The Ravens filled a hole on the back end of the defense, a void which has been there since the departure of Ed Reed in 2013, signing veteran safety and 3 time Pro Bowler Eric Weddle to solidify the defensive secondary. Entering the offseason, the Ravens were lacking any players in the secondary outside of Jimmy Smith who were sure to be on the roster after 2016, so the signing gives the Ravens a player they can count on for the next several seasons.
However, despite all the players who are slated to be on the Ravens 2016 roster at the safety position, only one of them was a proven quality player: Will Hill III. With Lardarius Webb making the move to safety this year, Kendrick Lewis completely ineffective last season, Matt Elam returning from an injury and before that a disappointing 2014, and Terrence Brooks not yet showing enough to get regular playing time, all the Ravens returning safeties outside of Hill have big question marks.
So why does Hill still seem to not get respect, especially in the Baltimore media?
It started in the 2015 offseason, when then-top Ravens media member Aaron Wilson called the strong safety position an open competition in training camp before Elam went down for the season. This was despite Hill being the best player in the Ravens secondary by far in the second half of the 2014 season, after Jimmy Smith tore his ACL, and Elam struggling all season long.
Now it continues, with the media talking about Hill as a potential cut in the wake of the signing of Eric Weddle:
Cap savings if Ravens move on from 1 or 2 of current safeties: Will Hill ($3 mill), Webb ($3.5 mill), Lewis ($950,000), Elam ($1.3 mill)— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) March 14, 2016
This likely means the end for either Kendrick Lewis or Will Hill in Baltimore https://t.co/f50tctX8Sq— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) March 14, 2016
Why is Will Hill even mentioned? He was a top 5 rated safety for several years, and while he had a down year last year, he was still by far the best safety on the roster.
To contrast, Webb was a mediocre cornerback last year, and will be playing free safety for the first time in the NFL. The Kendrick Lewis experiment was a complete disaster, and he should be the first on the chopping block. There is still hope for Brooks, but he is not ready yet. There is less hope for Elam, but he should contribute as a depth safety.
Why does the media seem to overlook Will Hill? It doesn't make any sense. Hill and Weddle will make up a top 5 safety tandem, and cutting Hill doesn't even save as much money as cutting Webb does.
Some point to Ozzie Newsome saying at the beginning of the offseason "Webb will be our starter at safety." But honestly, what else did you expect him to say- the team had little leverage at the time! Plus, he also said Flacco could play the season at his current cap hit, and we all know how that worked out. Now that Weddle is under contract and the Ravens have the upper hand, Kendrick Lewis will likely be cut for the minimal cap savings, and Webb will probably be given an option- pay cut or be cut! If he is willing to trim $2 million or so off his 2016 cap number, he will likely be a Raven going forward. But if he isn't, he likely will be elsewhere come week 1.
But one thing is for sure. Will Hill III should be a lock for the opening game roster.