As the Ravens finished up at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis this week, they hopefully got a look at prospects at the safety position, an area of weakness in 2018.
The Ravens have some other needs, such as a wide receiver and possibly an edge rusher, but they need a safety who can cover the middle of the field, especially after cutting six-time Pro Bowl selection Eric Weddle on Tuesday. It was evident in the team’s losses last season when they played quality quarterbacks such as the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes.
The decision to cut Weddle was not a surprise, despite recent comments from Ravens officials that they wanted the 34-year-old safety to return.
When the Bengals beat the Ravens, 34-23, in Week 2 last season, a Cincinnati coach said the offense wanted to attack the middle of the field, especially with crossing routes. The Bengals didn’t think either of the Ravens safeties, Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle, were fast enough to run with their receivers or able to close fast enough before being burned around the corner.
That held true for most of the season.
The Ravens have possibly two up-and-coming safeties on the roster in Chuck Clark, a third-year player out of Virginia Tech, and second-year player DeShon Elliott. Both have good size and are physical, but it remains to be seen if they can play centerfield in coverages. The Ravens don’t need a thumper at that position. They need someone with range and a presence.
Some possible first- or second-round safeties in the draft are Delaware’s Nasir Adderley, Alabama’s Deionte Thompson, Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram and Virginia’s Juan Thornhill.
No surprise about Mosley
No one should be surprised that the Ravens didn’t put the franchise tag on middle linebacker C.J. Mosley. If that happened, Mosley would have made $15.4 million this season and become the highest-paid middle linebacker in the league.
He is nearly perfect for the system he plays in with the Ravens. He is a leader, a signal-caller and always one of the team’s top tacklers. But when it comes to great plays that affect the outcomes of games, he hasn’t made many.
In the end, I suspect the Ravens will keep Mosley and pay him about $12 million a year, which is the going market for inside linebackers. Anything more would be a little odd because he is still a liability in the passing game.
Time for housecleaning
Ravens running back Alex Collins was arrested Friday on gun and drug charges after a car crash, and then waived by the team. If team officials are smart, they would meet with some more of the younger players on the roster.
This is the perfect time for coach John Harbaugh, with a new contract extension, and new general manager Eric DeCosta to do some housecleaning over at The Castle. Some of the younger players need a change in attitude. The Ravens have a couple of knuckleheads.
You hear all of these stories coming out of the combine related to 40-yard dash times, vertical jumps and bench presses, but former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome always had the best way to assess talent.
He just watched players on film.
Outstanding testing results add to a player’s profile, but the best evidence is always on tape when you watch a player compete. Newsome and former Dallas Cowboys scout Gil Brandt always seemed to have the upper hand because of their keen eye for talent, but the playing field is level because there is so much information, at times too much, on every player.
And while on the subject of Newsome, he has a new office over at The Castle. He is sitting in the office once used by former Ravens owner Art Modell, which had not been occupied until Newsome recently retired.
That tells you about the esteem Newsome is held in within the Ravens organization.
Za’Darius Smith paycheck
Ravens outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith will be an unrestricted free agent and he will command a big paycheck on the open market, which the team probably won’t match.
Smith led the Ravens with 8 1/2 sacks last season, but his career MO has always been of a player a step too slow, or maybe too cautious. Unfortunately for the Ravens, they don’t really have another top pass rusher on the roster.
Maybe in the draft, the Ravens can get an all-purpose defensive tackle or end who can play the run and rush the quarterback. They haven’t had one of those in quite a few years, and some of their recent outside linebacker additions haven’t played up to their potential.