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Former Ravens safety Eric Weddle lands two-year deal with Los Angeles Rams

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Former Ravens safety Eric Weddle lands two-year deal with Los Angeles Rams

LOS ANGELES -- Veteran safety Eric Weddle agreed to a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams on Friday, returning to his native Southern California to join the defending NFC champions' secondary.

The Rams also released starting linebacker Mark Barron, continuing a shuffle of veteran personnel after going 13-3 in the regular season and reaching the Super Bowl last month.

Weddle joins the Rams after a 12-year pro career with San Diego and Baltimore, where he spent the past three seasons. The six-time Pro Bowl selection was released Tuesday after starting all 16 games last year for the Ravens, who elected to get younger.

The 34-year-old Weddle is a year older than Rams coach Sean McVay, but he could be exactly what Los Angeles' secondary needs. He is nearly certain to take the starting job held by Lamarcus Joyner, who is expected to leave as a free agent.

Joyner was a starter for the past two years, but Weddle is widely regarded as one of the NFL's best free safeties. The heavily bearded veteran didn't have an interception last season for just the second time in his career, but he made 68 tackles on the Ravens' stellar defense and played an important leadership role in Baltimore, just as he did in San Diego.

Weddle is also durable, starting all 16 games in nine of the last 11 seasons for the Chargers and Ravens.

He adds even more experience to the Rams' secondary alongside 33-year-old cornerback Aqib Talib and two-time Pro Bowl selection Marcus Peters. Talib is second among active players in career interceptions with 35, while Weddle is ninth with 29.

Promising two-year pro John Johnson is the Rams' other starting safety.

Weddle grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, one of Los Angeles' outer suburbs, before starring at Utah and joining the Chargers as a second-round pick.

Barron started 12 regular-season games and all three playoff games for the Rams last season, making 74 combined tackles. The seven-year pro was the seventh overall pick by Tampa Bay in 2012, and he joined the Rams in a trade during the 2014 season.

Barron has been a starter for the past four seasons for the Rams. He was about to enter the fourth season of a five-year, $45 million deal.

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, edge rusher Dante Fowler and cornerback Sam Shields also are expected to hit unrestricted free agency this month. The Rams haven't ruled out bringing back all three veterans.

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Ravens prepare to head to Kansas City with last year’s gut-punch still in mind

Ravens prepare to head to Kansas City with last year’s gut-punch still in mind

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson remembers last year’s trip to Kansas City. He doesn’t want to. 

In a 27-24 overtime defeat, Jackson suffered the only regular season loss of his career. The two teams never played again, as the Ravens lost in the Wild Card round to the Chargers. 

There’s been significant changes for both teams since then, but Jackson hasn’t forgotten the feeling he left Kansas City with. 

“It’s still with me right now,” Jackson explained. “It doesn’t go away until I get that opportunity again and perform very well.”

Last year, Jackson was in his fourth start in the NFL when the Ravens went into Arrowhead Stadium and nearly knocked off the AFC’s top seed. 

This year, the Ravens have no good feelings about how that game went, despite the development that aided a young roster. 

“That was a big-time game, kind of a nail-biter game,” Mark Andrews said. “A lot of guys kind of grew up in that game. I think Lamar [Jackson] being able to play a tight game like that was big for his growth. It’s one of those games that I don’t think a lot of people have forgotten to this day.”

As for changes that can be taken from the game, there’s not much benefit to that. 

The Chiefs have multiple new starters on their defense compared to last year and a new defensive coordinator. Tyreek Hill won’t be in this year’s iteration of the game due to a shoulder injury, but they’ve replaced him with other incredibly talented and speedy wideouts. 

And there’s reason to believe that, at least through two weeks, Patrick Mahomes might even be better than he was a year ago.

“Our guys have been in the stadium,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They’ve been in that tiny little locker room before. They’ve been on that field. They’ve stayed in that hotel. All of those things are pluses. We played a good game, but we didn’t win. That’s motivation also.”

Last season’s loss wasn’t just a typical loss, either. 

Baltimore entered at 7-5 and were in a chase for a playoff spot. And with just under five minutes left, its chances looked good. 

