Safety help may not be a pressing need for the Baltimore Ravens, but that could change if there’s a chance to add a former first-round pick in trade. It’s an idea put forward by one NFL writer who believes the Ravens could acquire a Las Vegas Raiders defensive back on the cheap.
The player concerned is being touted as a potential replacement for Marcus Williams, the free safety now on injured reserve. It’s an intriguing suggestion because the Ravens have already been getting help from within, thanks to Geno Stone’s recent performances and some smarter use of 14th-overall pick Kyle Hamilton.
Trading for another safety may seem like an unnecessary luxury, but the Ravens haven’t been shy in the past about stacking talent at key positions.
2019 First-Rounder Right for Ravens
Johnathan Abram is “a great fit” for the Ravens, according to Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox. He also believes this is a deal the Ravens can afford: “Baltimore has only $3 million in cap space, but that would be enough to add Abram.”
What’s less clear is the role Abram might take on if he were added to the Ravens’ defensive backfield. Knox mentioned the loss of Marcus Williams, who landed on IR after dislocating his wrist against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5.
Abram is versatile enough to play both safety spots, but he’s mostly operated as a strong safety since entering the league as the 27th-overall pick in 2019. That’s where he’s started every game for the Raiders this season, making 40 tackles and breaking up a pass, while the Silver and Black have trusted Duron Harmon as the deepest defender:
One of the key things about Harmon’s pick-six against the Houston Texans in Week 7 was how Abram (24) was playing zone at the linebacker level. It’s where the latter spends most of his time, but it’s also an area where the Ravens are already well stocked.
Hamilton and veteran Chuck Clark are both playing as box safeties who can lock up receivers in short zones, blitz and help to stuff the run. There’s no obvious need for a safety with Abram’s skill-set, unless the Ravens plan to expand how they use Hamilton.
New Arrival Could Free Up Ravens’ Top Pick
The Ravens are starting to trust ex-Notre Dame standout Hamilton with more, the way they did against the Cleveland Browns in Week 7. As Heavy’s Josh Reed pointed out, Hamilton “was very effective as a pass rusher when sent on blitzes. He tied his career-high in total tackles with four and recorded his first career quarterback hit and sack by beating an offensive guard one-on-one with a swift swim move.”
Playing closer to the line has taken away some of Hamilton’s coverage responsibilities, but it hasn’t meant extended playing time for a top-20 pick. He only played 21 snaps against the Browns, per Ravens.com’s Ryan Mink:
Those numbers pale in comparison to the 60 snaps played by both Clark and Geno Stone. The latter has impressed in coverage, but the Ravens originally drafted Hamilton to be a free safety.
It’s a position he still needs to learn at the pro level, something Abram’s arrival would make possible. Having Abram play as part of the front seven would free Hamilton to concentrate more on stepping into the role the Ravens had in mind for Williams when they signed him from the New Orleans Saints in free agency.
Spending more time as the last line of defense wouldn’t prevent Hamilton from still being a factor in Baltimore’s pressure packages. Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald isn’t afraid to send multiple defensive backs on the blitz, the way he did against the Browns, per ESPN’s Matt Bowen:
Plays like these prove safeties are a big part of what the Ravens do defensively. It’s why the team didn’t mind entering the season with Hamilton, Williams, Clark and Stone as viable starters.
Being prepared to load up at the position means the Ravens could make room for Abram, provided the cost of a trade was reasonable. The deal could help Hamilton improve at the position he ultimately needs to make his own.