The 2019 free agent safety class just got even more impressive.
On the same day 25-year-old All-Pro Landon Collins following the team's decision not to franchise tag him, the Baltimore Ravens have released six-time Pro Bowler Eric Weddle, as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported. The surprise move will save the team $7.5 million in salary cap space in 2019, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, and sends a longtime starter -- and noted Ravens leader -- onto the open market ahead of free agency.
A three-time All-Pro honoree, Weddle has missed just seven games in his 12 NFL seasons and played a pivotal role in Baltimore's playoff-bound defense in 2018, a year after leading the league with six interceptions. He racked up 220 tackles, 24 pass deflections, 10 picks and four forced fumbles during his three seasons with the Ravens.
Entering his age-34 season, however, Weddle would have cost the team $9.25 million on the last year of his four-year contract, per Spotrac, and with Baltimore potentially still angling to re-sign 26-year-old linebacker C.J. Mosley, his release opens up cap room.
The move is likely not a surprise to Weddle, according to ESPN's Mike Clay, who said the safety "wasn't sure if the Ravens were going to bring him back" while at the 2019 Pro Bowl. The former Chargers standout initially indicated that he would retire if Baltimore cut him, per Clay, but later backtracked on that idea.
Originally a second-round pick of the Chargers in 2007, Weddle spent the first nine seasons of his career in San Diego before signing with Baltimore in 2016. He figures to rival Collins as one of the top free agent veterans available this offseason.
The Ravens, meanwhile, could look to replace Weddle with another big name. CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora said Tuesday he anticipates Baltimore "making a strong push" for former Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu.