Free agency officially kicks off on March 13th but the Rams have taken the first safety off the market by signing Eric Weddle. Per ESPN, the six-time Pro Bowler is joining the Rams on a two-year $12.5 million dollar deal ($5.25 million guaranteed). Weddle was released by the Baltimore Ravens in a cap cutting move. Baltimore’s loss is Los Angeles’s gain. Signing Eric Weddle gives their secondary the type of veteran savvy that they sorely needed last season.
The Rams rolled the dice by tagging corner turned safety Lamarcus Joyner after a successful 2017-2018 season. They gambled on him developing into one of the best safeties in the league but it never happened. Joyner was making $11.287 last year and was seeking big money this off-season. His play on the field had moments but not enough to justify the Rams breaking the bank. Instead, they did what the smart teams do (vis a vis the team that walloped them in the Super Bowl) and opted for a cheap vet. This is much like when the Rams opted to let corner Trumaine Johnson walk and use that money to add more pieces to their secondary.
Weddle joins a secondary anchored by corners Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and slot god Nickell Robey-Coleman. This batch of vets combined with emerging star safety John Johnson III once again gives the Rams one of the most formidable secondaries in the league. Sure, there is some concern with Weddle being 34 years old but he doesn’t have an extensive injury history so there’s a risk but its minimal.
He’s one of the most respected defensive players in the league and his smarts along with Wade Phillips‘ ability to draw up complimentary schemes for his secondary give the unit the potential to be more consistent than they were a year ago. Last year the pass defense of the Rams ranked 19th in DVOA according to Football Outsiders. Weddle should help prevent enough big plays to allow that number to go up.
Aside from his age, the other issues lie in the fact that last season was the second time since 2007 that he’s gone without a pick. He’s also not the strongest tackler, and he can’t play in the slot as much as Joyner did last season. Still, the Rams can work around that and it is likely that they use their pick on Weddle’s eventual replacement, so that player can be used in the ways Weddle can’t.
The cost is low and the value he brings on and off the field is quite high. Weddle likely won’t be the only ring chasing vet the Rams pick up given their precarious cap situation. They have roughly $30 million left to work with but a lot of it is aimed at resigning guard Rodger Saffold. These are the types of moves the Rams need to make if they want to return to the Super Bowl.