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Ravens release safety Will Hill with fourth suspension in four years looming

Ravens safety Will Hill, right, tackles Melvin Gordon of the San Diego Chargers in the fourth quarter on Nov. 1, 2015, at M&T Bank Stadium.
Ravens safety Will Hill, right, tackles Melvin Gordon of the San Diego Chargers in the fourth quarter on Nov. 1, 2015, at M&T Bank Stadium. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

When Will Hill signed a two-year, $7 million contract extension with the Ravens last August, he spoke of wanting to reward the organization's faith and making sure that the off-the-field issues that nearly ended his career stayed in his past.

Hill, however, couldn't hold up his end of the bargain and now his NFL career is again in jeopardy. Hill has been suspended for 10 games for violating the league's substance abuse policy, according to industry sources. It is Hill's fourth suspension since he came into the NFL in 2012.

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The NFL hasn't officially announced the suspension.

Hill, 26, was informed by the Ravens of his release on Wednesday before his pending suspension surfaced. However, the team presumably was aware of it. Team officials were clear with Hill that he couldn't afford any missteps when they signed him in July 2014 after he was released by the New York Giants and facing his third suspension in as many years.

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The Ravens also had a glut of safeties following their signing of Eric Weddle, which became official Wednesday. With Lardarius Webb converting from cornerback, 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam coming back from a 2015 season-ending injury and Kendrick Lewis, a 15-game starter in 2015, also still on the roster, it wasn't clear where Hill fit in anyway.

The pending suspension made the Ravens' decision to release Hill, which opens up approximately $3 million of salary cap space, an easy one. Still, his suspension is a significant disappointment and not only because he is the second member of the 2015 Ravens to be suspended for an extensive stretch this offseason. Second-year tight end Nick Boyle also faces a 10-game ban to start the 2016 season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The organization had worked hard with Hill the past two years to provide support. When he signed his contract extension last year, Hill said that he speaks with general manager Ozzie Newsome every day. Harbaugh spoke of the strides that Hill had made off the field.

He moved out of the West Orange area in New Jersey where he was from and often found trouble, and lived near the team's training facility in Owings Mills. Hill's brother and young daughter attended nearly every one of the Ravens' training camp practices last summer. Hill spoke several times of becoming a homebody and avoiding the temptations that derailed him in the past.

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That, however, apparently proved too challenging, and now the safety will be forced to the sideline again.

After going undrafted out of the University of Florida, largely because of off-the-field red flags, Hill was suspended in each of his first three NFL seasons.

He got banned for four games for using Adderall in 2012. A year later, he got another four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on substances of abuse. The Giants finally released him after he was banned for the first six games of the 2014 season for again violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Hill was also arrested in 2013 for allegedly failing to pay child support and he had a warrant issued for his arrest in New Jersey last year for outstanding child support payments.

A starter for 14 games last season, Hill's biggest impact in 2015 came on a special teams play. In a Week 12 game against the Cleveland Browns, Hill scooped up Brent Urban's blocked field goal and returned it 64 yards for a game-winning touchdown with no time on the clock.

Hill finished the season with 64 tackles, one interception, one sack and a career-high six passes defended. However, like the rest of the Ravens' secondary, Hill struggled to make game-changing plays and create turnovers. When Webb starting playing more safety late in the 2015 season, Hill found himself on the sideline more and more.

In two seasons with the Ravens, he played in 26 games, starting 22 of them. He had 104 tackles, two interceptions and 10 passes defended.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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