By the time he went to bed Sunday night, Eric Weddle had already spoken at length to current Ravens Steve Smith Sr. and Elvis Dumervil and a former one, Jarret Johnson. He had already had nearly an hourlong phone call with Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta.
It was during a restless night of sleep that his next move became clear.
“Going through everything in my mind, I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking Baltimore, thinking this is my fit, this is where I want to be, and they want me,” Weddle said Wednesday. “I know it's the right decision. I know it's going to be a special journey for us, and I can't wait to be a part of it. I really can't.”
After playing the past nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers, Weddle spent his first day in his new football home, highlighted by signing a four-year, $26 million deal with the Ravens that includes $13 million in guaranteed money.
Weddle, 31, said he turned down more lucrative offers to sign with the Ravens. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders were his other primary suitors.
“I've played in San Diego for nine years and gone against my new team a bunch of times, and I've always envied their success. I've always envied the way they play, the way they go about business. And for me personally, I'm a simple guy. I live and breathe football,” Weddle said. “The things I felt Baltimore would give me is a team that gives everything for each other, a team that wants to win, wants to go back to the playoffs, has the goal to win a Super Bowl every year.”
After Weddle clapped excitedly as he entered the news conference, Ravens coach John Harbaugh sat down and declared it a “great day to be a Raven.” The team has been searching for a rangy and smart safety since Ed Reed left after the 2012 season.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time All-Pro, Weddle has 813 career tackles, 61/2 sacks, 19 career interceptions and four defensive touchdowns. The Ravens, who released safety Will Hill on Wednesday, plan to pair Weddle with cornerback-turned-safety Lardarius Webb at the back of their defense.
“We have a player, a great player, that thinks like a coach and that understands the game that way,” Harbaugh said. “In the back end, that's really, really valuable.”
In a statement released by the team, general manager Ozzie Newsome said the organization added a “proven playmaker to our defense who will fit in well with the way the Ravens play.”
All along, the Ravens had made Weddle a priority. A fellow Utah alumnus and a close friend, Smith told Weddle about his own transition to Baltimore after playing 13 seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Dumervil told Weddle about the family environment inside the team facility — Weddle and his wife, Chanel, have four children — and the bond in the locker room.
Johnson, a longtime Raven before becoming a teammate of Weddle's in San Diego, told the safety that as good as he could be for the Ravens, Baltimore could be even better for Weddle.
Then there was DeCosta, Newsome's longtime lieutenant, who spoke to Weddle about why he's stayed 20 years in the organization despite garnering annual interest elsewhere for general manager openings.
“We don't like to lose games. We don't expect to lose games. We want to get back to relevance and Eric's a part of that,” DeCosta said. “Honestly, we don't go after too many [unrestricted free agents]. So when we do, I think it means something. The player should understand that. We're willing to make a commitment to a player because he has the ability, but he also has the pedigree, the personality, the makeup that we're looking for. It's got to be a perfect match. I just tried to get him to understand that.
“Also, honestly, how I think this organization is, how special I think this organization is. I've been here 20 years. I think this is a special place. I wanted him to understand that he could come in here and be a foundation player for us.”
The message clearly resonated with Weddle, who had a difficult parting with the Chargers. He was a huge fan favorite in San Diego, but his relationship soured over the past year. Weddle didn't get a contract offer last offseason to stay. He was fined by the team for remaining on the field to watch his daughter dance during the halftime show at the final home game. He was miffed that the Chargers put him on injured reserve with a groin injury, rather than giving him an opportunity to play one final game with the team.
“I wasn't wanted there, and that was what had happened. For me personally, it's a blessing in disguise,” Weddle said. “In this stage in my career, the excitement, the blood that's flowing through me, it is hard to imagine how much I want to win for this organization, a team that wants me and knows what I can bring, not only on the field but off. To my teammates, to the city, I'm all-in, in everything I do, and my family, as well. We can't wait to get here, get to work and win a bunch of games.”
Notes: Former Ravens wide receiver Chris Givens signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia, the Eagles announced Wednesday. Acquired in October from the then-St.Louis Rams for a future conditional draft pick, Givens caught just 19 balls for 346 yards and one touchdown in 12 games (six starts) with the team. ... Reserve safety Brynden Trawick, who led the Ravens with nine special teams tackles in 2015, also agreed to a one-year deal, with the Raiders. The Ravens passed last week on tendering Trawick a contract.