Baltimore Ravens

Ravens have the cap space and the need to make run at Eric Weddle

In this Sept. 3, 2015, file photo, San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle watches from the sideline during a preseason  game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif.

For the past couple of days, the Ravens' activity has been mostly confined to dealing with contracts of players currently on the team. All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda restructured his deal, opening up nearly $4 million in salary cap space. Cornerback Jimmy Smith signed off on a restructure as well, creating an additional $4.5 million of flexibility. Cornerback Kyle Arrington agreed to a pay cut, allowing the Ravens to get an additional $1 million of cap room.

Meanwhile, aside from the two-year deal for tight end Benjamin Watson and a few restricted tenders, the Ravens have been completely quiet on the open market. That shouldn't come as a surprise.


Under general manager Ozzie Newsome, this is how the Ravens do business in free agency. They do it quietly and methodically, keeping visits to a minimum while making sure their interest in a player often stays between that player and his agent.

Their history has been to make one or two early forays into the open market for a player that they identify as a top target. Then, they sit back, wait for the market to cool down a bit and make their move on a couple of players that they view as good fits. "Right player, right price," Newsome is fond of saying.


But one difference about this offseason is that Newsome and company have the necessary cap space to make moves. The above-mentioned contract adjustments leave the Ravens with approximately $12 million of cap space, more than enough room to make two or three additions. And they could eventually open up more money by addressing the contracts of left tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Dennis Pitta and doing something about their glut of safeties.

The Ravens just don't casually restructure deals. Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti abhor doing it, because it puts money on future caps. It's what Ravens officials call "kicking the can down the road."

That they've done it this offseason clearly suggests two things: One, the annual rise in the salary cap makes restructuring deals more tolerable to them; and two, they clearly have their eye on making a few moves.

The most logical and predictable move is adding a veteran wide receiver. There are several available, and a guy like Mike Wallace, who the Ravens are believed to have interest in at the right price, would satisfy the organization's quest to add more speed and playmaking ability at wide receiver.

But there is another veteran free agent out there that would clearly be a good fit. Safety Eric Weddle, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, is looking for a new home after spending nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers.

He would check off a ton of boxes for the Ravens who have lacked a rangy safety who could organize their defense on the back end, make plays on the ball, create turnovers and be a reliable tackler. Weddle has done all of those things throughout his career.

According to several reports, Weddle is currently mulling offers from four different teams and could make a decision early next week on where he'll play in 2016 and beyond. He's said to be only interested in joining a contending team, but the comfort and fit for his family with his next football home will also factor prominently in his decision.

The Ravens clearly have the money and the need. While they are coming off a 5-11 season, many people around the league consider 2015 as an aberration for them, citing how the organization has been in the playoffs seven of the past 10 years and won a Super Bowl during that span.


The Ravens also have a potential recruiting advantage in that Weddle and wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Baltimore after a long stay in another NFL city, are extremely close friends. They weren't teammates at Utah, but they certainly have gotten to know each other well through that association.

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Smith isn't the fraternizing with opponents type, but before the Ravens and Chargers played in Baltimore in 2014, the wide receiver said that he planned to have dinner with Weddle. He called him one of his closest friends in the NFL.

Otherwise, who knows if the Ravens have enough in their favor to sway Weddle?

They are obviously at a geographical disadvantage as Weddle and his family live on the West Coast.

Weddle is also garnering plenty of interest. Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports cited the Ravens, Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers as three teams "keeping close tabs" on Weddle, and there are surely other interested teams. The Oakland Raiders have long been mentioned as a great fit, giving Weddle a chance to remain on the West Coast and play for a talented, up-and-coming team.

But it would be a nice coup for the Ravens if they were able to sign him. Weddle is 31 and Lardarius Webb, who projects to be the Ravens' other starting safety, is 30, so that could spur some hesitation.


The Ravens also already have eight safeties on their roster: Webb, Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine, Nick Perry and Jermaine Whitehead.

But the opportunity to land Weddle might be too good for Newsome to pass up.