What To Make Of Jefferson, Woodhead News
Ozzie Newsome was working late.
If you went to bed early last night (like me), you missed a busy night of Ravens news (thanks to Ryan Mink for covering all of it).
No contracts can be signed until the new league year officially opens at 4 p.m. today, and the team has not confirmed the moves.
The moves helped reverse the mood in Baltimore after a difficult afternoon where the Ravens cut veteran pass rusher Elvis Dumervil and saw their unrestricted free agent right tackle Rick Wagner and fullback Kyle Juszczyk reportedly reach deals with the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, respectively.
Here's a closer look at Baltimore's reported new additions (keep in mind that these are all reported verbal agreements until contracts are signed) and what they mean for the Ravens.
Jefferson Will Give Ravens Top-End Safety Duo
It will be tough to find a better safety duo than what the Ravens have on paper with Jefferson and veteran Eric Weddle. They were ranked by Pro Football Focus as two of the top five safeties in the NFL last season.
"The Baltimore Ravens significantly improve their secondary by adding the best safety in free agency," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle form perhaps the top safety tandem in the NFL.
"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."
Playing alongside Weddle, a four-time Pro Bowler, is certainly an attractive assignment for any defensive back. Weddle reportedly helped recruit Jefferson to Baltimore, according to the NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, and the free-agent safety plans to leave a bigger contract offer from the Cleveland Browns on the table.
Don't forget that Weddle actually reached out to Jefferson on Twitter a few weeks ago.
The biggest question is how the Ravens will use Jefferson and Weddle. Jefferson played strong safety with Arizona, which is the same role Weddle had last year with Baltimore.
"The only drawback is Jefferson excels in the box, just like Weddle," Hensley wrote. "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."
No contract details have been reported yet for Jefferson, but The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec believes Jefferson's arrival "jeopardizes Lardarius Webb's future with the team, and adds another decision for the team's front office."
Webb is heading into the final season of his contract and carries a $7.5 million cap hit, according to Spotrac. The Ravens would save $5.5 million in cap room if they released the 31-year-old safety.
Woodhead Can Be Flacco's Best Friend
Jefferson may not have been the only player Weddle helped lure to Baltimore. Woodhead's decision to join the Ravens means he will reunite with Weddle, his San Diego Chargers teammate for three seasons.
Weddle and Woodhead "shared an affinity for early morning workouts as Chargers teammates from 2013-15," and "no doubt [Weddle] recruited Woodhead to join him in Baltimore," wrote Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union Tribune.
The 32-year-old running back gives the Ravens veteran depth at the position. Rapoport reported that Woodhead is now "fully healthy" after tearing his ACL last season. When he was healthy in 2015, Woodhead had 98 carries for 356 yards and three touchdowns, and also caught 80 passes for 755 yards and six scores.
"The big winner here, if Woodhead can shake the injury bug, is Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco," Krasovic wrote. "Woodhead is a quarterback's best friend on third downs because he's a capable rusher, good blocker and excellent route-runner."
Reaction To Big Contracts For Juszczyk, Wagner
The Ravens knew it would be tough to keep their free agents once they hit the open market.
That's exactly what happened with Juszczyk and Wagner, who both signed contracts making them the NFL's highest-paid players at their respective positions. Wagner will reportedly make $9 million annually, and Juszczyk will get $21 million over the next four years, including $10.5 million guaranteed.
Juszczyk's nice payday caught the eye of his friend and former teammate Michael Campanaro.
Wagner's expected departure reminded WNST's Luke Jones of when Ravens former offensive tackle Michael Oher joined the Tennessee Titans in free agency three years ago.
"It's worth noting there was much angst with Baltimore's decision to hand the right tackle job to Wagner in 2014 after former first-round pick Michael Oher departed via free agency, but the Wisconsin product would start 45 games over three seasons," Jones wrote. "For what it's worth, the coaching staff believes both [De'Ondre] Wesley and [Stephane] Nembot have potential to develop, but that doesn't mean the Ravens won't pursue another right tackle via free agency or the draft."
Ravens Still In Pursuit Of Williams
The big unknown remaining for the Ravens is the status of defensive tackle Brandon Williams.
He is one of the top free agents on the market, and there have not been any concrete reports linking him to another team. Zrebiec reported that he's hearing "a lot of rumblings about Williams and the Giants," but that the Ravens are still "very much in the mix for him."
"The Ravens are still hopeful that they can re-sign nose tackle Brandon Williams, the team's top offseason priority, but they've been unable to meet his asking price to this point," Zrebiec wrote. "Retaining Williams and securing Jefferson would represent a nice turnaround [after losing Juszczyk and Wagner]."
Pay Cut For Pitta?
The Ravens have created cap room over the last few days by releasing Dumervil, Shareece Wright and Kendrick Lewis. More moves could be on the way, and Zrebiec reported that one option is trying to get tight end Dennis Pitta to take a pay cut.
According to Zrebiec, the Ravens have already approached Pitta about reducing his salary, but "it's unclear whether the sides will be able to work something out."
Pitta, 31, led all NFL tight ends with 86 receptions last year. His resurgent season came after he worked his way back from two major hip injuries that many thought would end his career.
Pitta reportedly took a pay cut before last season, then earned back most of that money in performance-based incentives. He is scheduled to carry a $7.7 million cap hit this season, according to Spotrac.
Ravens Bid Farewell To Dumervil
The Ravens cleared $6 million in cap space by releasing Dumervil Wednesday, according to Spotrac. Baltimore is still open to a return if the sides can agree on a new deal, but Zrebiec wrote that Dumervil "almost certainly" will play elsewhere next season.
Dumervil said goodbye to Baltimore with a classy message posted on Twitter, and a number of media members and former teammates wished him well at this next stop.