After season-ending injuries to six defensive backs, the Baltimore Ravens have been forced to rely on fourth-year cornerback Anthony Averett for much of the season, and he may have played well enough to earn himself a new contract.
While his level of play doesn’t compare to his injured All-Pro teammates Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, Averett has delivered for the Ravens in one key way: availability.
Averett is the only healthy cornerback to see the field for more than 50% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps this season, and his 808 snaps on defense rank second on the entire team. He’s started 14 of Baltimore’s 15 games, playing at least 89% of the team’s snaps in each start except for Week 16’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, during which Averett a suffered fractured rib.
While Averett has not lived up to the “All-Pro talent” espoused by Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale during training camp, he has emerged as a reliable cornerback in a mess of injuries and COVID-19 cases in the Ravens secondary over the course of the season.
Averett has also been the only Baltimore defender to make more than one interception, with the Ravens defense struggling to reel in errant throws and tipped passes all season.
Averett Listed As Offseason Priority
Averett’s consistency in a season of uncertainty in Baltimore inspired Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton to list Averett as the Ravens’ top re-signing priority for the 2022 offseason.
“Averett leads the Ravens in interceptions (three) and is second with 11 pass breakups, trailing only All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey,” wrote Moton on December 21, predicting that Averett “will likely finish the year as Baltimore’s most productive cover man.”
In fact, Moton thinks that Averett has earned the opportunity to start alongside Humphrey and Peters next season.
“Because of Humphrey’s ability to play in the slot, the Ravens can re-sign Averett and line him up on the outside opposite Peters for a strong cornerback trio,” wrote Moton, though the Ravens still have Tavon Young, one of the highest-paid slot corners in the league, under contract for 2022.
Moton also addressed speculation that the Ravens attempt to get Peters’ $15.5 million salary cap hit off their books next season, offering the relatively cheaper Averett as an economical alternative. Peters has been mentioned as an offseason trade candidate, though the decimation of the Ravens secondary this season will likely make general manager Eric DeCosta think twice about jettisoning Peters.
Ravens Get Another CB Back
While Averett’s fractured ribs could threaten his availability for the Ravens’ last two games of the season, they will have cornerback Chris Westry back after activating him from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on December 28.
Westry’s debut season in Baltimore has been marked by several stops and starts, with a Week 1 torn meniscus sidelining him until Week 10. A thigh injury suffered in practice a few weeks later sidelined Westry for Weeks 12 and 13, and his return was cut short once again after testing positive for COVID-19 before the Ravens’ Week 15 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Westry remained on the COVID-19 list for Baltimore’s blowout loss to the Bengals on December 26, during which Westry’s speed, size and physical cornerback play could’ve prevented Joe Burrow from passing for an NFL-wide season-high of 525 yards.
Westry joins Tavon Young and veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith, who was activated on December 27, as the Ravens top corners ahead of a tough matchup with Cooper Kupp and the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17.