Friday, February 7, 2014
Looking at Ravens' options at free safety
By Jamison Hensley
The Baltimore Ravens need a free safety. General manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged it last month when he mentioned that adding "a more athletic safety" is among the team's priorities.
So, when a free safety makes some news, it's going to generate interest with Ravens fans. Case in point: emails and tweets starting coming in after former Green Bay Packers Nick Collins told ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky that he was "optimistic" about a comeback.
Collins hasn't played since he sustained a neck injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season and has been out of football since being released in April 2012. While bringing in a former three-time Pro Bowl defender is intriguing, no one knows what a nearly three-year absence from the game has done to him. The Ravens wouldn't sign him as a starter because of that. If he's willing to come cheap and earn a job, that's a different story.
Here are some potential options for a veteran free safety this offseason (and the Ravens typically prefer salary-cap cuts because they don't count against them in terms of compensatory picks) ...
POSSIBLE SALARY-CAP CASUALTIES
Michael Griffin, Titans: He seems more suited to playing centerfield. As ESPN's Paul Kuharsky put it, Griffin has had an up-and-down career, playing his best when surrounded by a good secondary, and struggling when he has not been. He will count $8 million against the cap in 2014, so the Titans could look to part ways.
Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions: What stands out is he's 26, comes up with big plays and has graded out as a top-25 safety by Pro Football Focus. The drawback is his history with knee injuries. He's due $6 million in salary and bonuses, and the Lions need to create salary-cap room.
Thomas DeCoud, Atlanta Falcons: There's a question on which DeCoud will show up. In 2012, DeCoud went to the Pro Bowl after making six interceptions, which ranked second among NFL safeties. Last season, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan called out DeCoud for slumping. The Falcons can clear $3 million off their cap by cutting him.
Pat Chung, Philadelphia Eagles: He's failed to match his breakout 2010 season. Chung was burned often last season and didn't force a turnover. He may have more value on special teams.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills: Too expensive. Move along.
Chris Clemons, Miami Dolphins: He's a very underrated defender. Not many knew Clemons was the ninth-best safety in coverage, according Pro Football Focus. That's one spot behind the more well-known Byrd. Only 11 completed passes were credited against Clemons all season. The Dolphins will likely try to keep him.
Stevie Brown, New York Giants: He's a big question mark in free agency. Brown missed all of last season with an ACL injury. The year before, he went from a journeyman to a ballhawking defender with eight interceptions. Brown should come relatively cheap given that he's coming off injury and made very little impact in his first two seasons.
Malcolm Jenkins, New Orleans Saints: Former first-round pick has always shown great potential as a playmaker, but he has also been inconsistent at times in pass coverage and as an open-field tackler. The Saints may let him go elsewhere because of their cap troubles.