The Baltimore Ravens decision to sign safety Tony Jefferson to a 4-year, $34 million contract in March came as a surprise to many. The team’s front office is rarely so aggressive in free agency, especially for a player still in the prime of his career. Furthermore, the safety position was not seen as a pressing need since the duo of Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb performed well last year, especially in the second half of the season.
As usual, general manager Ozzie Newsome devised and executed a shrewd plan by acquiring Jefferson. The versatile safety is already paying dividends on that investment. Tony earned a spot on Chris Simms All Week 1 team:
Filmstudy by Ken McKusick also noted Jefferson’s Week 1 contributions:
Terrell Suggs also praised Ozzie Newsome in his postgame interview:
By devoting the majority of their resources in free agency and the draft to the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens took a calculated risk this offseason. It is difficult to contend with a defensive oriented team in today’s high scoring NFL. But as the 2015 Broncos proved, defense still wins championships. The key is to field a defensive unit that has no exploitable weaknesses at any level.
With Jefferson alongside Eric Weddle, the Ravens safety tandem puts the other defenders in position to succeed. Webb is free to play the more natural slot corner position and use his instincts to make an impact closer to the line of scrimmage. Jimmy Smith and Carr have the confidence make plays on the ball with worrying about devastating coverage breakdowns on the backend. And the front-7 reaps the benefit of more aggressive techniques from the defensive backs with coverage sacks. Neither of the Ravens safeties made a big splash play in Week 1, but their support was instrumental in Baltimore’s five takeaway output.
Jefferson gives the Ravens another chess piece to deploy and brings much needed stability to the safety group. Up next, he will be challenged by the Browns two headed running back attack of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, as well as up-and-coming wideout Corey Coleman. With another strong showing from their new safety, Baltimore should be 2-0 after Week 2.