The Baltimore Ravens’ secondary was dealt a debilitating blow before the season even began when they lost ball-hawking All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters for the year to a torn ACL. The banged-up unit suffered another major loss on Sunday. Starting free safety DeShon Elliott was lost for the remainder of the season after he tore his biceps and pectoral muscles in the team’s 34-31 overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings.
On Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh confirmed that third-round rookie Brandon Stephens would be taking in an increased workload going forward — but that the daunting task of filling Elliott’s shoes won’t be his alone.
“I think he’s going to be very prepared and he has to be,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to be stepping into that bigger role, and it won’t be just him. Other guys will be part of that, too. All those guys will be taking parts of that process. It will be a group effort.”
Outside of veteran defensive back Jimmy Smith who has primarily played cornerback throughout his career and veteran special teams ace Anthony Levine who is at his best as a dime linebacker, the Ravens don’t have an experienced free safety option on the roster behind Stephens. Second-year pro Geno Stone showed some great range and ball skills during the preseason and will likely assume a larger role down the stretch.
However, there are some intriguing veteran free agents available who are in shape and waiting for an opportunity to sign with a contender for the second-half stretch of the season. Any player they sign at this point will likely have to accept a deal for close or at the veteran minimum given the Ravens’ limited cap space and will need to fit Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s scheme.
Here are some of the top candidates:
The eight-year veteran is the best available option currently on the open market and the most natural fit for what the Ravens and Martindale like to do on the defensive side of the ball. He has the positional versatility to line up at either safety spot but has primarily played at free for the vast majority of his career. He plays with tremendous physicality, can line up in the slot over tight ends, and possess good ball skills.
Tre Boston would be a phenomenal signing at free safety for the Ravens in free agency— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) March 8, 2021
He’s a physical ball hawk who has been underrated throughout his whole career
Boston has started 76 of his 104 career games and recorded 429 total tackles including 15 for loss, 42 pass deflections, 15 interceptions, 13 quarterback hits, and three sacks. He most recently played for the Carolina Panthers last season where he started all 16 games. Boston finished 2020 with a career-high 95 total tackles including three for a loss, an interception, a forced fumble, a pair of fumble recoveries, and four pass breakups.
The nine-year veteran has exclusively played strong safety throughout his career and is a hard hitter who could fill the enforcer role that was vacated by Elliott when he went down. His ability to excel playing down in the box would allow Chuck Clark the opportunity to show off his range and make more plays in coverage deep down the field.
Vaccaro has started all but one of the 110 games that he has appeared in his career and recorded 610 total tackles, 10 interceptions, 11.5 sacks, 44 pass deflections, and 30 quarterback hits. He most recently played for the Tennessee Titans last season where he started 13 games and recorded 83 total tackles including six for a loss, five pass deflections, and a sack.
Kenny Vaccaro came out of nowhere @KennyVaccaro4 pic.twitter.com/BANWQJXG3b— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 15, 2019
The seven-year veteran is a versatile defensive back that has extensive starting experience playing cornerback and both safety spots. While his tackling hasn’t always been the best, he has shown good range and ball skills. The former first-round pick began his career at corner but has been playing safety since making the transition after his third year in the league.
Randall spent time playing both strong and free safety in 2019 with the Cleveland Browns but played most recently for the Seahawks last season where he appeared in 10 games but didn’t make any starts. He has started 56 of his 75 career games and recorded 293 total tackles including 11 for a loss, 14 interceptions, 47 pass deflections, and 2.5 sacks.
Who would you rather see the Ravens add of the listed choices? List alternatives in comments
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