In a recent article by Dave Bryan, he outlined how the Steelers have a history of adding some players prior to the season. In that article Dave suggested outside linebacker, safety and tight end as possible places to add depth.
So far we have looked at OLB/EDGE players and tight ends that could be on roster bubbles this year. This week we’re going to look at safeties. The Steelers have one of the better starting duos in the NFL with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, but lack a lot of depth behind them. Antoine Brooks Jr. was drafted last season and will likely be part of the safety depth as well as having a look at playing in the slot. Miles Killebrew was signed as a free agent, and he is a strong special team player while being a safety/linebacker hybrid.
They also added a trio of rookies this season, drafting Tre Norwood and bringing in UDFA’s Donovan Stiner and Lamont Wade. Each of those players will be given the chance to make the team, but if they decide to look outside the organization, I looked at the NFL rosters to find some players who might be on the bubble.
For this I am thinking each team will carry five safeties: Four on the active roster and one on the practice squad. I focused on factors such as snap counts, the number of games they suited up for and overall depth of the position from unofficial depth charts that included new additions through free agency and the draft. Affordability was also a factor, the Steelers without a lot of cap room. You won’t see any big names on here.
Each of these players would be capable of fighting for the #3, #4, or #5 safety positions. I added some links to clips to show you them in action.
#26 Elijah Campbell — New York Jets — 5110, 190 pounds; Age: 25
Safety Depth in New York — Marcus Maye, Ashtyn Davis, Lamarcus Joyner, J.T. Hassell, Sharrod Neasman
New York base salary — $780,000
Campbell has made a quite a few stops in his young career, and that started in college. He began his career in junior college at Iowa Western, a season that culminated in the Junior College National Championship Game. From there he moved on to Northern Illinois for a season, playing as a reserve. He spent his final two seasons at Northern Iowa where he has 87 tackles and eight interceptions.
As a pro he has also bounced around between teams and leagues. He spent the 2018 preseason with Cleveland before being part of the team’s final cut down. From there he spent time in the XFL and the AFL before signing with the Jets. He was elevated from the practice squad for the final five games in 2020, being active for three seeing 34 snaps on special teams and two on defense.
May and Davis are the starters for the Jets, and they added a lot of veteran depth with Joyner (Las Vegas), Neasman (Atlanta) and Hassell last season. Campbell doesn’t have a lot of NFL experience but he has some qualities that could give him a chance as backup and special teamer including ball skills, being a physical hitter with 4.40 speed as well as experience at corner and safety.
This Article from Gang Green Nation gives a good overview and clips of Campbell in action.
#26 Geno Stone — Baltimore Ravens — 5103, 207 pounds; Age: 22
Safety Depth in Baltimore — Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Jordan Richards, Anthony Levine, Brandon Stephens (R), Ar’Darius Washington (R)
Baltimore base salary — $780,000
Drafted in the seventh round out of Iowa, Stone had a solid collegiate career. Forgoing his senior season, he finished with 126 tackles, 80 solo, four tackles for a loss, one sack, six interceptions, seven pass break-ups, and four forced fumbles. His Combine numbers showed a player with solid athleticism, but he plays with above average physicality.
His rookie season with Baltimore was less than successful starting the season inactive for the first four weeks. He was then waived in October, going unclaimed before re-signing and being added to the practice squad. He was added to the active roster in Week 9, spending two weeks playing 38 snaps on special teams and two on defense. Over the rest of the season he spent two weeks inactive and five weeks on the COVID-19 list.
Clark and Elliott are the starters and Levin and Richards are the veteran backups along with strong special team players. Stephens was a third-round pick in 2021 and Washington was a UDFA. Stone was already cut once and now has extra competition, clearly putting him on the bubble.
#41 Trayvon Henderson — Cincinnati Bengals — 6001, 205 pounds; Age: 25
Safety Depth in Cincinnati — Vonn Bell, Jessie Bates III, Brandon Wilson, Ricardo Allen, Kavon Frazier
Cincinnati base salary — $850,000
An undrafted free agent out of Hawaii in 2018, he has good size, is a reliable tackler and was productive in his time in college, totaling 237 tackles, 181 solo, 18 tackles for a loss, five sacks, nine interceptions, 13 passes defensed, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. He has solid speed (4.58) and length (31 1/4″ arms) and maybe a better fit closer to the line of scrimmage.
As a pro, Henderson has seen action in four games in each of his seasons with 94 special teams snaps overall and three on defense in 2019. He played seven special teams snaps vs. Pittsburgh in 2020.
Henderson looked to have an inside track to making the roster until the Bengals made a late addition. Bell and Bates are the starters and are a strong combination. Wilson is a primary backup along with being an excellent return man. Allen is a veteran brought over from Atlanta who will provide veteran depth. Frazier is the recent signing that could be trouble for Henderson, having much more experience on defense (509 snaps) and special teams (942) that could have Henderson moving on.
