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Ravens To Sign S Earl Thomas, RB Mark Ingram

March 13, 2019
After watching their top-ranked defense gutted in the past few days, the Ravens recouped one of those losses when they agreed to terms with All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks, and then they bolstered their offense by signing former New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram. 

The deals will be conditional on the passing of physicals and can become official at 4 p.m. March 13, the start of the new league year in the NFL. 

Thomas received a four-year, $55 million contract with $32 million guaranteed, according to ESPN, and his signing comes after the Ravens  lost four starters and the core of their defensive leadership in the span of four days. 

Ingram, meanwhile, was signed for three years and $15 million, according to the NFL Network, and immediately becomes the most accomplished back in what figures to be a run-first offensive system.

The signing of Thomas shores up the back end of the Ravens' defense with a ball-hawking safety after they released veteran safety Eric Weddle, one of four defensive starters who departed this week. Linebackers C.J. Mosley (New York Jets), Terrell Suggs (Arizona Cardinals) and Za'Darius Smith (Green Bay Packers) were all signed by other teams as free agents.

Thomas, who turns 30 in May, is four years younger than Weddle and, like Weddle, has made the Pro Bowl six times. He is a three-time All-Pro who was part of Seattle's famed "Legion of Boom" defense that was a driving force behind the Seahawks Super Bowl title after the 2013 season. That was one of five straight playoff appearances for Seattle.

A former first-round pick (No. 14 overall) out of Texas, Thomas will pair with Tony Jefferson at the back of the Ravens' defense, and he continues a trend of heavy investment in the secondary by the Ravens. 

Earlier this offseason, the Ravens signed nickel corner Tavon Young to a three-year, $25.8 million extension a year before he was set to hit the open market, then picked up the option on veteran cornerback Brandon Carr and retained Jimmy Smith at a cap figure of roughly $16 million, the highest on the team. In addition, Jefferson is in the third year of a four-year, $34 million deal, and they used a first-round draft pick on cornerback Marlon Humphrey two years ago.

Thomas missed the final 12 games of last season with a broken leg, but he is expected to be fully recovered for this season. He had three interceptions in four games last season before the injury, and has 28 career interceptions. 

Thomas didn't miss a game during his first six years in the league and had a career-high 105 tackles in the Seahawks' Super Bowl season of 2013. 

Ingram, meanwhile, fills one of the major needs on the offensive side, as the Ravens were looking for a proven back who can also contribute in the passing game. 

A first-round pick out of Alabama in 2011, Ingram rushed for 6,007 yards and 50 touchdowns in eight seasons with the Saints. He ran for a career-high 1,124 yards in 2017, his second straight 1,000-yard season. This past year, Ingram missed the first four games of the season serving a suspension for a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Overtaken by Alvin Kamara on the depth chart, Ingram finished with 138 carries for 645 yards and six touchdowns. 

Ingram has also been a reliable receiver out of the backfield, something the Ravens lack with incumbent backs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon. Last year, Ingram caught 21 passes for 170 yards and one touchdown, and he averaged 51 receptions the three previous seasons.

The Ravens have pledged to rebuild their offense "from the ground up" this season, according to new offensive coordinator Greg Roman, but they are still expected to have a run-first approach with quarterback Lamar Jackson.

In five previous seasons as an offensive coordinator, Roman has boasted one of the top rushing teams in the league, and last year, with Roman as the run-game architect, the Ravens ranked second in the league in rushing with 152.6 yards a game. They were the most productive running game in the league during the second half of the season once Jackson became the starting quarterback. 

Jackson, who became the starter in Week 11 after an injury to Joe Flacco, finished with 147 carries -- the most ever by a quarterback in the modern era -- for 695 yards, while Edwards, an undrafted rookie who didn't start until Week 12, led the Ravens with 718 rushing yards after spending the first five weeks on the practice squad. 

Led by a dominant run game and the league's No. 1-ranked defense, the Ravens won six of their final seven regular-season games to win the AFC North title.

Dixon finished with 60 carries for 333 yards after missing 10 games with a knee injury, but his career has been marred by injuries and a pair of suspensions. 

Other than Edwards and Dixon, the Ravens had no running back on the roster with more than one carry; Alex Collins was released after his arrest earlier this month on gun and drug charges, and Buck Allen and Ty Montgomery are free agents. 

So running back -- particularly one who could factor in the passing game -- was viewed as a major area of need. Edwards had two catches for 20 yards last season, while Dixon had six for 51. 

The Ravens still face several holes on the roster, especially given the defensive exodus of the past week. Inside linebacker, interior offensive line and wide receiver remain among the most pressing needs, and general manager Eric DeCosta figures to address those needs in the later, cheaper stages of free agency or in the draft next month. 

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka

This has been updated from its original publication. Details about the addition of Thomas were added.