When the Baltimore Ravens signed Eric Weddle in 2016 it was a shrew acquisition. Weddle, a ball-hawking free safety who had become disillusioned with life in San Diego and was set to become a free-agent and the Ravens had a need at safety after being gashed in the deep middle of the field during the 2015 season.
Now, General Manager Ozzie Newsome has got his hands on another solid safety selection from free agency, this time in the shape for hard hitting former Arizona Cardinal, Tony Jefferson.
Jefferson signed a four-year $34 million deal with Baltimore and will pair with Weddle to form a dynamic duo at the safety position.
Jefferson is a tough strong safety who diagnoses plays well and wraps up well in the tackle. Team his run stopping insticts with Weddle’s knack for finding the football in the air and the Ravens have one of the better safety combinations in the league.
The ultimate safety paring in recent years has been Earl Thomas and Cam Chancellor. Thomas’ quick hips and nose for the football teamed with Chancellor’s bludgeoning hard hits in the run and pass game have made teams fear going at the middle of the field against Seattle – Baltimore now has the same kind of set up, even if is it a slight downgrade when looking at each player’s tale of the tape.
Weddle had a promising debut season in Baltimore with 89 tackles, one sack and four picks, which was his highest since 2011. Jefferson by comparison had 98 tackles with a pair of sacks but did not register a takeaway for his team. However the former Oklahoma Sooner started his season strong with a career high ten tackles against the New England Patriots before bettering that tally a week later in an all-action performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Ravens were fifth against the run last season and Jefferson is a player who instantly makes them better in that aspect of the game, although there may be a slight drop off after allowing an average of 89.4 yards per game Dean Pees’ unit is still a strong contender to end the 2017 term a top ten defense in that aspect.
Weddle is entering his second year of his own four-year-deal, worth $26 million and with Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr joining the secondary major reinforcements will be helping the Pro Bowl safety be even more effective in 2017.
What the former San Diego Charger now lacks in speed he more than makes up for in football IQ having been in the league for 11 seasons. Perhaps the move also offers an opportunity for the Ravens to have Weddle impart some wisdom to Jefferson about the safety position and help the former Cardinal with his ball skills. While Jefferson is primarily there to snuff out the run and rough up tight ends – and generally set the tone for a typically aggressive defense, takeaways from all over the defense are vital in today’s pass-heavy NFL.
Acquiring Jefferson also allows for the Ravens to address other needs in the draft and get younger at certain positions but for the next three years at least they are set at safety. With Weddle being the model professional and maintaining a high level year on year and Jefferson’s upward trajectory Baltimore’s dynamic duo in the back end could but putting Joe Flacco in good field position many times during 2017.