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Safety Valve

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Ravens could use help at safety

Last week, I wrote about how, year in and year out, Eric DeCosta puts on an absolute masterclass in unearthing talented veteran free agents and bringing them in at low costs. In that article, I argued that he should sign edge rusher Markus Golden, a player who could really benefit this team. However, there is still another hole on this roster—safety.

National and local analysts alike have been clamoring for the Ravens to bring in one of the many high-caliber safeties on the market. Justin Simmons! Jamal Adams! Quandre Diggs! The list of cap casualties still in free agency goes on and on. And, I agree with these analysts… partially. The Ravens do need a third safety after Geno Stone’s departure to Cincinnati. Outside of established starters Marcus Williams and All-Pro Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens have only 2021 undrafted free agent Ar’Darius Washington, 2023 7th-round pick Sanoussi Kane from Purdue, and 2023 UDFA Beau Brade out of Maryland.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t have confidence in these guys, because I do. Washington has developed significantly throughout his time in Baltimore. Kane had a solid career out in West Lafayette. I’m very high on Brade who was seemingly all over the field at Maryland and was a guy whom many expected to go in the 4th round. Yet, the fact of the matter is that Kane and Brade are rookies and Washington has only appeared in eight career games. I really think that at least one of them can turn into a legitimate role-player on this team… down the road. A team with Super Bowl aspirations needs an experienced player who’s already proven he can make it in the National Football League to fill this hole, both for his on-field performance and how he can help others develop.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of safeties still on the market, including a surprising number of big-name guys. I do agree with other pundits that the Ravens should snag one of them… but I don’t think that it should be a high-profile veteran. While it would be great to bring, say, a Justin Simmons into the fold, there are better solutions for a team with multiple needs and just over $6M in cap space.

So, I once again scoured the market to find a guy who fits the bill of a proven veteran who’s continued to play good football, but also one who can be obtained on a cheap contract. And the perfect match is Jayron Kearse.

Free agent safety Jayron Kearse
Photo Credit: Mitchell Leff, Getty Images

Sitting at age 30, Kearse is someone who’s been around a while but also, as Roquan Smith would put it, has “a lot of tread left on those tires.” Taken by the Vikings in the 7th round of the 2016 Draft, he’s also a player who can really connect with Washington, Kane, and Brade. And, this late into his career, Kearse has shown he can still be an effective player. He spent last season in Dallas, where he made 72 combined tackles, picked off a pass, and logged 1.5 sacks as a member of the Cowboys. Those numbers certainly aren’t eye-popping, but they’re rock-solid. What’s really important, is that he allowed a passer rating of just 79.6 in coverage last year while missing only 4% of tackles. He appeared in 16 games, playing 83% of the snaps, and has never played in less than 11. In fact, he’s appeared in at least 14 games in eight of his nine NFL seasons. That durability is absolutely critical for someone who’s expected to be a depth piece, especially on a team that’s looking to play in February.

What’s really enticing about Kearse is the fact that he was a 7th-round pick. While that won’t affect his on-field performance, it’s certainly significant when it comes to his off-field impact. Washington, Kane, and Brade were either undrafted or went in the 7th, and they’ll be able to learn from and connect with Kearse because of that. The veteran will be able to pass along his wisdom on how to climb the depth chart and find a way to play meaningful football along the way to building an extended career. That experience is so incredibly valuable and could accelerate the development of the aforementioned three. Having a mentor like Kearse could make such a huge impact.

Of course, it would be irresponsible not to consider the cost of bringing him in. However, it doesn’t look like Kearse will break the bank—always good news for EDC. His previous contract with the Cowboys was for 2 years and was worth $10M, and, in a vacuum, his performance justifies a similar contract. However, the reality is that the market is oversaturated with safeties, which weakens his bargaining leverage and consequently, brings down his value.

Additionally, seeing that Kearse is still available this late in the year, there doesn’t seem to be much demand for him around the league. Plus, he’s 30, a factor that probably won’t serve to his advantage in negotiations. Taking all of this into account, I think a two-year deal worth up to $8M with $4M in guarantees would be fair. It keeps the door open for the Ravens to add other pieces throughout the offseason while giving a veteran what he wants: job security and good compensation.

Kearse is an all-around good deal for Baltimore, and I strongly believe the team should bring him in. On the field, he’s a good, durable player. Off it, he’ll boost the development of young Washington, Kane, and Brade. The contract won’t be too difficult to swallow, either.

Jayron Kearse is the type of player the Ravens love. He really does check all the boxes.

EDC, let’s bring him to Baltimore.

The post Safety Valve appeared first on Russell Street Report.


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