Had it not been for injuries, Jimmy Smith would easily have been regarded as one of the best first-round picks that the Baltimore Ravens have made in the past decade. Though he’s never been a Pro Bowler, he has been a great coverage player throughout his career.
Now set to turn 32 years old and on a part of the roster that is deep—Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey are their starters, and Tavon Young will be in the slot—the question comes up: where will he play? Could he move to safety?
That is a question that was posed to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale when he spoke to the local media a week or two ago. The Ravens re-signed him back in March, so they obviously did so knowing that he could still have a role.
“It’s a wait-and-see thing. You’ve got to wait and get to see him in practice and everything else, but Jimmy’s already done what Brandon Carr did last year”, he said. Carr is a veteran cornerback who has played the last three seasons with the Ravens. However, they declined his option in March shortly before bringing Smith back, and he remains a free agent.
“We’ve put him against good tight ends to cover in special situations, whether it’s third down or two minutes or what have you, different kinds of packages”, Martindale added. “But the thing that comes out about that is the best 11 on this defense could be a different set of 11 in every package and matchup”.
It’s certainly not new to put a cornerback or cornerback-capable player up against a tight end in select situations. The Pittsburgh Steelers have even dabbled in this from time to time, such as the year in which they had Justin Gilbert. He got a handful of snaps in a couple of games to be lined up against the likes of Travis Kelce.
Baltimore has seen turnover at safety over the past couple of years. Eric Weddle was let go after the 2018 season, and Tony Jefferson was released after the 2019 season—of which he spent the majority of his time on injured reserve.
Of course, they signed Earl Thomas in free agency, and they are comfortable with the man who filled in last season after Jefferson’s injury, even rewarding him with a contract extension this offseason. But Smith could fit in there somewhere, at some point. He could be a sixth defensive back, a backup safety.