Today, news broke that the Baltimore Ravens signed Free Safety Eric Weddle. It’s a solid signing for a Ravens team who needed work in the secondary. Weddle has missed a total of 7 games in his career. That’s right: 137 games played and 7 games missed. I’m impressed by those numbers.
Weddle comes with great expectations. He’s a 3 time pro bowler and a 2 time first-team all-pro. In 2011 Weddle led the league in INT’s though he isn’t quite Ed Reed. He’s still great in pass coverage but is better known for breaking up passes than for intercepting them. Last year, Weddle had at least 8 total tackles in 5 contests.
What makes this a great move is that Weddle is better in coverage (85.9 rating) than in the run game (44.2 rating). That’s a huge falloff against the run. But, the Ravens can deal with that because Will Hill is much better in the run game (84.6 rating) than in coverage (75.7 rating).
Weddle’s 85.9 rating was second best in the league to Charles Woodson (a converted CB), while Hill’s 84.6 rating against the run finished 15th among qualified safeties. This means that the Ravens have taken a significant step in improving their pass defense. This move also allows Hill to focus on what he’s best at. It will also give the Ravens the freedom to send Hill on safety blitzes more often. Hill was ranked 7th among safeties in pass rushing abilities last season.
All in all, for the money the Ravens saved by letting Osemele walk, they were able to upgrade their pass defense from a coverage and rushing standpoint, and bring in a pro-bowler who is also known to be a good leader.
Adding an elite safety was crucial to a Ravens team that hasn’t been able to stop the pass. The money was right at, roughly, 6.5 million per year. Full details haven’t come out, but this is a fairly team friendly contract when you consider that Earl Thomas is making $8 million in base next year.
As is usually the case, the Ravens didn’t rush into anything and waited for the market to set itself. After the market showed the value of each position, the Ravens patiently negotiated a contract that would benefit them as much as it would the player.
This could mean that the Ravens are going to move Lardarius Webb back to CB and hope that he’s able to regain his form. It’s not something that I’d hope for, but they may be able to find good, “cheap” talent in the draft.
I do expect that this means the Ravens plans are changing in the draft. After signing a safety, I don’t see them spending a premium pick on CB (Ramsey). They may still draft a potential starter, but I don’t expect it to be in the first round. The Ravens took a big step forward in the secondary today. The next step to making it elite again is to draft an elite pass rusher like Joey Bosa.
The Ravens don’t often stay down for long. In the long run, Baltimore fans may see the struggles of 2015 as a blessing. The Ravens may be stocking up for another long-term run. Weddle is only 31 years old, and they are in line to draft a big time pass-rusher. This may be just what the doctor ordered to remedy the disappointment that was last season.