Eric Weddle Reportedly Talked With Ravens Before 2021 Season About Taking an Expanded Role
After coming out of retirement to help the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl, former Ravens safety Eric Weddle said he is "re-retiring" and returning to his daily life.
Could part of Weddle's post-playing life involve working for the Ravens?
Weddle has been doing some special assignment work for General Manager Eric DeCosta before the draft for several years now, according to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.
"There was talk before 2021 training camp of Weddle taking on an expanded in-person role with the Ravens, helping out with the coaching and personnel staff," Zrebiec wrote. "The various COVID-19 rules and regulations, however, were an impediment to that happening.
"It's amazing how things work out sometimes. If the Ravens had hired him in an official and expanded capacity, Weddle probably wouldn't have been available to come out of retirement and sign with the Rams ahead of their Super Bowl run. Maybe Weddle, who in his own words has now 're-retired,' will ultimately join the Ravens in a beefed-up role."
Even though Weddle played just three of his 14 seasons in the NFL with the Ravens (2016-2018), he was beloved in Baltimore by coaches, teammates and fans. In addition to making it to the Pro Bowl those three seasons, Weddle was a team leader who helped in the development of younger players in the secondary.
When Weddle retired the first time after spending the 2019 season with the Rams, he said he considered himself a Raven and expressed interest in working for the team in some capacity in the future.
"Of course. There's no doubt," Weddle told Zrebiec at the time. "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."
What Are the Ravens' Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for the Offseason?
With the offseason officially underway, Pro Football Focus determined the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team.
The best-case scenario for the Ravens is to select University of Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie in the first round and re-sign veterans Calais Campbell and Justin Houston to friendly deals, according to PFF's Anthony Treash.
"Injuries decimated Baltimore's chances of making the playoffs in 2021. With a healthy Lamar Jackson, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, they should get back to competing for a postseason spot in 2022," Treash wrote. "And what would help their cause even more is bringing back interior defensive lineman Calais Campbell and edge defender Justin Houston on friendly deals after they finished as the first- and second-highest graded players on their defense last year.
"Along with that, pairing Humphrey and Peters with first-round cornerback prospect Trent McDuffie would be ideal. McDuffie earned an 80.0-plus PFF grade as a true freshman, sophomore and junior thanks to his awareness, athleticism, physicality and tackling."
Treash's contention that the Ravens should draft McDuffie is contrary to the popular opinion that the team's priorities in the draft should be strengthening the offensive and defensive lines. He said selecting an offensive or defensive lineman with the 14th overall selection is actually part of the worst-case scenario.
Treash isn't alone in his thinking about McDuffie. In The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer’s latest mock draft, he has the Ravens selecting the cornerback.
Shaffer reasoned that it would be wise for the Ravens to invest in another high-end cornerback because they play in a division with the Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow and his elite wide receiver trio, and in a conference with the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen and Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert.
The other part of Treash's worst-case scenario is that the Ravens let key impending free-agents walk. Campbell and Houston were the only players he mentioned. Other significant impending free agents include center Bradley Bozeman, defensive tackle Brandon Williams, safety DeShon Elliott and fullback Patrick Ricard.
On a side note, Treash's best-case scenario for the Bills is for them to bring in veteran help. He specifically mentioned Campbell.
"If Baltimore lets him walk, bringing him in on a one-year deal would be significant for Buffalo's run defense," Treash wrote.
Campbell has made it clear that his sole motivation for returning for a 15th season is to win a Super Bowl. The Chiefs and Bills are currently the top two favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next year.
ESPN Pundit Says Ravens Should Consider Signing Antonio Brown
When DeCosta was asked at his season-ending press conference about Antonio Brown's desire to play with the Ravens, the GM said he was comfortable with where the team is with its wide receivers and doesn't expect to make any significant additions.
That hasn't stopped pundits from talking about the possibility of Brown signing with the Ravens. Photos on social media of the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and Jackson hanging out at the Super Bowl has reignited the discussion.
ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum and Kimberley Martin touched on the topic on "Get Up."
"I would consider Antonio Brown," Tannenbaum said. "[Rashod] Bateman's OK, he's not great. Bringing Sammy Watkins back would help, but clearly they don't have a bona fide, front line, No. 1 wide receiver."
That's a questionable take. After missing the first five games of the season with a groin injury, Bateman was a chain-mover and showed flashes of why the Ravens drafted him in the first round. Let's see what a healthy Bateman can do in Year 2 before dismissing him as just "OK."
And are we really doing the whole No. 1 wide receiver thing again? Let's not overlook that Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is coming off a 1,000-yard season and Mark Andrews was the best pass-catching tight end in the league this past season.
But I digress.
Martin said the Ravens have impact players, but they could use more.
When she was asked if Brown was the answer, Martin said: "It appears Lamar might want that to be the answer to the question, but this is a Ravens organization that had the opportunity to go after Antonio Brown, and conversations I had previously, did not seem they were interested in Antonio.
"But the more these two hang out, and the more we talk about how this team could use some more weapons, that AB question isn't going to disappear."
Brown, who turns 34 in July, is still performing at a high level. In a combined 15 games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the past two seasons, Brown had 87 catches for 1,028 yards and eight touchdowns.
Of course, any discussion about Brown has to include his history of off-the-field issues and the fact that he has worn out his welcome with four organizations.
Ravens' Rookie Class Receives a 'B' Grade
NFL.com’s Nick Shook gave the Ravens' 2021 rookie class a "B" grade, but he also is among those who believe the team needs more weapons at wide receiver.
"After a hype-filled preseason, Bateman's debut was delayed by injury. While he finished with a decent rookie campaign, he also averaged less than 50 yards per game, leaving Ravens fans still hungry for a game-changing receiver," Shook wrote.
Shook was complimentary of the Ravens' other first-round pick, outside linebacker Odafe Oweh.
"Oweh stormed out of the gate with three sacks and two forced fumbles in his first five games, and though he cooled off down the stretch, he scored a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie Team," Shook wrote.
Shook noted that offensive guard Ben Cleveland, a third-round pick, "worked his way into the lineup late in the season, largely performing at an average level before finishing with a solid game in Week 18."
Regarding defensive back Brandon Stephens, Baltimore's other third-round pick, Shook wrote: "A former college running back and cornerback, Stephens switched to safety in the pros, then stepped into a starting role following multiple significant injuries in Baltimore's secondary. He played solid football and has room to grow."
Lamar Jackson Drops to No. 14 in NFL.com's QB Rankings
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal ranked all 62 quarterbacks who started a game this past season.
After an injury-hampered season, Jackson dropped to No. 14. He was No. 1 in 2019 and No. 7 in 2020.
"Lamar looked like an MVP candidate through five weeks, then hit the roughest stretch of his career, including four missed games," Rosenthal wrote.
Tyler Huntley came in at No. 26, finishing ahead of quarterbacks such as the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, Chicago Bears' first-round pick Justin Fields, No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the New Orleans Saints' Taysom Hill.
"Huntley's sour finish in close losses to the Rams and Steelers shouldn't distract from his strong body of work in four starts and two relief outings as a second-year player," Rosenthal wrote. "He's already one of the best backups in football and may develop into a mid-tier starter elsewhere, like Tyrod Taylor once did when he left Baltimore."
Veteran Josh Johnson, who made one start for the Ravens and played in three games with the New York Jets, was No. 35.
"He played clean, aggressive football in his start for the Ravens and finished 13th(!) out of 54 quarterbacks in PFF's grading among quarterbacks with 50 dropbacks," Rosenthal wrote. "How does a quarterback this talented and heady struggle to find even backup roles for a decade and a half? Johnson deserves better."
- The Ravens are No. 16 in CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco’s post-Super Bowl power rankings.