Brandon Carr did pretty much what the Ravens had hoped when they signed the veteran to a four-year, $24 million deal last March. He stabilized the team’s long-problematic No. 2 cornerback spot across from Jimmy Smith. He continued his remarkable run of durability and he became a leader in the secondary.
Thus, it’s hardly surprising that the Ravens, even with their tight salary cap situation and their need to make additions on the offensive side of the ball, have decided to pick up the cornerback’s contract option for 2018.
The Ravens, who have already cut defensive back Lardarius Webb and running back Danny Woodhead and declined Austin Howard’s 2018 option, would have opened up $4 million of salary cap space by jettisoning Carr. However, it would have created too much uncertainty in the secondary after they focused last offseason on adding cornerback depth.
Smith is coming off a torn Achilles tendon in December. He’s questionable to be ready for the start of the 2018 season and even if he is, he’s played in more than 12 games in just two of his seven NFL campaigns. Cornerback Jaylen Hill tore his ACL in late December and also may not be immediately ready. Cornerback Tavon Young is coming back from a torn ACL that cost him the entire 2017 season and Maurice Canady has played in just 12 games in two seasons.
Those factors are why letting go of Carr would have been a significant risk for a Ravens’ team that has had a revolving door of secondary cornerbacks in recent years and gotten mostly poor results.
Carr, a 31-year-old veteran of 10 NFL seasons, started all 16 games for the Ravens in 2017 and has now made 160 consecutive starts to begin his career. That’s the longest active streak among NFL defensive players and the third longest overall, trailing just Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (192) and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (179).
But beyond his durability and playing more defensive snaps than every Raven but safeties Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson and middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, Carr performed well for much of the 2017 season.
He finished with 59 tackles, a career-high tying four interceptions and a team-high 12 passes defended. He had a few rough moments and struggled when matched up with a few top receivers, like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown and the Houston Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins. But he certainly wasn’t alone in having problems dealing with pass catchers of that caliber.
Carr was a key member of a defense that had a team-leading 22 interceptions and of a secondary that was one of the strengths of the team before Smith’s season-ending Achilles injury in Week 13 left the Ravens vulnerable on the back end.
Rookie Marlon Humphrey and Hill both credited Carr at different points of the season for mentoring them and teaching them how to be professionals.
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Carr, who has also played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys, flirted with retirement following the 2016 season with the Cowboys before he signed with the Ravens.