DeShon Elliott visited the Lions on Wednesday; the meeting produced an agreement. The former Ravens safety will join the Lions on a one-year contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Elliott’s deal could max out at $3.65MM, USA Today’s Josina Anderson tweets.
A sixth-round 2018 draftee, Elliott became a full-time starter after the Ravens’ Earl Thomas experiment went south before the 2020 season. Elliott started 22 games with Baltimore beginning with that 2020 slate, a 16-start year for the ex-Texas Longhorn. Elliott will join a Lions team that recently re-signed Tracy Walker.
Elliott made 80 tackles, recorded 2.5 sacks and forced two fumbles during the 2020 season. He is coming off an injury-marred 2021 slate. The soon-to-be 25-year-old defender suffered pectoral and bicep tears midway through last season, shutting him down for the year. This continued an injury-riddled slate for a Ravens secondary that also lost Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. Elliott also spent his entire rookie season on IR.
Baltimore signaled it was moving on from Elliott with its latest big-ticket safety signing — a five-year deal with Marcus Williams. Not typically a big-spending team in free agency, the Ravens have made exceptions at safety. Williams follows Thomas, Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle as Raven signings at the position since 2016. The Elliott-Chuck Clark pairing represented a deviation from the organization’s big-name strategy at safety.
This Elliott agreement may also mean the Lions’ visit with Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton will not lead to a rare top-two safety investment in the draft. The Lions scheduled a visit with Hamilton for this week, though the former Fighting Irish defender is not viewed as likely to be chosen second overall. Detroit now has Elliott, Walker and 17-game 2021 starter Will Harris under contract at safety.
Ravens defensive back DeShon Elliott is believed to be done for the year, according to head coach John Harbaugh (Twitter link via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). Elliott will be placed on season-ending injured reserve later this week, opening up a spot on the 53-man roster.
Elliott was forced out of Sunday’s game and later diagnosed with torn pectoral and a torn bicep. It’s a bad blow for the Ravens, who have been using the 24-year-old as a starter since last year. Elliott’s season will end with 23 tackles, one sack, and three tackles for loss in six games.
The timing is especially rough for Elliott since he’ll be out of contract in March. With a repeat of 2020 — a year with 80 stops, 2.5 sacks, and 16 starts — he could have been in line for a major payday.
The Ravens went on to beat the Vikings 34-31 in overtime, advancing to 6-2 on the year. They’ll try and keep the momentum going without Elliott — or much of a break — when they play the Dolphins on Thursday night.
Since 2002, the NFL’s performance-based pay system has rewarded low-salary players who exceed their expected playing time. This year, due to the pandemic, the league and the players’ union negotiated a gradual payout schedule, one that will meter out the money between now and 2024.
All in all, the league divested $8.5MM per club. This year’s top earner is Buccaneers guard Alex Cappa, a 2018 third-round pick who played every single snap for the eventual champs. Cappa will now receive an extra $622K on top of his $750K base salary for 2021. Per the union’s records, 25 other players also topped $500K, including Cardinals tackle Kelvin Beachum ($604K), Bills cornerback Taron Johnson ($579K), Rams guard Austin Corbett ($573K), Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye ($572K), Bears tackle Germain Ifedi ($571K), Steelers offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor ($568K), Vikings offensive lineman Dakota Dozier ($561K), Ravens safety DeShon Elliott ($557K) and Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead ($555K).
Ahead of a key AFC matchup against the Colts, the Ravens will have a handful of defenders back. They activated six players off their reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday.
Patrick Queen, DeShon Elliott and L.J. Fort are poised to return to Baltimore’s starting lineup after the team activated the defenders from the COVID list. Each was deemed a high-risk close contact to All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who tested positive for the coronavirus and remains on the COVID list.
Humphrey will miss Week 9’s Baltimore-Indianapolis game, but the Ravens having several of their starters back will put them in better position to bounce back after their loss to the Steelers. Baltimore’s defense ranks fifth in DVOA, sitting first against the run.
The Ravens promoted Bonds, a second-year player out of Tennessee State, and linebacker Kristian Welch to their active roster. They also promoted safety Geno Stone as Humphrey’s COVID replacement. They placed wide receiver Chris Moore on IR due to a thigh injury.
