clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Will Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr be successful in Baltimore?

A review of the best and worst defensive back signings in Ravens history

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has prioritized the defensive backfield this offseason by signing safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr. Acquiring Jefferson on a 4-year, $34 million agreement and Carr with a 4-year, $24 million pact was wise considering the Ravens style of play produces many close games that are decided late in the fourth quarter.

Despite the narrative, Newsome has consistently addressed the safety and cornerback positions in free agency throughout his tenure in Baltimore. Most of the stopgap type one-year singings - a record that includes corners Cary Williams, Fabian Washington, Deion Sanders and Jerraud Powers, and safeties James Ihedigbo, Jim Leonhard and Darian Stewart - have played reasonably well for the Ravens.

However, the Ravens have experienced mixed results with the defensive backs who inked multi-year deals. These past long term commitments are more comparable to the acquisitions of Jefferson and Carr, who are expected to be multi-season solutions at their positions. While every player performs based on his own abilities, the list below should provide some historical context for the Ravens best and worst free agent signings at defensive back.

The Good:

  • Rod Woodson

The Hall of Famer came to Baltimore on a five-year contract and successfully transitioned from corner to safety. The exact terms of the deal are not available, but he was a worthwhile addition at any price because Woodson was instrumental in winning Super Bowl XXXV and was a three-time Pro Bowler for the Ravens.

  • Samari Rolle

Signed a 6-year, $31 million contract in 2005. A foot injury did not allow Rolle to finish out the deal, but he posted several productive seasons for the Ravens, including 2006 when he formed a lockdown duo at corner with Chris McAlister on the best defense in the league.

  • Corey Graham

Graham was a little known player who the Ravens unearthed for a modest 2-year, $4 million cost. Hard to find a more impactful player at this price point than Graham, who intercepted Peyton Manning twice during the franchise defining 2012 postseason.

  • Eric Weddle

The savvy veteran safety provided a strong return on investment in the first year of his 4-year $26 million deal. If he can rely on his instincts to compensate for declining speed in a free safety role next year, Weddle has a chance to be one of the best acquisitions in Ravens history.

The Fair:

  • Bernard Pollard

A punishing strong safety, Pollard was a shrewd acquisition that helped the Ravens win a championship. Originally brought to Baltimore on a reasonable 2-year, $3 million deal, he only finished the first season of his 4-year $10 million second contract with the Ravens before being released.

  • Will Hill

Hill was a reclamation project that had some great performances in Baltimore while playing for close to the league minimum salary in 2015. Unfortunately issues in zone coverage and a suspension due to a failed drug test resulted in his release one season into a 2-year, $7 million deal.

  • Chris Carr

Agreed to a 2-year, $5 million pact in 2009 to serve as the Ravens kick returner and slot corner. Was released in 2012 one season into a 4-year, $15 million deal after struggling in coverage.

The Bad:

  • Dominique Foxworth

The Maryland product came to Baltimore in 2009 for $27 million over four years. He retired in 2011, earning a place as one of the worst free agency decisions Newsome has ever made.

  • Shareece Wright

After a serviceable second half of 2015, the Ravens offered Wright a 3-year, $13 million contract last offseason. That proved to be a mistake, Wright was beaten consistently in 2016 and released last week.

  • Kendrick Lewis

While his 3-year, $5 million deal was not a large investment, Lewis did virtually nothing to help the Ravens cause over the last two seasons. He was unceremoniously cut last week.

  • Kyle Arrington

A late addition to the 2015 roster after being cut from New England. He has barely seen the field, making his 3-year $5 million contract a poor investment, and is likely to be released as soon as he passes a physical.

  • Michael Huff

Huff was a former top-ten overall draft selection brought in to replace Ed Reed in 2013. Signed to a 3-year, $6 million deal, he was jettisoned before the end of October after loafing on special teams.

Bottom Lines

If any knowledge can be extrapolated from the Ravens history of signing veteran defensive backs, it is that they usually have to pay up for quality in the secondary.

The Ravens acquisition of Brandon Carr bears many similarities to Samari Rolle’s. Upon coming to Baltimore, both were around 30 with extensive track records as experienced cover corners with ideal size. Carr, like Rolle comes in to play opposite a player with elite cover skills, and both came with track records of durability. Rolle had never played in less than 12 games in a season and Carr hasn’t missed a game in his career. This is a contrast to other Ravens signings at the position like Chris Carr, Foxworth and Wright who were brought in with the hope that they would improve their performance and consistency. Jefferson’s signing is more unique to the Ravens since he is much younger than their usual free agent acquisitions. He is most similar to Pollard because both players excel against the run, but Jefferson is much better in coverage.

Both new additions provide major upgrades to the Ravens secondary. Perhaps more importantly, the roster now boast two above average safeties in Weddle and Jefferson combined with three above average corners in Carr, Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young. Filling all five positions with talented, high caliber players has been an elusive pursuit for the Ravens in recent seasons.

Fielding capable players across the entire secondary should allow Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr to thrive in Baltimore.