In the midst of a defensive overhaul, the Baltimore Ravens have decided to focus on building their defense around the secondary.
During the past week, the Ravens said farewell to defensive standouts Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle, making the addition of free agent safety Earl Thomas a welcome one for Ravens fans.
Thomas has drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed throughout his career. The two are similar in stature -- Reed is 5-foot-11 and Thomas 5-foot-10 -- and also in the way they play the game, minus the unrivaled ability Reed always had in finding the ball.
"Similar in instinct, similar in taking tremendous angles, probably even more acceleration than Ed Reed, but not the ball hawk," former NFL quarterback and current Seahawks analyst Brock Huard said on
Glenn Clark Radio
March 14. "There are very few that ever put a uniform on that played the ball like Ed Reed did."
However, Thomas does have a fairly long list of injuries that he has dealt with throughout his career, including a broken leg on two separate occasions, a dislocated shoulder and a nagging hamstring injury. Most recently, Thomas suffered a season-ending broken leg last September.
Huard, who works as a color commentator for Seahawks preseason games, did acknowledge Thomas' injury history could affect whether or not he is able to make it all the way through his newly-inked four-year deal. He believes Thomas' previous injuries could potentially limit him to playing two of the four years of his new contract.
But Huard still thinks Thomas is somebody who can help a team win games. If you want a "hyper-active, hyper-competitive, hyper-feisty guy that loves to ball out," then Thomas is the guy for you, according to Huard.
With the losses of Suggs, Mosley and Weddle, the Ravens find themselves without a real vocal leader on the defensive side of the ball. While Thomas may not be the guy who is going to step up and deliver a fiery speech before the game, Thomas will show his leadership ability in other ways.
"Earl is not gonna be sitting there in front of the room communicating to everybody. Earl's gonna be the hyper-intensive guy," said Huard, who played for the Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts from 1999-2004. "… I think Earl fits more in that silo than he does as the ringleader, as the voice, as the captain.
"He is so intense, he will tell you he is married to football. Football is what makes him go. So you're going to get that kind of leadership from his hyper-activity and his hyper-competitiveness, but as far as being a real voice, being anything like a Ray Lewis or an Ed Reed, I just don't think those are traits that land in Earl's column."
The Ravens also gave Tavon Young a three-year, $25.8 million extension, briefly making him the league's highest-paid nickel back. Veteran Jimmy Smith remains on the roster despite speculation he'd be released due to his high cap number ($15.6 million in 2019) and his struggles staying on the field.
It's also clear that cornerback Marlon Humphrey, the team MVP in 2018, may well be a player worth investing in long term. The earliest the Ravens could extend him would be a year from now.
"I think there could be some wisdom in it," Huard said, "and by the way, in [the] AFC with some of the guys that can throw the ball around, you better be able to cover."
Having a veteran in Thomas to help Young, Humphrey and the rest of the secondary should be extremely beneficial when building around them. Not only will Thomas be able to impart his wisdom on young defensive backs, but he will still get a great opportunity to make an impact on a contending team.
"I think for Earl Thomas and the way he's wired, he gets a tremendous fit, the contract he was looking for," Huard said, "and you guys are going to fall in love with Earl Thomas, much like the city of Seattle has the last decade."
To hear more from Huard, listen to the full interview here: