As strong safety James Ihedigbo plots his exit strategy, the Ravens have already obtained a potential replacement for him.
The Ravens agreed to a one-year contract with former St. Louis Rams safety Darian Stewart on Friday, according to the team. Financial terms weren’t immediately available, but a source said that Stewart wasn’t expensive.
The move to sign Stewart, who’s traveling to Baltimore on Sunday to take a physical in advance of signing his contract, comes as sources say the Ravens don’t plan to match the contract offers Ihedigbo has drawn from a trio of NFC teams, including the Detroit Lions. Ihedigbo will weigh his options over the weekend, and is expected to make a decision by Monday.
Ihedigbo finished second on the Ravens behind middle linebacker Daryl Smith last season with 101 tackles and had a career-high three interceptions.
Although Stewart is expected to compete for a starting job opposite free safety Matt Elam, a source said the Ravens are also expected to explore drafting a safety. There are a handful of safeties the team rates highly, according to a source.
Stewart, 25, is known as a physical tackler in run support. If Stewart wins the starting job at strong safety, Elam might wind up remaining at free safety, where he started all but one game as a rookie.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said after the season that the team wants to add a play-maker at safety. However, if the Ravens are unable to add that type of player between now and the regular season, Elam could play free safety again.
The Ravens could also have their safeties operate interchangeably instead of strictly designating a free safety and a strong safety. How the draft shakes out for the Ravens should be a major factor in determining where Elam lines up next season.
Stewart, who visited the Carolina Panthers earlier this week, is familiar with Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo. After going undrafted out of South Carolina, Stewart played for Spagnuolo when he was the Rams’ head coach.
The 5-foot-11, 214-pounder played in 13 games last season, including six starts. He recorded 36 tackles, a forced fumble and four pass deflections last season.
Three years ago, Stewart had a career-high 91 tackles with three sacks and two forced fumbles. He also had his lone NFL interception, picking off New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and returning it for a touchdown.
For his career, Stewart has registered 147 tackles and three forced fumbles with four sacks.
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