Eric Weddle: 'I'm a Raven'
Eric Weddle only played three of his 13 seasons in Baltimore, but the six-time Pro Bowl safety still considers himself a Raven. Weddle played his first nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers, then announced his retirement last week following one year with the Los Angeles Rams.
"As of right now, I would retire as a Raven before those other two teams," Weddle told The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec. "There's no need to push that button quickly, but I'm a Raven. I loved my time with the Rams. I was all in. But those three years (2016-2018) in Baltimore were as fun and enjoyable as I've ever had in my career."
Here are some more excerpts from Weddle's conversation with Zrebiec:
On potentially working for the Ravens in some capacity: "Of course. There's no doubt. Everybody knows how much I loved that place and how much joy and happiness it brought, and how much I tried to give to them. I think they admire that and how I helped that organization and team to build what it is now. I had a strong hand in a lot of those guys. That's obviously something that is there, and of course, I'd be open and honored to have those conversations if they ever happen."
On how he felt watching all the success the Ravens had this season: "Yeah, it was hard emotionally. It was tough to get released for the reasons they felt, which I respect, and then they replaced me with a guy (Earl Thomas) who was an all-time great player. To see all of the guys who I helped and gave everything I had was hard to watch. But it was also exciting, and I was happy for those guys to finally see their potential."
On Lamar Jackson's critics who say his style of play isn't sustainable "I wouldn't really worry or care two cents about what anybody says outside that building. But with him, it is successful, and it's going to be great and it's going to be his show as long as he can stay healthy and run like he can. Will he be able to play 20 years like this? Probably not. But I give it 10-plus years that he could do it. As long as they keep pushing the envelope and keep expanding and not getting satisfied with what they've done and trying to still bring new elements, new formations, new looks, new concepts."
On what the Ravens need to do to get to the Super Bowl: "You don't want to continue to lose edge rushers. A guy like (Matthew) Judon is homegrown and is turning into one of the premier guys, not just with his pass-rush ability but in playing the run. Not many people know this, but he dropped on like 30 percent of the pass drops. Just think if he's rushing on those 30 percent, how much production you'd get out of him. I would try and retain him."
Weddle also spoke with Glenn Clark Radio to reflect on his time in Baltimore.
"The Ravens were honest and up front with me," Weddle said. "They took a chance on me as a 30-year-old safety. They believed in me and wanted me, and I could never forget the admiration and love I have for those guys.
"The whole city … it was like a second home for us. We lived there year round, so the bad winters, we were in it. We loved the hard-working, first-class people. … Wished we could have won a Super Bowl, but I think [that's] on the horizon."
Jaylon Ferguson Could Make a Big Leap in 2020
Could Jaylon Ferguson be on a similar career path as Judon?
Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler believes Ferguson could make a significant jump in his second season, just as Judon did in 2017.
Ferguson, a third-round pick, had 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits this past season. Judon, a fifth-round pick in 2016, had 25 tackles, four sacks and 10 quarterback hits in his rookie year (though he played nearly 200 fewer snaps that season than Ferguson did in 2019). Judon's numbers increased to 61-8-19 in 2017.
"Judon's trajectory coming out of Grand Valley State could be very similar to Ferguson's transition coming out of Louisiana Tech," Schisler wrote. "You're looking at two smaller school players with a similar skill set."
Ferguson, the all-time NCAA leader in sacks (45), wasn't quite a "Sack Daddy" as a rookie, but the 6-foot-5, 275-pounder played in 14 games, including nine starts, and became more of a factor as the season progressed.
"It's important to remember that when Ferguson came into the NFL, he was used to being the most dominant athlete on the field," Schisler wrote. "At the next step up, it wasn't as easy. It was going to take a little time for Ferguson to dominate off the edge. He could go from a rookie with some promising flashes to a surprisingly dependable part of the Ravens' pass rushing production."
Baltimore Beatdown's Eric Misotti noted Ferguson's improvement after being given a larger role.
"When Pernell McPhee went down in [Week 7] with a season-ending injury, it was almost a lock the Ravens would be making a move for a pass rusher ahead of the trade deadline. They decided to put more on Ferguson's plate and the rookie handled it well," Misotti wrote. "He seemingly improved game by game and was noticeably more disruptive in the opponent's backfield as the year went on."
After Ferguson recorded a career-high five tackles, including one for a loss, in the Ravens' 45-6 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh praised the rookie for the strides he was making.
"He has gotten better every single week," Harbaugh said. "He still knows he has a long way to go, but the physicality, the heavy hands, the edge-setting, the way he's rushing the quarterback — yes, I'd say he's done a good job."
How Ravens Can Improve Their Defensive Front Seven
Even with Ferguson potentially making more of an impact next season, the Ravens' offseason focus needs to be on restocking their front seven, ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote.
"This past season was the first time the Ravens played an entire season without a first-round pick in their defensive front seven," Hensley wrote. "The days of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata have given way to cheaper and later-round versions. So, with $30 million in cap space and a projected nine draft picks, the Ravens know they have to restock the defense in the same way they assembled the NFL's highest-scoring offense."
Hensley's assessment echoed the sentiment expressed by Harbaugh, who said "specific positions and skill sets within the front seven are going to be really critical."
As Hensley noted, the Ravens allowed the fewest points (15.1) and yards (268.9) during their season-ending 12-game win streak thanks to Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale and his staff getting the most out of their players, but there is room for improvement.
"Baltimore allowed 4.39 yards per carry (21st in the NFL) and produced nine sacks with a four-man rush (last in the league)," Hensley wrote. "This is why the Ravens blitzed more than any team in the NFL."
Hensley provided analysis for how the Ravens can address their needs at pass rusher (on the edge and interior) and middle linebacker.
While big-name edge rushers such as Jadeveon Clowney, Yannick Ngakoue and Shaquil Barrett have been identified by pundits as free agents the Ravens should pursue, Hensley doesn't think Baltimore has the cap room to sign any of them.
"Baltimore has more of a history of signing veterans in their 30s who are cap cuts (because that doesn't count against compensatory picks)," Hensley wrote. "That could make either Jacksonville's Calais Campbell (39.5 sacks over last four seasons) or Washington's Ryan Kerrigan (42.5 sacks since 2016) a top target for the Ravens. Both could be released over their high cap numbers."
In mock drafts, edge rushers such as Alabama's Terrell Lewis and Wisconsin's Zack Baun have been linked to Baltimore.
"The Ravens would love for Iowa's A.J. Epenesa to fall to them at No. 28 overall, but that doesn't seem likely to happen right now," Hensley wrote.
Interior rushers Baltimore could target in free agency include Gerald McCoy (who visited the Ravens last offseason before signing a one-year deal with Carolina), Denver's Derek Wolfe and the Rams' Michael Brockers, Hensley wrote. He identified Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore as someone the Ravens may consider in the first round of the draft.
Regarding middle linebacker, Hensley wrote: "The prevailing feeling is Baltimore will fill the void here through the draft. The popular pick in current mock drafts is Kenneth Murray, whose nonstop motor would make him a great fit in this defense."
- Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz looks at what Ravens players have planned for the offseason.