Tony Jefferson is saying no to the extra bags of cash and yes to immediately contending for an AFC North title.
The safety, ranked No. 14 in NFL.com’s Top 101 Free Agents, is expected to sign with the Baltimore Ravens, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the negotations. Rapoport added that Jefferson is walking away from a more lucrative offer from the Cleveland Browns to instead sign with the former Cleveland Browns, now known as the Ravens.
Cleveland had been reported as having a legitimate shot at signing the Cardinals safety on Wednesday afternoon, with NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reporting the Browns were offering way more money than the Ravens. But the Ravens have veteran safety Eric Weddle on their roster, who Garafolo suggested might have been the catalyst in convincing Jefferson to turn down the additional dollars to join the Ravens.
We won’t get a Scrooge McDuck-diving-into-gold-coins celebration from Jefferson, but Baltimore will be getting a player who many considered to be the top safety on the market. NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling described Jefferson as “one of the league’s unsung stars,” who “outplayed the more ballyhooed Tyrann Mathieu last season, consistently making impact plays at the line of scrimmage as well as in coverage.”
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The addition gives Baltimore one of the league’s more enviable safety pairings, despite Weddle being closer to the twilight of his career than the genesis. It brings more certainty to the back end of a secondary that has become unsettled with the release of corner Shareece Wright and safety Kendrick Lewis, and possible release of Lardarius Webb, who played safety in 2016. Jefferson’s addition also brings instant personnel credibility to a unit that collectively overachieved in a late-season playoff push that ultimately fell short.
Ross told NFL.com on Monday that he has visits scheduled for next month with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
The former Washington wide receiver is among the elite prospects at his position for the 2017 NFL Draft. Between a breakout season on the field (1,150 yards, 17 touchdowns) last year, and a NFL Scouting Combine-record 4.22 40-yard dash set a few weeks ago, Ross is positioned well for the draft among top receivers, along with Clemson’s Mike Williams and Western Michigan’s Corey Davis.
The Ravens are among the NFL clubs that are in need of draft help at the wide receiver position. The Ravens hold the No. 16 overall pick in the draft, and he’s projected to be selected by the Ravens in the mock drafts of NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks and Charley Casserly. NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah ranks Ross as the No. 22 player available.
Baltimore made a splash by luring former Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson away from two suitors — the Jets and Browns — who offered significantly more cash.
The Ravens then added versatile running back Danny Woodhead before re-signing their own big piece of the puzzle, mammoth nose tackle Brandon Williams, to a five-year, $54 million contract. When that deal went down, the defensive lineman loomed as the top free-agent prize remaining on the open market.
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Jefferson’s story says plenty about the Ravens. Instead of cashing in with a rebuilding club, he took less coin to play for an ultra-consistent organization run by Newsome and coach John Harbaugh and stocked with accomplished veterans like fellow safety Eric Weddle, who called up Jefferson and lobbied him to sign with the Ravens.
Baltimore could use more help at cornerback and linebacker and Newsome noted the front office is “still looking to do some other things at receiver and maybe offensive line.”
Amid whispers the team is eyeing former Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, Newsome said: “We still have the opportunity in free agency to address (the secondary), and then we’ll be looking forward to the draft.”
As Ravens fans know, Ozzie always has a plan.