The Ravens know all too well how secondary injuries can add up. If you'll recall, last season the secondary was decimated to a rag-tag group of journeymen and guys who were plucked off the street and placed right into the starting secondary. The result was disastrous, as the team blew two 14-point leads in their playoff matchup against the Patriots. The team's pass defense proved to be their Achilles heel, spoiling a potential Super Bowl win.
With 2013 first-round pick safety Matt Elam's biceps tear reportedly taking him out for the season, it's the worse kind of déjà vu for Ravens fans. Tweets like this weren't exactly helping qualming fans.
While this year's situation is much different from last year, in that the Ravens have two very talented safeties in Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis, the lesson learned from last season still remains very true. You can never have too much secondary depth.
Unless you're the Kansas City Chiefs, that is.
In the wake of Elam's injury, yesterday CBS NFL Insider Jason La Canfora tweeted out the the Ravens may have a potential trading partner in the Chiefs. While the tweet was purely speculation and not based on any reports, he may have a good point.
After Eric Berry's tragic cancer diagnosis (and miraculous recovery) the Chiefs stocked up at the safety position, in fear that they would be without their All-Pro safety this season. While Berry's recovery is wonderful and fantastic, it also creates a problem for the Chiefs. They simply have too many good safeties on their roster.
To further understand the situation in Kansas City, I sought out Arrowhead Pride's editor Joel Thorman for his thoughts on the matter.
"The Chiefs went into this offseason not knowing what would happen with Eric Berry so they were prepared at safety in case he didn't come back. Now that he has come back the Chiefs could end up having to cut a couple of good safeties. The top two safeties are Husain Abdullah and Ron Parker, who recently got a fresh five-year contract. The Chiefs like Abdullah and Parker likely wouldn't be available in a trade after that contract. Tyvon Branch is an interesting name because I'm not completely sure where he fits in the Chiefs defense. He has a recent injury history that could make another team nervous. That leaves Sanders Commings, who had his season ended early in each of the last two training camps, and Kelcie McCray, who was traded to the Chiefs last year. McCray could be one of the safeties caught on the outside looking in even though he is a good player."
Per Thorman, Berry, Abdullah, and Parker are all locks to make the roster. Meanwhile, Branch, Commings, and McCray could all be on the outside looking in. Last season, the Chiefs depth chart contained four safeties. So by that logic, we can assume that two of the three players will be cut. Let's profile the three players that could potentially trade in the red & gold for purple & black.
Tyvon Branch: Branch, an ex-Raider who the Chiefs signed to a one-year deal was meant to be the insurance policy for Ron Parker, who would fill in for Berry in his absence. Branch had come off of two injury-riddled seasons before signing with the Chiefs for a $2 million base deal. His style of play is best described as "physical", and is a player "who will likely play closer to the line of scrimmage" and help defend the run. Because of this, he might not be the best fit for the Ravens, who already have a stout run defense.
Sanders Commings: Commings has lots of potential, but has never seen NFL game action on account of back-to-back season-ending training camp injuries. In 2013, he fractured his left collarbone and was placed on the injured reserve. He found himself back on the IR again after Chiefs back Jamaal Charles took the term 'ankle-breaker' too literally, and delivered a sick juke move that resulted in Commings' breaking his ankle and having his season end before it started once again. Commings' bad luck is very similar to that of Ravens defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore, who has never seen NFL action because of back-to-back training camp injuries that sent him to the IR. Because the Chiefs have held on to him this long, they obviously still like and see something in him. Per Thorman, "Can fly all over the field, good body control, will stick someone." It sounds like the Chiefs will retain Commings for another year.
Kelcie McCray: The opinion seems to be that McCray is talented, but he will be the odd man left out. I can't find much on McCray, but I can tell you that he was an undrafted free agent who bounced around from the Dolphins, the Buccaneers, and was finally traded to the Chiefs, who resigned him this offseason. In preseason action, McCray was a force for the Dolphins, and lead the team in snaps and tackles. In the regular season, his most notable play occurred when the Bucs were facing the Lions. McCray delivered a hit on receiver Calvin Johnson, Jr. that was hard enough to knock the ball out and into the hands of a Bucs defender for an interception. The 6'1 205 lb safety could be a nice depth add for the Ravens should he hit waivers.
If the Ravens were to trade with the Chiefs, ILB Arthur Brown seems to be the perfect candidate to send to Kansas City. La Canfora even mentioned Brown as a potential trade target. The Chiefs don't exactly have the greatest inside linebacker corps ever, and Brown could add value to the mix. I've wrote before about Brown's lack of opportunities in Baltimore, and I think a move to Kansas City would really benefit him careerwise. I think he's worth a fifth-round selection in a trade, so a Brown-for-Chiefs safety swap could be fair value for both teams.
But in all reality, the Ravens probably have a list of 'on the bubble' guys that they would consider signing should they be released by their teams. That's what happened to Will Hill last year, who has turned into a surprising key starting contributor.
Hopefully the 'injury bug' doesn't strike Baltimore again this year. Thankfully, the Ravens have taken last year's experiences in mind while building this year's roster. From top to bottom, all of the secondary players are very capable of stepping up and becoming playmakers.