Free Agency Preview: SafetyPosted on March 10, 2014 by Phil Gentile
Ravens Safeties Currently Under Contract
Matt Elam (pictured above)
Note: safeties Omar Brown, Anthony Levine, and Brynden Trawick are exclusive rights free agents
1, Will the Ravens move Elam to strong safety?
It's looking like a strong possibility. Landing a playmaker free safety in free agency or the draft would allow Elam to slide over to strong safety. There he would be able to use his skills to stack the box and deliver punishing tackles to opposing ball carriers.
2. Will James Ihedigbo land elsewhere this offseason?
Ihedigbo proved to be a very dependable piece of the Ravens defense in 2013 but I would guess he's headed elsewhere. The team will try to get younger and someone more suited for the free safety position, likely trying to improve on a starting secondary that only recorded eight interceptions last season.
3. Is there ANY chance they re-sign Ed Reed?
No chance....unless it is for a one-day contract so he can retire a Raven unfortunately. The coaching staff was determined to move on from Reed and despite a vacancy at free safety if/when Matt Elam slides over to strong safety, I would say the team will likely go with a younger option. Whether that's the draft or free agency we will have to wait and see.
Top Five Free Agent Options (Based on skill level and potential salary cap hit)
1. Jairus Byrd ($6.9 million in 2013)
Since Ed Reed left town the Ravens have missed having a playmaking safety to force opposing quarterbacks to make mistakes. Enter Byrd, who is the 2nd ranked free agent on Pro Football Focus' Top 75 List. Might be a bit expensive but with the money they saved from releasing Leach and McClain it's not impossible they make a splash in free agency. Probably too expensive for the Ravens and their salary cap concerns.
2, T.J. Ward ($1.2 million in 2013)
The only knock on T.J. Ward is he's primarily played strong safety, which Matt Elam is being rumored to moving to next season. Like Byrd, Ward is a former Oregon Duck and is in the prime of his career. Ward has been the key to a revived Browns defense and I'm truly surprised they have decided to let him walk. He would be the ideal counterpart for Matt Elam.
3. Malcolm Jenkins ($4 million in 2013)
While his time as a cornerback was a disappointment, Jenkins excelled when the Saints moved him to safety after his rookie season. While Malcolm Jenkins only has six interceptions through his first five seasons, he excels at playing the "free rusher" on blitz packages when he has the freedom to make plays along the line of scrimmage. Most people seem to view Jenkins as a failed cornerback instead of an improving safety so maybe his value will be in the Ravens price range.
4. Louis Delmas ($1.2 million in 2013)
After injury-filled seasons in 2011 and 2012, Delmas played in all sixteen games in 2013 and statistically had one of the best seasons of his career. He showed ability to rush the passer (two sacks) and make plays (career high three interceptions). His history of knee injuries might make some teams wary of his services since he's only 26 years old and the problems should only get worse. There are better options out there but he could be had for cheap later in free agency if no other team takes a gamble on him.
5. Antonie Bethea ($5.75 million in 2013)
The Colts Man of the Year in 2013, Bethea is widely known as a locker room leader and hasn't missed a game over his last six NFL seasons. A 6th round pick, Bethea has had 100+ tackles in five of the past six seasons but my biggest concern is he's only had three interceptions since 2010. With Elam moving to strong safety, the Ravens need some to force turnovers. Not just make tackles.
Other Free Agent Safety Options:
Husain Abdullah, Kansas City Chiefs
Mike Adams, Denver Broncos
Nate Allen, Philadelphia Eagles
Will Allen, Pittsburgh Steelers
Colt Anderson, Philadelphia Eagles
Yeremiah Bell, Arizona Cardinals
Sergio Brown, Indianapolis Colts
Stevie Brown, New York Giants
Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh Steelers
Chris Clemons, Miami Dolphins
Kurt Coleman, Philadelphia Eagles
Chris Crocker, Cincinnati Bengals
Quintin Demps, Kansas City Chiefs
Reed Doughty, Washington Redskins
Matt Giordano, St. Louis Rams
Jose Gumbs, Washington Redskins
Roman Harper, New Orleans Saints
Michael Huff, Denver Broncos
James Ihedigbo, Baltimore Ravens
Jim Leonhard, Buffalo Bills
Kendrick Lewis, Kansas City Chiefs
Chris Maragos, Seattle Seahawks
Taylor Mays, Cincinnati Bengals
Danny McCray, Dallas Cowboys
Brandon Meriweather, Washington Redskins
Quintin Mikell, Carolina Panthers
Jeromy Miles, Baltimore Ravens
Mike Mitchell, Carolina Panthers
Ryan Mundy, New York Giants
Bernard Pollard, Tennessee Titans
Ed Reed, New York Jets
Craig Steltz, Chicago Bears
Darian Stewart, St. Louis Rams
Darrell Stuckey, San Diego Chargers
John Wendling, Detroit Lions
Donte Whitner, San Francisco 49ers
Charles Woodson, Oakland Raiders
Major Wright, Chicago Bears
Usama Young, Oakland Raiders