Even after moving cornerback Lardarius Webb to safety and having eight other players at the position, Ravens decision makers have said since the beginning of the offseason that stabilizing the back end of the team's defense was a priority.
On Monday, they took a big step toward doing that by bringing one of the league's most accomplished safeties to Baltimore. The Ravens agreed in principle with three-time Pro Bowl selection Eric Weddle on a four-year deal that could be worth as much as $29 million. The deal, according to sources, includes $13 million in guaranteed money and $9 million this season.
Weddle, the longtime San Diego Charger, will be at the team facility Wednesday to take a physical and officially sign his contract. The verbal agreement starts what could be a busy couple of days for the organization.
Free-agent wide receiver Mike Wallace was due to arrive in town on Monday night and meet with team officials today at the Under Armour Performance Center. The Ravens want to add speed and playmaking ability on the outside, and Wallace, who has averaged more than 15 yards per reception in his career, fits the profile.
Wallace's market is unclear at the moment, as he's one of several free-agent receivers looking for work. The group includes former Raven Anquan Boldin, James Jones, Percy Harvin, Andre Johnson, Brandon LaFell and Roddy White.
The Ravens, though, will enter the negotiations with some positive momentum after being able to land Weddle, a coup for an organization that was quiet for the first five days of free agency except for signing veteran tight end Benjamin Watson to a two-year deal.
Weddle, 31, also reportedly mulled offers from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders before announcing on Twitter early Monday afternoon that he was "Raven Bound."
"I couldn't be more excited and pumped to be a part of a championship organization who wanted me from Day One," Weddle said in a text message to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
A California native, Weddle spent his first nine NFL seasons in San Diego, establishing himself as a team leader and one of the NFL's better safeties. However, he had a contentious parting with the organization, which declined to offer him a new contract last offseason.
Weddle was fined by the Chargers for staying out on the field during the team's 2016 home finale to watch his daughter perform in the halftime show. The safety also didn't agree with the Chargers' decision to put him on injured reserve late in the season, believing that he should have been given the opportunity to play.
The veteran will find some familiar faces in Baltimore. Shareece Wright and Lawrence Guy were teammates of his in San Diego, and Weddle is also close with Ravens wide receiver and fellow Utah alumnus Steve Smith Sr. The veteran wide receiver, who signed with the Ravens in 2014 after spending 13 seasons with the Carolina Panthers, was believed to have helped persuade Weddle to sign with the Ravens.
Weddle was a Pro Bowl selection in 2011, 2013 and 2014, and an All-Pro in two of those years. Pro Football Focus ranked Weddle as the league's top safety in two of the past four years, and he's been ranked in the top five at his position in five of the past six.
A second-round pick by the Chargers out of Utah in 2007, Weddle became a starter the following year and a fixture in the San Diego secondary, starting 16 games in six of the past eight years. He missed three games last season because of a groin injury.
Known for his range, smarts and instincts, Weddle had 680 tackles, 61/2 sacks, 19 interceptions and four defensive touchdowns for the Chargers.
He checks a lot of boxes for the Ravens, who have prioritized becoming more athletic and opportunistic in the secondary. The Ravens had a league-low six interceptions last season after having only 11 in 2014. They're hoping the hiring of former NFL defensive back and head coach Leslie Frazier, the move of Webb to safety and now the signing of Weddle will help change that.
When the Weddle deal becomes official, the Ravens could move on from one or two of their current safeties. The Ravens roster includes Webb, who Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said recently will enter training camp as a starter; Will Hill, who started 14 games last year; Kendrick Lewis, who started 15 games last year; Matt Elam, a 2013 first-round pick; and Terrence Brooks, a 2014 third-round pick.
Cutting Webb before June 1 would create $3.5 million of salary cap space but also create $5.5 million in dead money. Moving on from Hill would open up about $3 million of space, while letting go of Elam and Lewis would generate $1.3 million and $930,000 of cap space respectively.
Notes: Ravens right tackle Rick Wagner was the team's top earner in the league's performance-based pay program for a second straight year. Wagner, who started all 16 games for the Ravens in 2015, gets a payout of $237,349.95. Rounding out the Ravens' top five in performance-based pay payouts were wide receiver Kamar Aiken ($199,880.72), offensive tackle James Hurst ($153,255.07), guard-center John Urschel ($146,548.25) and linebacker Zachary Orr ($137,684.90). … Former Raven reserve safety-special teams standout Brynden Trawick traveled to Cincinnati on Monday night to meet with Bengals officials. The Ravens opted last week to not extend the $1.67 million tender to Trawick, allowing him to sign with any team. The Ravens maintain interest in Trawick, who led the team with nine special teams tackles last season.
- Baltimore Ravens
- NFL Pro Bowl
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Lardarius Webb
- Mike Wallace
- Eric Weddle
- Matt Elam
- Carolina Panthers
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Dallas Cowboys
- Oakland Raiders
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Shareece Wright
- Andre Johnson
- Anquan Boldin
- Benjamin Watson
- Brandon LaFell
- Leslie Frazier
- James Jones (football)