But Mahomes completed a long, incredible pass on fourth and nine from the his own territory to set the Chiefs up with first down. A few plays later, on another fourth down, the Chiefs converted to tie the game at 24. They later won in overtime 27-24.

Some Ravens won’t admit it, but there’s lessons to be learned in that loss. 

“I think when you’re a young player and you’re in that environment — that hostile, on the road environment — … Kansas City has a great home crowd and they’re extremely loud,” Marshal Yanda said. “So yes, I think that those loud games for young players are important. He should be able to build from that.”

Sunday’s matchup, between two of the league’s top teams, has the potential to be one of the season’s top games once again. The Ravens will undoubtedly take lessons from last year’s wild finish in Kansas City.

They just hope it ends better than last time. 

“They’re a really good team and we want to perform our best,” Matt Skura said. “We know they went far in the playoffs last year and this year they obviously want to make a run. We want to show people that our offense, and our offensive line, can handle the so-called powerhouse of the Kansas City Chiefs. This is a huge game for us and we want to showcase our best abilities.”

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Two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks — Lamar Jackson and Pat Mahomes — set to square off in week three

Two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks — Lamar Jackson and Pat Mahomes — set to square off in week three

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Chiefs is much more than just a matchup of two 2-0 teams. 

It’s a rematch of last year’s Week 14 thriller, a 27-24 Chiefs overtime win. It’s a game with one of the league’s best secondary’s pitted against one of the league’s best receiving corps. Ravens coach John Harbaugh once answered to Chiefs coach Andy Reid on the sidelines in Philadelphia.

But in a lot of ways, fair or unfair, this Sunday’s game is being billed as Lamar Jackson versus Patrick Mahomes.

Jackson, however, doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s Ravens vs. the Chiefs,” Jackson said. “I don’t really look at it like I’m competing against him. I’m competing against their defense if anything. I depend on my defense to do a great job of stopping him. It’s my job to score points.”

Still, the comparisons between Mahomes and Jackson aren’t hard to find.

Mahomes is in his third year in the NFL, his second as a starter, and is the league’s reigning MVP. Jackson is in his second year, his first full season as a starter. 

Jackson won AFC Player of the Week in Week 1; Mahomes won in Week 2. Jackson has thrown for seven touchdowns and zero interceptions through two games. Mahomes has the same statistics. Mahomes has 822 total yards on the year. Jackson has 722. 

The respect is there from Jackson, who said Mahomes is on the way to becoming a quarterback like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. 

“He’s on his way,” Jackson said. “Those guys have Super Bowls. He’s a dynamic quarterback. It’s his third year and he’s been doing a tremendous job. [He’s a] former MVP. I just can’t wait to compete against him again.”

Both quarterbacks can make plays off-script, albeit in different ways. 

Mahomes can run from sideline-to-sideline and throw the ball across the field. He’s thrown no-look passes and is incredibly dangerous outside of the pocket. 

“You keep him in the pocket as much as you can,” coach John Harbaugh said of Mahomes. “You make him throw under pressure as much as you can. You cover the guys as well as you can. Then, you play football. That’s what you try to do. If he throws one up down the middle again, hopefully, we’ll get it this time.”

Jackson is just as dangerous outside the pocket, but because he can escape the pocket and forces defenses to commit to his running ability. His speed was a problem for the Cardinals last Sunday, who allowed him to rush for 120 yards. 

“The coordinators and the quarterbacks coaches, they’ve opened the gates for him,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said on Jackson. “They’re doing a million different things, and he’s doing it well, and it looks like he’s loving doing it.”

Both quarterbacks have made a living by playing off-script and unexpected, whether or not their playing styles are similar. 

It’s why both teams will spend this Sunday trying to get the ball back in their own quarterback’s hands.

“I think he can continue doing what he’s been doing,” Earl Thomas said. “He’s been very consistent. He’s basically like the big energy ball we need. Whatever he’s doing, if he’s running the ball, if he’s passing, he’s making it happen for us. Us on defense, we just try to keep getting him the ball.”

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