Not more than an hour after posting a roughly 1,000 word expose on the Ravens plans (or perceived lack thereof) at the safety position, the organization announced that they agreed to a one-year deal with former St. Louis Ram, Darian Stewart.
Who?, you might ask. Well, I’ll admit that the undrafted Stewart had flown under the radar of myself and seemingly most organizations. Smith started six of 13 games last season, totaling 36 tackles, four pass breakups and one forced fumble. These statistics aren’t eye-opening, however, they demonstrate somewhat of an ability to find the football. His decreased playing time could have been because of the coaching change that took place in 2012 when the Rams hired Jeff Fisher. Fisher took the job from Steve Spagnuolo, who was hired by the Ravens last season as a consultant. In January of this year, the Ravens promoted Spagnuolo to secondary coach.
It was in Spagnuolo’s final year with the Rams that Darian Stewart had his best season as a pro. In his second season out of South Carolina, Stewart had 91 tackles, three sacks, two force fumbles and an interception that he returned for a touchdown against none other than Drew Brees. He appears to be capable of being a productive pro, but we should keep in mind that the 2011 Rams were a defense that allowed the seventh most points of any in the league. So, he isn’t going to single handedly solve any problems.
What is most interesting about this whole thing is that Stewart has been listed as a strong safety for his whole career. The Ravens need at safety is for a versatile defender who can make plays on the back end. It is very possible that Steve Spagnuolo has seen enough in his time with Stewart that he feels as though he could be that guy. Stewart, despite going undrafted, ran a 4.53 forty at the 2010 Combine, to go along with a 37″ vertical and a 10’2″ broad jump, demonstrating above average quick-twitch athleticism. However, there seems to be no doubt that Stewart is a strong safety.
At 25 years old, there is no reason to believe that Stewart is done progressing as a pro. Spagnuolo saw enough in him to start him in 13 games in 2011, on an admittedly terrible 2-14 team. However, his performance demonstrated at least some competence. If he is plugged into a defense like the Ravens, who knows, maybe he will find his stride and be the steal of the offseason. We do know that Stewart was linked with the Panthers about a week ago, so the Ravens were not the only suitors.
But realistically, this is a signing that adds depth and competition to the secondary, and the Ravens will probably still look to add more in the draft. The gravity of the need is lessened a bit, and I can’t help but feel as though there is a decent amount of untapped potential in this signing. But this is something that, until we hear some quotes from the organization and see the terms of the deal, we can’t completely frame at this moment.