The Baltimore Ravens have always had great safety play and that will continue in 2019. Surprisingly, Baltimore upgraded at free safety by replacing Eric Weddle with Earl Thomas in free agency. Even though Weddle was the main communicator on the defense and had great moments as a Raven, he is not the physical athlete and playmaker that Thomas is.
Last year, Baltimore struggled with getting turnovers from the secondary and Thomas gives them the speed and ball hawk play in the back of their defense they sorely lacked. Now, combined with their additions at cornerback, the Ravens could have the best secondary both talent and depth wise. Tony Jefferson, now playing with Thomas, can play more in the box as their strong safety, which is more suitable to his skill set.
New Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta definitely got his big-name free agent this offseason. Pairing Thomas with Jefferson will give them a nice one-two punch at safety that can be the best in the league.
Earl Thomas is the dynamic safety the Ravens need if he can stay healthy.
The former Seattle Seahawks safety got the long term contract he was looking for, signing a four-year deal worth $55 million with Baltimore this past offseason. Coming off a season-ending injury, a big contract could be a concern, but so far he has had no setbacks in minicamp. He can hopefully return to form.
Because of his talent level, adding Earl Thomas was a great move by the Ravens. Before he went down, Thomas was the highest graded safety, according to Pro Football Focus with a 91.3 grade.
Although new #Ravens player Earl Thomas was injured for the majority of the season, he dominated the first few weeks.
— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) May 21, 2019
The talent the Ravens have with their cornerbacks alone will give him the freedom to move around and make plays all over the field. When he was able to roam as the free safety last year in Seattle, he had 3 interceptions in the four games he played in. His skill set complements Jefferson well as the two veteran safeties bring loads of high-level play in their respective roles. Not to mention, Thomas is no doubt motivated. Adding to the intrigue of his signing is a looming revenge game against his former team. He will definitely have a stage to prove that he’s still one of, if not, the best safety in the league.
Tony Jefferson is looking for a breakout season in 2019 as an emerging leader of their defense.
Even though he is not the turnover machine Thomas can be, Jefferson does not need to be. As the primary box safety that makes plays against the run and around the line of scrimmage, he’s able to help shut down the run and shallow areas of the field. He only has 2 interceptions over the last two years but does have 8 pass deflections, 153 combined tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 2 forced fumbles as an enforcer for the defense. As a reliable starter that has not missed a game in his tenure as a Raven, Jefferson could make even more plays in a more defined role in 2019. Jefferson can have his best year yet.
Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark, and DeShon Elliott all can make an impact for the Ravens.
As a hybrid safety/linebacker, veteran Anthony Levine has a niche with the Ravens. As a box defender and special teams player, he’s an important versatile piece on defense. While he has not started many games (only three in his career), he has played in almost all of them with Baltimore. Both Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott should make the team as depth and as situational players that will provide invaluable insurance as backups.
Clark started two games last year due to injuries but secured his first interception despite the limited playing time. He has mostly played on special teams, so that experience will be needed and helps almost ensure a roster spot.
DeShon Elliott had a season-ending injury prior to last season and did not play at all in his rookie year. However, Elliott has bounced back so far and has made an impression in practice. Both Elliott and Clark could be future successors to Thomas and Jefferson if things go perfectly for the duo.
Baltimore Ravens secondary, the best in the NFL?
After reviewing the Ravens’ cornerbacks and safeties the past few weeks, it is safe to say that they should have one of the best passing defenses in the NFL with their new additions. Depth wise, it is hard to find another secondary that is this loaded at each level with young and veteran talent combined. Baltimore has invested highly in their secondary through free agency and the draft, so it should be expected that they’ll return to a dominant form again in 2019.
Andrew Kim is a writer for PFN covering the Baltimore Ravens. You can follow him @AndrewKimPFN on Twitter.