Who's Out There? - Safeties

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Much of the Ravens' approach when it comes to safeties this offseason depends on whether Ed Reed retires. If he does, the Ravens will have to decide whether to fill-in with what they've got or look outside the organization.

Second-year safety Tom Zbikowski performed well starting in place of Reed for four games this season and Haruki Nakamura expects to be back from his fractured ankle. Both players have primarily been special teams contributors thus far in their careers.

Also, veteran strong safety Dawan Landry is a restricted free agent. Coming off a serious neck injury that took away his 2008 season, Landry improved as the season went on and logged four interceptions and 89 tackles.

So without further adieu, let's see who's out there and their chances of landing with the Ravens.

NOTE: Under the rules of this year's collective bargaining agreement, the Ravens allowed to sign just one unrestricted free agent to a salary of $5.5 (estimated) million or higher. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in a one-year contract with the following years limited to a 30 percent increase. Besides that, the Ravensare not allowed to sign an unrestricted free agent unless one of theirs signs with another team. And the first year salary of the unrestricted free agent signed cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost.

Also, if Ed Reed were to retire, the Ravens would not have to pay Reed the remainder of his contract, but would not be allowed to use that money to sign free agents under the Final Eight rule.

Nick Collins, Green Bay Packers
Restricted; 5-11, 207; 5 years
2009 Stats: 53 tackles, 13 passes defended, 6 interceptions
Collins has been named to the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons. He has good athleticism and great instincts, which allows him to jump routes. That's evidenced by six interceptions this past season and seven in 2008, three of which he returned for touchdowns. Simply put, the former second-round pick is a playmaker. He's looking for a payday and could be franchised by the Packers.
Does it make sense? No
(Upside – Playmaker; Downside – Cost)

Oshiomogho Atogwe, St. Louis Rams
Restricted; 5-11, 210; 5 years
2009 Stats: 74 tackles, 5 passes defended, 2 interceptions
Atogwe is a burgeoning star. In 2007 he logged eight interceptions. In 2008 the free safety had five picks and forced six fumbles. Don't be surprised if the Rams place the franchise tag on Atogwe for a second straight season if they are not able to sign him long-term. In order to steal him, another team would have to swoop in with a big, multi-year contract that the Rams wouldn't be willing to match.
Does it make sense? No
(Upside – Playmaker; Downside – Cost)

Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts
Restricted; 5-11, 203; 4 years
2009 Stats: 95 tackles, 5 passes defended, 4 interceptions
The Colts likely will be hesitant to part with Bethea, who has become a very valuable part of their secondary switching between strong and free safety. He's especially good against the run and is a big hitter. He sometimes struggles in man coverage, however.
Does it make sense? No
(Upside – Run-stuffer; Downside – Cost, Coverage skills)

Darren Sharper, New Orleans Saints
Unrestricted; 6-2, 210; 13 years
2009 Stats: 71 tackles, 15 passes defended, 9 interceptions
Few safeties have had as productive or as long of careers as Sharper. At 34 years old, his age would seem to be a concern, but Sharper has had one of the best seasons of his career and was named to his fifth Pro Bowl. Reports are that he doesn't have the quickness he once did, but Sharper makes up for it with excellent instincts and his knowledge of the game. He is playing out a one-year deal worth a reported $1.7 million, but will likely command more now. Where he signs may depend on if he is offered a multi-year deal.
Does it make sense? Maybe
(Upside – Experience, Playmaker; Downside – Cost, Age)

Roy Williams, Cincinnati Bengals
Unrestricted; 6-0, 220; 8 years
2009 Stats: 28 tackles, 2 passes defended, 0 interceptions
The longtime Dallas Cowboy tried to revive his career in Cincinnati last year, but had his season cut short by a forearm injury that put him on IR after four games. He has played just seven games the past two years. Still, Williams remains a top-tier safety when it comes to stuffing the run, something the Ravens always value. Williams is big, quick around the line of scrimmage and loves to deliver the bone-crunching blows. His weakness has long been in pass coverage.
Does it make sense? Maybe
(Upside – Run-stuffer, Mentality; Downside – Coverage Skills, Injury concerns)

Sean Jones, Philadelphia Eagles
Unrestricted; 6-1, 220; 6 years
2009 Stats: 61 tackles, 5 passes defended, 2 interceptions
Jones had the tall task of replacing legendary safety Brian Dawkins in Philadelphia this past season and did well. He's physical in all areas of the game, excels in stopping the run and is very good on special teams, which would score extra points with Coach John Harbaugh. Jones' struggles come in defending in a deep zone, despite possessing good speed. He has also battled nagging injuries.
Does it make sense? Yes
(Upside – High potential; Downside – Coverage, Injury concerns)

Melvin Bullitt, Indianapolis Colts
Restricted; 6-1, 201; 3 years
2009 Stats: 77 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 interception
The Colts have three quality safeties in Bullitt, Bethea and Bob Sanders. When Sanders comes back from injury this offseason, Bullitt could be odd man out, despite playing well in Sanders' absence. Bullitt is fast and has good size. Perhaps his best bargaining chip is his flexibility, a trait the Ravens love. Originally a cornerback, Bullitt is now able to play both strong and free safety.  Bullitt, 25, went undrafted and still has room to grow.
Does it make sense? Yes
(Upside – Flexibility; Downside – Inexperience)

Other Players to Watch

  • Will Allen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Unrestricted
  • Mike Brown, Kansas City Chiefs, Unrestricted
  • Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh Steelers, Unrestricted
  • Bernard Pollard, Houston Texans, Restricted
  • Jerrad Page, Kansas City Chiefs, Restricted
  • Jermaine Phillips, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Unrestricted
  • Gerald Sensabaugh, Dallas Cowboys, Restricted
  • George Wilson, Buffalo Bills, Restricted
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