"I think we need to have a more athletic safety in the defense."
These were the words spoken by Baltimore Raven General Manager Ozzie Newsome at a press conference after the end of the season.
The Ravens entered this past season expecting their trio of the veteran James Ihedigbo, the versatile Michael Huff, and the first round draft pick Matt Elam to lead the defensive backfield, but Huff only started one game at free agency versus the Broncos, where he played poorly. A couple weeks later, Huff was released.
Doing so forced Matt Elam, a natural strong safety, to start at free safety, where he played extremely average. As the Ravens enter free agency, they will be looking for a new "athletic" free safety to pair with Elam.
The Ravens current situation:
The only safety to start all 16 games for the Ravens, Ihedigbo played well. As a journeyman special teams player, this was the first season where Ihedigbo saw significant playing time (he saw some time last season as a back up when Bernard Pollard got injured). At times it appeared that Ihedigbo was the glue that kept the Ravens secondary together, but at other times he looked lost in coverage. While he posted 3 interceptions (all of which came against Andy Dalton), his much more impressive stat is 11 passes defended. He played well in run support, too.
All things considered, Ihedigbo is a free agent and may be on his way out in Baltimore. This is not any fault on him- he played quite well- but rather a matter of personnel. The Ravens want to move Matt Elam to strong safety (Ihedigbo’s position) and bring in somebody else capable of playing free agency.
As previously stated, Elam was forced to start at free safety for the final 15 games of the season after Huff’s release. As the free safety, Ed Reed’s former role, Elam was the last line of defense and is expected to post the most interceptions. That being said, Elam only logged 1 interception and 3 passes defend in his rookie campaign.
Elam’s best game came against the Detroit Lions. Elam showed his potential when he came up in run support and posted the game sealing interception. Ideally, Elam would play strong safety in the future, where he potential is much higher than at free safety. He is a playmaker, and allowing him to hang around the box and make plays will put him and the Ravens defense in the best situation to have success.
Brown has spent the last two seasons with the Ravens after being signed as an undrafted free agent. He has consistently made plays and found his way to the football during the preseason. Appearing in 4 career games, Brown is an exclusive rights free agent (ERFA), meaning he has to accept any contract offer the Ravens make to him.
Trawick, another ERFA, is an undrafted rookie who made the team based on his special teams play. Unfortunately, his most notable play of the season was him running into and injuring Jacoby Jones in the season opener versus the Denver Broncos. One of his best attributes is his size at 6’2", 215 lbs.
Levine is another undrafted safety, another ERFA, and another special teams player. He is the least notable of the trio, however.
Miles was picked up mid season after getting cut by the Cincinnati Bengals to serve as a special teams player. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent. A four year vet, he is a strong safety who has never seen notable playing time.
Free Agents of Interest:
*Note- If you’re looking for a list of high profile free agents such as Jairus Byrd, stop reading. The Ravens do not target those types of free agents, so this list is comprised of mid-to-low tier players who fit the Ravens’ need and price range.
Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions
Louis Delmas has a leg up on all other free agents. Being cut by the Lions for his cap hit, Delmas can sign with anybody and will not count against any future compensatory draft picks.
Delmas is still in the prime of his career at 27, but just played an entire season for the first time in his career. When healthy, Delmas is a playmaking free safety who would immediately make a difference in the Ravens defense. Just like the Lions the last couple of years, Delmas has had his fair share of ups and downs. Sometimes he can be caught going for the big hit rather than playing smart, but pairing him up with Matt Elam would create an intimidating duo that receivers would fear going over the middle.
Chris Clemons, Miami Dolphins
Chris Clemons does not deserve to be considered a mid tier free agent, but his value has been skewed due to this loaded safety free agency class that includes Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, and Donte Whitner.
While some may consider Clemons a better strong safety than free safety, he is great in coverage and has the ability to play both. Clemons would instantly add great versatility and experience to the Ravens’ young defensive backfield.
Mike Adams, Denver Broncos
While not a headline-grabbing player, Adams has been a good free safety for a long time. He is on the wrong side of thirty, but is a solid veteran who could come in as a short term solution.