The Ravens are releasing safety Will Hill this afternoon, paving the way for new signee Eric Weddle.
The announcement comes on the same day Weddle officially inked his new four-year deal.
It also came hours before Hill was reportedly suspended for 10 games under the substance-abuse policy, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. It would be Hill's fourth and longest suspension of his career. The Ravens signed Hill in 2014 after he was cut by the New York Giants and facing a six-game suspension.
Baltimore had a logjam at safety with the addition of Weddle. The Ravens would have had four players who started at least one game at safety last season: Weddle, Hill, Lardarius Webb and Kendrick Lewis.
Releasing Hill roughly frees up a reported $3* *million in salary-cap space, which is more than releasing other safeties would have freed up. It comes about eight months after the Ravens gave Hill a reported two-year, $7 million extension.
Hill, 26, started 14 games last year. He notched 64 tackles, one sack, six passes defensed and one interception.
However, once the Ravens decided to try out Webb at safety, it sent Hill to the sideline more often than Lewis.
The Ravens, who notched an NFL-low six interceptions last season, value Webb’s potential as a playmaker with ball skills. Webb had the best hands of anyone in the secondary last year and the Ravens could see even more plays on the ball when given more space to read and react that he will see in the safety role.
Hill made one interception last year and one in 2014, which he returned for a touchdown against Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Hill’s biggest play last season was on special teams with his game-winning kick-six in Cleveland.
It was clear during Wednesday’s press conference that Head Coach John Harbaugh envisions his starting safeties as Weddle and Webb.
“One of the pluses that we have with both Eric and Lardarius, who are two guys that you might call free safeties in the way it’s been over the years, is that both of these guys can blitz,” Harbaugh said.
“You’re not going to know who’s down and who’s deep, and that can be a big benefit for our defense.”
The Ravens also have 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam and 2014 third-round pick Terrence Brooks at safety, as well as special teams leader Anthony Levine.
Elam had troubles in his first two seasons and missed last year with a torn biceps. Brooks is one of the faster and more athletic players in the secondary, but is still learning the game and getting comfortable.
While Webb hasn’t played a lot of safety since his college years, he and Weddle will provide two veteran leaders with a knack for playmaking on the back end of Baltimore’s defense.