Late for Work 8/24: Former Ravens Among Safety Options After Earl Thomas Release 

DB DeShon Elliott

Former Ravens Among Safety Options After Earl Thomas Release

Based on Head Coach John Harbaugh's comments following the release of veteran safety Earl Thomas III, third-year safety DeShon Elliott is in line to become the starter.

The Ravens love Elliott's potential, but if they go with him as a direct in-house replacement, there are concerns about his ability to stay healthy. Elliott played in six games in his first two seasons.

"What Elliott possesses in potential, he equally has lacked in durability," Baltimore Beatdown's Spencer Schultz wrote. 

That could prompt the Ravens to explore free agent options to add depth at the position, and two former players stand out as potential targets.

"If the Ravens decide to sign a player to start at safety, they might consider a few familiar faces," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "There's the aforementioned [Brandon] Carr, who remains a free agent but has started 192 straight games in the NFL, which suggests that he'd be able to prepare himself to play quickly."

Carr turned 34 in May but there are reasons why a reunion would make sense. He saw time at safety last season to give the Ravens depth in the secondary. Baltimore explored this with older cornerbacks like Lardrius Webb in the past and had success.

Not to mention, Carr's durability and experience in Wink Martindale's defense are a big plus in a shortened offseason.

Another option could be Tony Jefferson, who is recovering from a significant knee injury. Jefferson was one of the most well-respected figures in the Ravens' locker room during his time in Baltimore, but a signing would likely hinge on his recovery timeline.

ESPN's Josina Anderson reported that Jefferson is two to four weeks away from beginning team visits and there is reportedly interest from four to six teams.

"He does bring experience and knowledge of the Ravens' defensive scheme with him, and he appears to be fully recovered after his surgery," Ravens Wire's Neil Dutton wrote. "He would be a low-cost option at this time, and probably one best suited to a rotational role and not on every down."

The Ravens could also look to other free agents such as Logan Ryan. Ryan is looking to make the transition from cornerback to safety and played under former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees in Tennessee last season.

"Look at the numbers — 100 tackles, four sacks, four forced fumbles, the pass break-ups, the INTs," Ryan said on NFL Network's 'Good Morning Football.' "I just feel like that's not really possible too much at just playing corner, so could a team move me around a lot? I was a versatile player, a matchup guy, similar to a Tyrann Mathieu, maybe a Justin Simmons. I feel like that was more the position I was playing last year for Pees, as opposed to a true traditional corner, so it's hard to compare me to that."

Ravens Could Have Interest in Ezekiel Ansah Again

The Ravens could have interest in a player they pursued last offseason. According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, free-agent pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah is on their radar.

Ansah visited the Ravens last April before signing a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks. He appeared in 11 games, totaling 2.5 sacks.

Ansah has shown Pro Bowl potential, but shoulder issues have limited him in recent seasons.

Aside from tagging Matthew Judon, the only true outside linebacker the Ravens added this offseason was Pernell McPhee, but Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens questioned if they're really in the market for a pass rusher right now.

"While there's plenty of excitement about the Ravens potentially adding in another highly productive free agent, they don't necessarily have a need for Ansah quite yet," Stevens wrote. "They added Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe this offseason, pushing Brandon Williams back inside to nose tackle. As it stands right now, Baltimore is going to have a bunch of tough decisions to make on the defensive line as they trim down to the 53-man roster limit in early September."

New Linebacker Core Key to Defensive Success

Elliott isn't the only young defender the Ravens are excited about. The additions of linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison have already been felt throughout the start of training camp.

Both rookies will look to provide stability at a position that got shuffled midway through last season, and The Baltimore Sun's Daniel Oyefusi believes it could be a difference maker for the defense.

"After investing two of their early draft picks on inside linebackers, and bringing back [L.J] Fort for his first full season in the scheme, the Ravens boast a position group that could relieve the ails of January's season-ending playoff loss to the Titans," Oyefusi wrote. "The investment of draft capital in Queen and Harrison, first- and third-round picks, respectively, showed the desire of a team seeking to resolve a key issue that derailed a promising season. Queen projects as a smaller, new-age linebacker who has the speed to cover sideline to sideline, while Harrison is a larger player who also runs well.

"... The trio of Queen, Harrison and Fort gives the Ravens reason to believe there will be a noticeable improvement from last season when early struggles with run fits and pass coverage played a role in shoddy defensive showings."

This time last year the linebacker group looked a lot different. Fast forward one year later and two rookies could be starting Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns.

There's a certain excitement about Queen and Harrison, whose skill sets complement each other. Even with two less-experienced players, pundits still have confidence in their talent.

Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr and the Ringer's Kevin Clark mentioned Queen among the candidates who could win Defensive Rookie of the Year.

"I would also say that Queen has a nice chance, just because he's going to be a dependable, sturdy guy on a really good team that's winning a lot of games," Clark said. "It's not going to take much to be a key part of that defense and get a lot of love from national broadcasts."

Pundits Debate Ravens' Most Exciting Regular Season Matchup

We're less than three weeks away from the start of the regular season and if you're like me, you can't wait to see the Ravens back in game action.

The GMFB crew had some fun and debated which Ravens regular season game it's looking forward to the most. Like many, Kyle Brandt pointed to the early-season matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"I think if we were to power rank all 512 [games], the No. 1 must-see game is right there in Week 3," Brandt said. " … Is there a game you're more excited to see in the entire NFL this year than [Patrick] Mahomes versus Lamar in Baltimore for the first time? … This is the one for me guys. I like that it's Week 3, because it's not Week 1. We'll get a couple of weeks to shake off the rust. It's not late in the season so maybe there's less chance of injuries. This should be two healthy, primed teams."

Mahomes and the Chiefs have gotten the better of the Ravens the past two seasons, but both games have been must-watch television. It's no surprise that pundits like ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Field Yates ranked it as the matchup they've got circled on the NFL calendar.

"While I'm keenly aware of the fact Mahomes and Jackson will play precisely zero snaps on the field at the same time, any game in which these two are involved is more than enough to get excited about," Yates wrote.

Nate Burleson said he's looking forward to another rematch between Jackson and Deshaun Watson in Week 2.

But Peter Schrager couldn't resist choosing a divisional matchup. He's excited for a Thanksgiving night game between the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. It's slated to be the first time Jackson and Ben Roethlisberger will face each other as starters.

"I appreciate the razzle dazzle and the athleticism, but how about a hard-hitting game in cold weather with grandma watching on the couch?" Schrager said. "[T]ake me to Week 12 and let's see Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh. … Since 2008, 14 times the Steelers and the Ravens have played it's been decided by less than three points. I think this Steelers' defense is going to be liking it's chops to get another shot at Jackson."

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