A Plethora of Reactions to Eric Weddle's Reported Release
The news that the Ravens reportedly cut veteran safety Eric Weddle yesterday sparked a wave of reactions from reporters, pundits, players and fans that ranged from analytical to emotional.
The reported release of the 34-year-old Weddle – who spent the past three seasons with the Ravens and made the Pro Bowl in 2018 for the sixth time in his career, as a key member of a defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL – was not totally unexpected, although it did come as a shock to some, including NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who broke the news on Twitter
Weddle, who said after the season ended that he would retire if the Ravens did not bring him back for what would be his 13th season, subsequently softened his stance, and he again indicated last night that he intends to continue playing.
So how will Weddle's departure impact the Ravens?
From a strictly financial standpoint, the move creates $7.5 million of cap space, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley. The Ravens have several other key defensive players on the verge of reaching free agency, including Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley, franchise all-time sack leader Terrell Suggs, and last year's sack leader Za'Darius Smith. Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta has made it clear that he hopes to re-sign Mosley and Suggs.
"Combined with other offseason moves, Weddle's release gives the Ravens about $37 million in salary cap space before they offer restricted free agent tenders or sign any players," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "That's enough to be aggressive in free agency but it doesn't rank among NFL's leaders or give Baltimore the leeway to spend wildly."
Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler wrote: "The Baltimore Ravens cutting Eric Weddle wasn't avoidable. ... Eric DeCosta has a worrisome to-do list and cap space had to be cleared. Weddle was a coach on the field and a great leader and that had value. He was set to get paid to be more than that. Part of DeCosta's job is looking into the future and avoiding a bad situation. Weddle, who will be 35 this time next year, has a limited amount of football left in the tank. He ended his run with the Ravens as a Pro Bowl free safety, not as a liability to the team in a fight with father time."
There are varying opinions as to how the absence of Weddle, who started every game during his tenure with the Ravens, will affect the team on the field.
Statistically speaking, Weddle, who spent his first nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers, recorded a career-low three passes defensed last season and did not have an interception after tallying six in 2017.
However, during Weddle's three seasons in Baltimore, "the Ravens allowed the second-lowest passer rating (80.0), third-lowest completion rate (60.3 percent) and seventh-fewest passing yards (10,505)," Hensley wrote.
Of course, it goes without saying that numbers and even one's own eyes don't always tell the entire story. Weddle's reputation for being a coach on the field and a leader in the locker room is well-earned.
"His football intelligence was key in the defense's success and allowed Baltimore to continually change coverages to keep teams off-balance," Hensley wrote of Weddle, who took over signal-calling duties after Mosley suffered a knee injury in September.
Perhaps Kasinitz summed it up best: "We won't be able to aptly assess what Weddle's release means to the defense until we know what the unit will look like. All we know now is that it's going to look different. Perhaps very different.
"Tony Jefferson remains in place at strong safety and the Ravens have a few young options at the position, but they could choose to make a push to sign Weddle's replacement through free agency. Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu and Earl Thomas headline a star-studded pack of available safeties."
It's also not out of the realm of possibility that the Ravens re-sign Weddle.
"The Ravens and Weddle could consider a reunion at a cheaper price tag in a few weeks," Kasinitz wrote.
One thing that is indisputable is that Weddle was beloved by his Ravens teammates, many of whom expressed their affection for him on social media after his release had been reported.
Will Ravens Pursue Mathieu?
As previously noted, a number of highly regarded safeties who are younger than Weddle are pending free agents, including the Houston Texans' Mathieu.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora said he expects the Ravens to pursue the 26-year-old, who signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Texans after the Arizona Cardinals released him a year ago.
According to The Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson, the Texans are making a push to retain Mathieu and have made him a preliminary offer.
Mathieu, an All-Pro with the Cardinals in 2015, said after the Texans' loss to the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC wild-card playoff game in January that returning to Houston is "extremely important" to him.
"The coaching staff really embraced me coming into this season, focusing on one position, not having to bounce around," Mathieu said at the time. "I think a lot of guys in my room, I want to be in the room with those guys again next year. We just want to get it right and we don't want it to end the way it did this year."
Mathieu, who had 89 tackles, eight passes defensed and two interceptions last season, is ranked 10th on NFL.com's list of the top 101 free agents. He is the third-highest safety on the list, trailing the Seattle Seahawks' Thomas (No. 2) and the Giants' Collins (No. 5). Weddle is ranked 48th.
Report: 'Very Real Possibility*'* Suggs Plays Elsewhere
Despite the mutual desire of Suggs and the Ravens for him to return to Baltimore for his 17th season, a report by La Canfora reinforced that there's no guarantee of that happening.
Speculating on what the market for Suggs could be, Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox wrote last week: "For a contending team like the Patriots, the Los Angeles Rams or the Kansas City Chiefs, Suggs could be the kind of veteran presence who helps deliver a Lombardi Trophy."
Mistaken Identity: The Other Eric Weddle
A number of fans tweeted to @ericweddle yesterday to wish him well or recruit him to their favorite team. Unfortunately, the safety didn't receive any of them.
That's because his Twitter handle is @weddlesbeard. Those fans were actually tweeting to another individual with the same name. The "other Eric Weddle" is an education journalist with WFYI public media in Indiana, an affiliate of NPR.
The not-so-famous Eric Weddle displayed a great sense of humor after his Twitter notifications exploded, as he replied to many of the tweets.