Update: Hill has reportedly been suspended 10 games for violating the NFL‘s substance abuse policy. This clarifies why the Ravens elected to release him, but the team still could struggle to replace him.
The Baltimore Ravens made headlines today once again in a move that involved a high profile safety. The team announced that they had released Will Hill in the wake of signing free agent Eric Weddle. The decision to release Hill looks like a poor one, and the team’s bad secondary may not improve too much as a result.
Last season, Hill was the best and most consistent defensive back for the Ravens. After being claimed off of waivers from the New York Giants, Hill started 22 games for the Ravens over the span of two seasons and became one of the top safeties in the league. Last season, Hill was able to do a little of everything for the Ravens, making 49 tackles, recording one sack, defensing six passes and generally holding up well in coverage.
Apparently, the Ravens figured that Hill would no longer be necessary to the team’s success. Yes, they did sign Weddle, one of the best free safeties in the league, but Hill would have been an excellent counterpart to him. Instead, the team opted to move former cornerback Lardarius Webb to safety and keep Kendrick Lewis as the top backup.
This was a bad decision by a team lacking cornerback depth without Webb at the position, and they are putting themselves in a precarious situation as a result. Their top starter will be Jimmy Smith, who has played well in the past but missed a good chunk of last season with an injury. After that, there is little clarity, as Kyle Arrington is best suited as a nickel back and Shareece Wright is only an average starter at best.
Of course, the team probably has a reason that they decided to release Hill. The first could be that he had only one year left on his contract heading into the season, so if the Ravens didn’t think they could re-sign him it may have made sense to clear his contract off the books. Still, it is hard to imagine that no team would want to trade for Hill given his excellent play and his age (26).
It is possible that the team released Hill because of the off-the-field issues that plagued him early in his career. If those issues have come up again, then the Ravens may have decided that he is not worth the risk. However, nothing has come out about this yet, so it is looking like the former option is the more likely scenario.
Keeping Hill would have allowed the Ravens to have more secondary depth and ultimately sport a better defense. It does not make sense to release him just to clear cap space, and the team may regret this move if Webb cannot make the transition to the safety position.