The Ravens offseason continued to heat up on Tuesday afternoon when it was reported that they would be releasing their veteran safety Eric Weddle.
The move comes about a week after the Ravens released veteran receiver Michael Crabtree, freeing up over $4 million in cap space. It’s easy to assume that the Weddle release is being done for similar reasons. The 12-year veteran was set to enter the final year of his contract but the Ravens will now save $7.5 million toward their cap by releasing him.
Following the end of the 2018 season Weddle was quickly fielding questions about his future. He initially stated he would either play out the final year of his contract in Baltimore or retire if the team wanted to move on. As weeks passed Weddle’s tone appeared to change and he started to entertain the idea of playing for another team.
I didn’t read too much into this change of heart considering his first answer came very shortly after an emotional playoff loss to his former team. In addition to that, Weddle is a hardcore competitor. It’s not surprising to see him eager to keep playing football considering he has maintained good health over the last three seasons.
At the time of his signing I was excited for what he would bring to the Ravens. After Ed Reed moved on in 2013 the Ravens did not have a big presence at the safety position. Weddle quickly changed that in 2016 by picking up four interceptions with a career-high 13 pass deflections. The production was good enough to earn Weddle pro bowl recognition for the fourth time in his career.
The flashy plays continued in 2017 when Weddle recorded six interceptions and two forced fumbles. There were also moments where he looked outmatched and made really ugly mistakes. The one that stands out the most is probably his missed tackle in overtime against the Bears when Jordan Howard barreled over then 33-year-old safety and raced down the field for a huge 53-yard gain. That big play by Howard would ultimately set up a game-winning field goal for the Bears.
These plays quickly became too common for Weddle as an aging player and in 2018 it started to become more noticeable. Weddle continued to be a valuable field general for the Ravens top-tier defense, starting all 16 games for the third straight year. But he once again found himself out-of-place or a step too late on key plays.
It pains me to say it but I often considered Weddle a liability in converge this past season. When it came to making one-on-one tackles, I was just praying he would hold on long enough for a teammate to come over and help. His ability to read quarterbacks and sniff out plays before the snap is something the Ravens certainly value but what good are instincts when you can’t act on them as effectively as you used to?
The loss of Weddle will hurt the Ravens defense from a leadership standpoint, especially if they can’t retain C.J Mosley. But it is the right move for them to make going into 2019. Saving a little bit of money always helps but there is definitely a need to find someone younger and faster at the free safety position in today’s pass-heavy league.
Recent draft picks Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliot will likely be the favorites to step up, but nothing is certain right now with Clark playing a limited amount of snaps and Elliot coming off of a season-ending injury.
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