#21 Sean Davis — Indianapolis Colts — 6010, 201 pounds; Age: 27
Safety Depth in Indianapolis — Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis, George Odum, Rolan Milligan, Shawn Davis (R)
Indianapolis base salary — $990,000
I think you’re all familiar with this player. Could he back for a third time? It’s possible. Quick recap of his career. Second-round pick by the Steelers. At Maryland, he 319 tackles, 221 solo, 10 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, five interceptions, 14 passes defensed, two fumble recoveries, and seven forced fumbles.
He spent his first five seasons in Pittsburgh with a brief stop in Washington in 2020. His best season was in 2017 with 92 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, eight passes defensed, and three interceptions. He obviously knows the system and would provide depth at both safety positions.
Indianapolis has a pretty strong group at safety with Blackmon and Willis getting most of the reps on defense. Odum was an All-Pro as a special teamer in 2020 and Milligan is a solid backup/special team player and is cheaper than Davis. They also drafted another Davis (Shawn) in the fifth round this year, and he is a versatile safety. It could come down to Sean Davis or Ibraheim Campbell, who in six seasons has played for six teams and costs the same as Davis.
#29 Josh Jones — Jacksonville Jaguars — 6012, 220 pounds; Age: 26
Safety Depth in Jacksonville — Rayshawn Jenkins, Jarrod Wilson, Andrew Wingard, Daniel Thomas, Andre Cisco (R)
Jacksonville base salary — $990,000
A former second-round pick out of North Carolina State who left school after his junior year. In three seasons in college he had 229 tackles, 139 solo, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, eight interceptions, 17 passes defensed, two fumble recoveries, and three forced fumbles.
Drafted by Green Bay in 2017, he is on his third team after spending two years in Green Bay, one in Dallas and Jacksonville, where 2021 would be his second season. He has started 25 of 48 games with 211 tackles, three sacks, eight passes defensed, and two interceptions, and has played free and strong safety but is a better fit for the latter. He best season was in 2020, starting all 13 games he played with 83 tackles before being put on IR with a chest injury mid-season.
With new head coach Urban Meyer they are revamping the roster. At the safety position they added Jenkins, who will be a starter, and rookie Cisco in the third round. Wilson will likely start at the other safety position with Wingard providing depth and playing special teams. Thomas is a former fifth-round pick that they are reportedly high on. Though Jones was a starter last year, there is some speculation he could be fighting for a job once camp opens.
#36 J.R. Reed — Los Angeles Rams — 6006, 194 pounds; Age: 25
Safety depth in Los Angeles – Jordan Fuller, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott, Terrell Burgess, JuJu Hughes
Los Angeles base salary — $780,000
Reed started his collegiate career at Tulsa before transferring to Georgia for his final three seasons. The free safety finished with 204 tackles, 109 solo, nine tackles for loss, three sacks, five interceptions, 15 passed defensed, three fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles.
After going undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft he initially signed with Jacksonville, but was eventually waived. \The Rams signed him and he appeared in nine games including the playoffs, with all of his snaps coming on special teams. In college he played a deep safety, keeping everything in front of him. I described him as “smart and safe,” understanding route combinations and not taking lot of unnecessary risks.
The Rams may have the youngest safety group in the NFL with 10 safeties on the roster, all 25 years old or younger. Fuller and Rapp will likely be the starters. Scott is a good special teamer who is in line for more defensive snaps this year. Burgess (as well as Rapp) is coming back from injury, but showed promise in 2020. Hughes is another who made his mark on special teams. They added three rookies from this year’s draft, so there will be a fight for spots on the Rams’ roster.
#XX Tony Jefferson — San Francisco 49ers — 5106, 212 pounds; Age: 29
Safety depth in San Francisco — Jaquiski Tartt, Jimmie Ward, Tavon Wilson, Marcell Harris, Talanoa Hufanga (R)
San Francisco base salary — $1,075,000
The Arizona Cardinals signed Jefferson as a free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. While at Oklahoma he had 258 tackles, 181 solo, 18 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, and eight interceptions.
He has carved out a nice career to this point. After spending his first four years in Arizona he signed a four-year deal with Baltimore, where he started 49 of 50 games over 3+ seasons before an ACL injury cut short the 2019 campaign. He had 270 tackles in his stint with Baltimore. He was a consistent contributor with the Ravens and after not playing in 2020, he was a no risk/high reward signing by San Francisco.
The 49ers’ starters will likely be Tartt and Ward, and they added the rookie Hufanga in the fifth round. Harris got a lot of playing time due to injuries last season, so he knows the system well. San Francisco added Wilson as a veteran depth player. If you do a little search on these safeties, you’ll find different opinions on who might be the odd man out. Wilson, Harris and Jefferson could all be that player.
Jefferson 2019 Plays