When the Ravens signed trouble-prone former New York Giants safety Will Hill, it immediately raised a few eyebrows and prompted many obvious questions.
Why sign a suspended three-time violator of NFL drug policies with a long history of marijuana usage dating back to his days at the University of Florida?
Why add a player with so many off-field problems, including an arrest last year for failure to pay child support, one day after running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games for violating the NFL personal-conduct policy?
All valid questions, but there's a simple logic behind the transaction.
First, there's no financial risk by signing Hill to a one-year, $570,000 contract with no guaranteed money or signing bonus. If Hill has another misstep, the Ravens can simply cut him and move on without any regrets.
Hill amounts to a no-risk insurance policy.
What if there's an injury to starters Darian Stewart or Matt Elam? Or what if they're not playing well?
Under those scenarios, Hill could provide a midseason lift to the secondary.
When he's on the field, the former blue-chip recruit from New Jersey is extremely gifted. Hill recorded 77 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles last season. He's only 24 years old, so there's still some upside with Hill.
And Hill is aware that if he squanders this opportunity his NFL career could be over.
Do the Ravens worry about the public relations aspect of signing Hill after all the negative fallout from Rice's felony aggravated assault case involving his then-fiancee whom he later married? Or signing a player with baggage after a rocky offseason where five players were arrested?
Obviously not to the point that it stopped them from signing Hill. The Ravens, like their NFL colleagues, are in the business of winning. They're not going to avoid adding players they deem capable of upgrading their roster.
It's similar to the thinking behind the Ravens bringing in linebacker Rolando McClain last year. He was another player with a history of off-field issues. The team gave him another chance this spring only for him to retire again after performing poorly during a workout and then ultimately trading him to the Dallas Cowboys without him having ever practiced for the team. The Ravens never lost any money in the failed McClain experiment.
There's also the relationship between Giants general manager Jerry Reese and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome to consider. They're extremely close and Newsome had the benefit of getting a candid assessment from Reese.
"Just being irresponsible," Hill told The Baltimore Sun when asked about his history of problems with drugs. "Yeah, I feel like I've learned. I'm ready to play football. They talked to the Giants and they had nothing but good words to say about me."
Regardless of any recommendations or references, the Giants gave up Hill frustrated at his frequent problems off the field. However, that doesn't mean the Ravens can't salvage something productive out of Hill, who has excellent size and athleticism at 6-foot-1, 207 pounds with long arms.
That's the bottom line, at least for now.
“I know a lot in that I’m obviously familiar with the coaches on the New York Giants,” said secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, a former Giants defensive coordinator. “I’ve talked with those guys in the past, even before Will Hill was available, and I remember them just having glowing remarks about him as a football player. When he walks through the door, he looks like a linebacker and yet he moves around like a safety. He fit right in there."
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