Ravens roster analysis: Safeties

Ravens roster analysis: Safeties
February 20, 2014, 10:00 am
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As the Ravens begin the serious work of recrafting their roster for the 2014 season, we are taking a look at each Ravens position group – seeing which players are under contract, which players are free agents and what the group is expected to look like next season.

Yesterday it was the cornerbacks. (Previous position groups can be found via that link. And explanations of free agency terminology can be found here.) Today we look at the safeties.

Note that this analysis looks only at players on the final 53-man roster or injured reserve.

Unrestricted free agents: James Ihedigbo, Jeromy Miles

Restricted free agents: None

Exclusive rights free agents: Omar Brown, Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick

Under contract: Matt Elam

When asked at the "State of the Ravens news conference about the Ravens biggest offseason needs, general manager Ozzie Newsome said, "I think we need to have a more athletic safety in the defense."

Translation: The Ravens essentially played two strong safeties last year in James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam, but that arrangement will not be repeated. Elam, the first-round draft pick last year, will move to strong safety and the Ravens will go out and find an athletic free safety.

The Ravens like Ihedigbo's emotion and physical play, and he finished with 98 tackles and three interceptions last year. He could draw a starter's contract on the open market, and the Ravens won't get into any bidding war there. If the market cools, Ihedigbo could return but it would most likely be as a backup to Elam and special teams ace.

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Elam finished with 76 tackles and one interception and the Ravens expect big things from him as a second-year player at his more natural position.

It's likely the Ravens starting free safety is not on the current roster. Omar Brown, Anthony Levine and Bryden Trawick all saw mainly special teams duty last year and assuming the Ravens sign them as cheap exclusive-rights free agents, they will begin camp squarely on the roster bubble again.

The Ravens took the fairly cheap route to safety help last year, signing Michael Huff to a three-year, $6 million deal that proved to be a bust as he was let go in midseason. Don't be surprised if the Ravens open the wallet a little wider to find a safety this time around.

Of course, if they don't like what free agency has to offer, the Ravens could also look to the draft again. Newsome has a well-known affinity for Alabama players, and Crimson Tide safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix could still be on the board at No. 17, when the Ravens pick. But would the Ravens want the back end of their defense manned by a rookie and second-year player? And would they take a safety in the first round two years in a row?