Eric Weddle, Will Hill form one of league's top safety tandems
The deal: According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, former San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle has signed a four-year, $26 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens.
What it means for the Ravens: By signing free agent Eric Weddle, Baltimore has instantly created one of the league’s best safety pairings, teaming the former Charger up with Will Hill to create a versatile and talented duo.
Weddle has led the PFF rankings for safeties in two of the past four seasons, been in the top five in five of the past six seasons, and top 10 in six of the past seven. 2015 was his worst year since 2008, and the first time since that season that he has earned a negative grade against the run.
From 2009 to 2014, he earned a positive grade in every facet PFF measures during every single season of play for the Chargers, often with little help on that defense, acting like a crossing guard for other members of the San Diego secondary in addition to doing his own job.
At 31 years old, Weddle may be in the latter years of his career, but the bottom line is that he has been one of the league’s best safeties over an extended period of time, playing for a defense that has often been bad around him. He plays with the kind of clean feet to mitigate any affects of age on his game, and takes superior angles to the football and ball carrier when he decides to break on the play.
High-level safeties can come in a few different guises, between high-level box safeties, elite single-high free safeties, and all-around safeties that can do it all. Weddle is of the Harrison Smith-style of do-it-all safety, which allows you to do a lot of different things on defense and doesn’t lock your secondary into any one set of coverages.
Will Hill has had his problems in keeping himself on the straight and narrow, but he has been impressive for the Ravens and Giants over the past three seasons, and gives Baltimore the chance to get creative with their safeties when paired with Weddle. Each member of the new duo has the ability to play deep, in the box, or each take a half of the field and match responsibilities. This means that the Ravens can play pretty much every coverage in the book with equal proficiency, and potentially become harder for an offense to diagnose and prepare for.
NFL offenses are only getting better at picking apart coverages, and having versatile safeties is a huge bonus to any defense in a league that is running short on them. The Ravens just added a second one to their roster, and Eric Weddle just might hold the password to unlocking the full potential of this Baltimore defense.