In addition to the lengthy foot rehab in which A.J. Green participated recently, the veteran Bengals wide receiver missed more than a week of training camp because of a hamstring issue. Green entered Wednesday having not practice since August 17, but the 10th-year receiver was back in action this afternoon, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Tyler Dragon (on Twitter). While Green was wearing a sleeve on his left leg, he was working in pads for the Bengals for the first time since last year. The 32-year-old wideout missed all of last year but did practice at points during the season. The Bengals placed the franchise tag on their longtime standout, who is set to play the 2020 season on a $17.9MM salary.
Here is the latest from the AFC North:
Already down rookie safety Grant Delpit for the season, the Browns will be without their other LSU cog in the secondary for an undetermined time frame. Greedy Williams is dealing with a shoulder injury, and new Browns HC Kevin Stefanski has yet to indicate that the first-string cornerback will be able to return soon, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. Williams missed four games last season but started all 12 in which he played.
The Browns should be expected to explore an Earl Thomas addition, per Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson (on Twitter), but the team may not be a frontrunner. Cleveland lost Delpit but has offseason acquisitions Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo in the fold.
On the subject of Thomas, his subtraction from the Ravens secondary will indeed bump third-year safety DeShon Elliott into the starting lineup. John Harbaugh confirmed the former sixth-round pick will receive the first crack at replacing Thomas alongside Chuck Clark, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes (subscription required). This will be an interesting promotion, with Elliott having only played in six games during his two-year career. Elliott landed on Baltimore’s IR in both 2018 and ’19, missing all of his rookie season and the latter portion of last season.
11:37am: The Ravens have released Thomas, the team announced. The wording of the announcement suggests that Baltimore will indeed attempt to void his $10MM guaranteed salary for 2020 for conduct detrimental to the team.
9:12am: The Ravens will trade or release star safety Earl Thomas, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter). Thomas got into a physical altercation with teammate Chuck Clarkat practice on Friday, and the team sent the three-time First Team All-Pro home on Saturday. Baltimore told Thomas to stay away from the facility today, so it definitely sounded like a parting of the ways was in the works.
Schefter notes in a separate tweet that the Cowboys, who have long been connected to Thomas, are once again a candidate to land him. The ESPN scribe adds that Baltimore has been trying to complete a trade throughout the weekend, though obviously nothing has materialized just yet (Twitter link). Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says (via Twitter) that the 49ers and Texans could also be in the mix, while Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News says the Cowboys will not trade for Thomas (Twitter link). Dallas could make a play for him if he is released.
The Ravens’ decision comes just one year after they landed Thomas, arguably the best safety of his generation, on a four-year, $55MM free agent contract. So any club that trades for the 31-year-old would be taking on the remainder of that hefty deal, though Thomas could certainly agree to some sort of restructure in order to facilitate a trade.
Without such a restructure, the Ravens would see a $15MM dead cap charge this year, though Thomas was set to count $15MM against the cap if he stayed with Baltimore, so that’s basically a wash. However, the Ravens would be left with a $10MM dead money hit in 2021 (when the salary cap is likely to be reduced), making this a major financial issue.
Of course, the Ravens don’t have a ton of leverage in trade talks right now, so a release could be forthcoming. If that happens, then obviously the same dead money charges would apply, though Baltimore could try to void Thomas’ guaranteed $10MM salary for 2020 for conduct detrimental to the team, thereby alleviating the burden. Thomas would almost certainly grieve such a move, but Baltimore would stand a good chance of succeeding in the grievance process. After all, the altercation started when Clark, Thomas’ would-be running mate at safety, became upset after Thomas blew a coverage assignment. Clark slammed his helmet to the ground, and Thomas escalated matters by throwing a punch. Thomas later posted a video of the play itself on social media, which is clearly prohibited.
That the Ravens are willing to take on a potentially massive dead cap hit while parting ways with a player like Thomas is indicative of just how bad of a fit he was in the team’s locker room. The incident with Clark, who is well-respected by his teammates, angered a number of prominent players, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic details. And last year, Thomas was late for or missed several team and position meetings, and he reportedly already missed one position meeting this year.
His Ravens teammates had grown weary of his antics and wanted him gone, but they might very well miss his on-field presence. Though Thomas struggled in the early portion of the 2019 campaign as he learned Baltimore’s defensive system, his play improved considerably as the year went on, and opposing offenses generally avoided him. He did not make many splash plays, but he was consistently strong in coverage and earned his seventh career Pro Bowl nod.
For now, Thomas will be replaced by DeShon Elliot, a promising young player who has dealt with injury problems in the early stages of his career. Elliott was selected in the sixth round of the 2018 draft.