The Ravens got good play from their safeties in 2018 – pricey play, but good nonetheless. You would love to see more playmaking and range from the position, especially if you’re paying a premium. As they move forward and look to evolve, it will important to add talent that allows them to be a little more aggressive in their coverages and better defend tight ends.
Let’s take a look at the roster as it currently stands.
Positional Overview Series
The first big question here is whether Weddle will be back. Initially, the veteran said it was Ravens or nobody in 2019 as it pertained to football playing prospects. He stated his desire to talk to Eric DeCosta to get some clarity on his standing with the team, which I thought was going to be an ambitious ask this early in the game. Later on, he backed off those comments and said if the Ravens didn’t want him back, he’d consider playing elsewhere.
Weddle is still a good player and the defense seemed to hit another gear once he took over the controls. His chances of returning are probably heightened if C.J. Mosley doesn’t. I don’t know if the Ravens would want to jettison their top two green dot candidates. Then there’s Weddle’s 8.25M cap number. I’m sure the Ravens would like to shave a bit off the top. Stay tuned – this could go either way.
Jefferson has not lived up to the free agent contract he signed, but has still been a solid presence. Due to a couple restructures and his solid enough play I expect him to return in 2019 but he’ll start to lean towards that bubble next offseason.
Levine was finally #freed as a dime defender and he did not disappoint. He did a tremendous job in pass coverage and should return to a healthy role in that package along with his usual great special teams work. Heading into a contract year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see he and the team work out an extension.
Chuck Clark continues the team’s run of late-round special team/dime back hits. A core special teamer in college with athleticism, he’s assimilated well as a pro. Asking him to contribute as a deep safety is probably putting too much dip on your chip, but this team has shown several times that players of his ilk can be useful.
DeShon Elliott is an interesting player as pertains to Jefferson and the future of the safety position as a whole. I don’t think he has the hips or range to be a free safety in the NFL, but I do think he has the size, temperament and closing speed to be a starting-caliber box safety with a tad more athleticism and ball skills then you usually see in that role. If he continues to progress as well as he did before he broke his forearm last preseason, the Ravens could have another late-round hit on their hands…and could save a lot of money at strong safety to boot.
Safety is a sneaky top-tier need for the Ravens. Even if Weddle returns, odds are this is his last season. Jefferson’s deal expires after 2020 and he could be a cap casualty before he makes it there. This team hasn’t had a centerfielder since Ed Reed left and they don’t even have a potential prospect of any sort in the pipeline.
They have to address the position this offseason and there will be options to do so.
Free Agent Options
The class of the position doesn’t usually hit the market, but here we are. The Ravens would save $6.5 million in salary by releasing Weddle, money they could hand directly to Thomas. It wouldn’t be enough, but it would be a start.
Early reports say Thomas is looking to become the league’s highest-paid safety. The team will have some newfound freedom with Joe Flacco’s deal off the books, but it’s unknown how soon they’ll look to make a splash. This would certainly qualify, and would give this defense an entirely different layer of aggressiveness with THE single-high safety in the fold.
Amos has some range and playmaking ability in his own right but slid over to play strong safety as ball hawk Eddie Jackson emerged in Chicago. He’d also bring a massive range upgrade and may be the most well-rounded safety in this free agent class.
He doesn’t bring the range and athleticism of the first two, but still offers plenty of it. Clinton-Dix could play a multitude of roles inside the Ravens scheme.
Nasir Adderley, Delaware
He and Hollywood Brown were my favorite tape watches of this entire draft class. Adderley’s range shows up very early. He’s an easy mover on the back end and can make plays on the ball at its highest point.
Adderley has the fluidity to walk down into the slot and man up on receivers and tight ends. He also plays with force, whether it’s as a run defender or attempting to separate a receiver from the ball. He’s on my personal short list of players to select at 22.
Projection: 1st round
Deionte Thompson, Alabama
Thompson was a consensus first-round pick, whose stock has slid a bit due to some inconsistency. I did see bad angles at times as a run defender and other times where he was slow to react in pass coverage but all in all I didn’t see anything that was a deal-breaker. He’s got good size and great closing speed, moves fluidly, and has plus ability to make plays on the ball at the catch point. Maybe he needs a little grooming and isn’t an immediate starter, but he’s got as much ability at the position as anybody in the class.
Projection: 2nd round
Juan Thornhill, Virginia
Thornhill doesn’t offer as much versatility and range as Thompson, but I like him better as a player today. He’s a sure and physical tackler who makes plays on the ball from centerfield. I don’t know if moves well enough laterally to be a single-high guy but he has the length you want to see and plays soundly. He’ll be a good football player – just maybe not a special one.
Projection: 2nd to early 3rd round