The Baltimore Ravens made their first free-agent signing of the year, and it was a significant one. The Ravens are expected to sign highly regarded safety Tony Jefferson, who is coming off his best season with the Arizona Cardinals.
This comes after news of offensive tackle Rick Wagner (Lions) and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (49ers) signing elsewhere along with linebacker Elvis Dumervil getting cut.
Terms: Four years, $36 million. His $9 million per year average ranks sixth among safeties.
ESPN 150 ranking: No. 20.
Grade A-minus: The Baltimore Ravens significantly improve their secondary by adding the best safety in free agency. Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle form perhaps the top safety tandem in the NFL. The only drawback is Jefferson excels in the box, just like Weddle. The Ravens essentially have two strong safeties, but they both provide a much-needed physical presence in a secondary that suffered too many costly lapses late.
What it means: Baltimore gets the No. 5 safety in the rankings of Pro Football Focus (Jefferson) and pairs him with the top-rated one (Weddle). Jefferson is a hard-hitting defender who makes an impact in run support and excels in man coverage against tight ends. He totaled 96 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries last season, when his play was overshadowed by Tyrann Mathieu. The addition of Jefferson likely means the end for Lardarius Webb, who played eight seasons in Baltimore and switched from cornerback to safety last season. The Ravens can create $5.5 million in cap room by cutting Webb.
What’s the risk: The Ravens invested at safety before doing so at cornerback, which is a bigger need. Baltimore is also banking on either Weddle or Jefferson playing the free safety role. Jefferson has improved in coverage throughout his career. Last season, he allowed a less than 50 percent completion rate on passes thrown his direction as well as a measly 7.1 yards per completion, according to Pro Football Focus. There’s not too much to criticize. He’s only 25. He’s durable. And he’s a hard worker. This is an extremely sound investment for the Ravens’ first signing of the offseason.