Ravens still in market for free safety

Ravens still in market for free safety
March 22, 2014, 10:15 am
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The Ravens have long been expected to add a free safety this offseason, which would allow them to shift Matt Elam, who played free safety most of last year, to his more natural spot at strong safety.

The Ravens did indeed land a safety on Friday, agreeing to terms with former Rams safety Darian Stewart on a one-year deal, but he fits the same strong safety profile as Elam -- good in run support, strong in the box, physical tackler.

Does that mean Elam will stay at free safety? Not likely.

Stewart, originally signed by the Rams as an undrafted rookie out of South Carolina, played 53 games for the Rams, including 19 starts over four seasons. He has one career interceptions (which he returned 27 yards for a touchdown against Drew Brees and the Saints) in 2011. He also has 141 tackles (94 solo), four sacks, 15 passed defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. With the Rams, he played for Steve Spagnuolo, now the Ravens secondary coach.

Stewart presumably helps fill the hole left by James Ihedigbo, who is pursuing free-agent offers and is not expected to return to the Ravens.

Last year Elam and Ihedigbo started alongside each other in the secondary, with Ihedigbo at strong safety and Elam at free safety. It's possible that Stewart will simply replace Ihedigbo in that alignment, which would mean Elam would start again at free safety.

But that's not the Ravens' preference.

After the season, general manager Ozzie Newsome said one of the team's primary needs was "a more athletic safety." The translation is the Ravens are looking for a rangy, athletic ball hawk who can patrol the back end as free safety, which would allow Elam to move to his more natural strong safety position. The Stewart signing doesn't change that.

They will continue to comb the waiver wire and are also expected to look closely at safeties in the draft. In the short term, the Ravens could line up with Stewart and Elam on the field together, but that is essentially the same double-strong-safety alignment they ran last year with Ihedigbo and Elam and are trying to shift away from.

So Stewart adds a veteran presence to the secondary, one who could fill in at either safety spot, but the Ravens are still very much in the market for a starting free safety.

[RELATED: Ravens sign safety Darian Stewart to 1-year deal]