The Baltimore Ravens and Eric Weddle had big plans when they joined forces first in 2016. They needed a safety on the back end who could lead their defense after missing on the position in the draft and free agency a couple of times. He needed a new home after having a falling out with the Chargers.
While Weddle elevated his play, and the defense, back toward the top of the league, they came well short of their team goals. In the three seasons since he signed, they only reached the playoffs in 2018, and it took the final week of the regular season to do so.
Which is a bigger deal for Weddle, not just because he is near the end of his career, but also because the contract that he signed—four years, $26 million—also included $1 million bonus incentives for reaching the postseason.
But that hasn’t soured the veteran’s feelings one bit. Now well into his 30s, he knows well the business side of football. And he’s apparently made the decision that the Ravens are the last team that he will ever play for. If they choose to release him this offseason to save salary cap space, his plan is to retire.
“If they want to go in a different direction, I’m not going to play for another team. That’s not where I’m at in my career”, he told reporters following yesterday’s loss. “So it’s either play my last year here and that’ll be it and enjoy it, or this has been it. It’s pretty simple. I’m a simple kind of guy”.
While Weddle did not have the statistical impact that you would expect from a Pro Bowler this season—he finished with 68 tackles, a sack, and three passes defensed—he affects the defense in many other ways that do not get picked up by conventional metrics.
“I still have a desire to play, and I feel that I can still affect the game and dominate games”, he said just days after turning 34. “I’m healthy and it won’t be as much of a hard transition to the offseason as it was last year. So I’m excited for that”.
Over the course of his first two seasons in Baltimore, Weddle tallied 152 tackles, 10 interceptions, three forced fumbles, 21 passes defensed, and two sacks. It’s not immediately clear why his statistical output drastically declined this year in the ‘impact’ department, as the eye test does not reveal a player who is clearly at the end of the line.
“I’ve enjoyed every second of it. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my career, coming to work every day for this organization”, he said. I always felt I was meant to be a Raven, and hopefully people understand that I tried to live that out, for sure”.
It’s hard to ask more from a player at the end of his career. Baltimore has no obvious answers on their roster to replace him, however. The only other full-time safety on the 53-man roster is Chuck Clark, who did make two starts this past season in place of Tony Jefferson.