’ll find out soon what free agency is going to be like for me. I’ve been working out, hanging out with my family and trying to keep my mind off things, which is tough to do.”
Although the Ravens haven’t made any overtures at this time to retain Nakamura with a new deal, coach John Harbaugh did tell him to stay in touch and keep him informed of any offers.
“Coach Harbaugh told me he knew I wanted to test the market and see what it was like for me,” Nakamura said. “I want to gauge what the market is like for me. He was definitely encouraging. Baltimore is an awesome city, an awesome organization. The fans truly care about their football team. It’s very unique. It’s been a great four years.”
Nakamura has played in 56 regular-season games for the Ravens, recording 23 tackles and four pass deflections on defense as a backup to Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed, occasionally lining up at cornerback in emergency situations.
And the former sixth-round draft pick finished tied for second on the team with Brendon Ayanbadejo last season with nine special-teams tackles.
He intercepted a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in a playoff game two seasons ago.
Learning behind Reed, Nakamura has gained a lot of knowledge about the game. Now, he’s hoping to put that information to use on the field somewhere.
The Ravens’ starters are set for next season with Reed opting not to retire and strong safety Bernard Pollard coming off a productive first year in Baltimore with 75 tackles, two sacks, one interception, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
“I learned so much from Ed and Dawan [Landry] and Bernard about how to be a true professional,” Nakamura said. “Wherever I go, they’re going to get a very determined football player who has grown and learned a lot. I’m ready to make a name for myself. Wherever that opportunity is, I’m trying to make a splash. I’m trying to make an impact.”