The Ravens signed rangy former Houston Texans free safety Kendrick Lewis to a three-year contract Saturday, a roster move intended to bolster a secondary that struggled last season.
The Ravens have had an ongoing need at the position, with former first-round draft pick Matt Elam not establishing himself as a viable starter during his first two NFL seasons.
The Ravens brought back veteran starting free safety Will Hill on a $1.542 million low tender, but starting strong safety Darian Stewart signed a two-year contract with the Denver Broncos. Lewis is expected to start opposite Hill.
Lewis, 26, was the Texans' leading tackler last season as he started every game at free safety. Lewis drew high marks for his work in run support and intelligence, but didn't grade out as highly in pass coverage.
Lewis didn't draw heavy interest as a free agent the past two years, according to sources. The Chiefs allowed his contract to expire last year without re-signing him. He played last season under an $800,250 contract with a veteran minimum salary of $730,000 with $35,000 of it guaranteed, a $65,000 roster bonus and a $5,250 workout bonus.
The Ravens were also talking with former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox, according to league sources, yet wouldn't go as high as the Tennessee Titans as they signed him to a three-year, $15 million contract. Cox is a 6-foot, 190-pound former Oklahoma State player who had a career-high 53 tackles and five interceptions last season.
The Ravens also had interest in safety Ron Parker, who rejoined the Kansas City Chiefs on a five-year, $30 million maximum-value deal that included $8 million guaranteed with a $5 million signing bonus. Parker had a career-high 94 tackles, a forced fumble, an interception and one sack last season.
Lewis recorded a career-high 84 tackles and two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown last season against the Indianapolis Colts when he picked off quarterback Andrew Luck. He had three forced fumbles and six passes defensed and led the Texans in performance-based pay with a payout of $209,465.
Lewis played virtually every snap last season, lining up for 1,097 snaps and allowed 20 receptions on 33 passes thrown in his direction for 252 yards and one touchdown as opposing quarterbacks had a cumulative 69.3 passer rating against him, according to Pro Football Focus.
Lewis is the first unrestricted free agent from another team the Ravens have signed this year and will count toward the NFL compensatory pick formula.
The Ravens have lost five free agents to other teams, including strong safety Darian Stewart (Denver Broncos, two-year contract), outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (Chicago Bears, five years, $39 million), wide receiver Torrey Smith (San Francisco 49ers, five year, $40 million), tight end Owen Daniels (Denver Broncos, three years, $12.25 million) and quarterback Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills, two years, $7 million). The Ravens can still get the maximum amount of four compensatory picks next year.
Lewis has played in the NFL for five seasons, registering 256 career tackles and nine interceptions.
Lewis is a 6-foot, 198-pound former Mississippi player He was drafted in the fifth round by Kansas City in 2010, and played four seasons with the Chiefs. He has five career forced fumbles.
A New Orleans native, Lewis had 226 career tackles at Mississippi with six interceptions, 10 tackles for losses, three sacks and four forced fumbles. He was an All-Southeastern Conference selection.
Lewis played wide receiver in high school, catching 41 passes for 740 yards and nine touchdowns as an all-state senior in Gainesville, Ga. after relocating from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.