Promising Cornerback Leaves Ravens to Sign With Panthers

Ravens Anthony Averett

Getty Baltimore Ravens cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Chris Westry celebrate an interception by teammate Anthony Averett.

The Baltimore Ravens have lost another starting cornerback from their injury-riddled 2021 season, with Chris Westry joining the Carolina Panthers in free agency.

Westry signed a one-year deal with the Panthers, the team announced on April 4, joining a promising defense with four first-round picks from the last three drafts. The 24-year-old cornerback becomes the second player to leave the Ravens for the Panthers this offseason, with starting center Bradley Bozeman arriving in Carolina on March 20. 

The Ravens declined to place a restricted free agent tender on Westry in March, leaving them unable to match any offer he receives from another team. Now, the team is precariously thin at cornerback after releasing Tavon Young and seeing Anthony Averett sign with the Las Vegas Raiders. Only Brandon Stephens and several unproven depth players remain behind All-Pros Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey, both of whom are coming off major injuries.

That makes it somewhat surprising that the Ravens did not retain Westry, especially given his high-end physical traits. He packs elite speed and length in his 6-foot-4, 199-pound frame, which earned him plenty of fans during the 2021 preseason. The Ravens signaled their belief in Westry by trading their own 2021 fifth-round draft pick, cornerback Shaun Wade, to the New England Patriots in the preseason. Peters’ torn ACL was expected to thrust Westry into a major role, but he tore his meniscus in Week 1 and struggled to stay healthy for the rest of the year, appearing in only five games on defense. He finished the season with the best tackling grade of any Ravens defender, per Pro Football Focus, but couldn’t find game-to-game consistency in coverage.

Ravens Lack Depth in Secondary

With Westry gone, the Ravens’ backup cornerbacks include Iman Marshall, Kevon Seymour, Kevin Toliver and Robert Jackson. Marshall tore his ACL in training camp, sidelining him for the duration of the 2021 season, while Seymour, Toliver and Jackson were all signed as midseason injury replacements.

The arrival of safety Marcus Wiliams is expected to move Brandon Stephens back to cornerback, his college position, but that still leaves a dangerous lack of depth in Baltimore’s secondary. 2021 undrafted free agent Ar’Darius Washington can play in the slot, but he’s coming off a major injury of his own.

A reunion with Tavon Young appears even more likely after Westry’s departure, as the Ravens have stood by Young through several injuries in his career. While they cut him to free up salary cap space, they’d likely welcome him back on a team-friendly deal as a reliable slot cornerback.

Potential Cornerback Additions

The Ravens could look to their 14th overall pick in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft for another elite cornerback, with LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. and Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner thought to be the team’s top targets at the position.

If both are gone by the time Baltimore is on the clock, they might look at Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. or Washington’s Trent McDuffie, or wait to take a cornerback on Day 2 or 3.

But don’t rule out a veteran acquisition, either. The New York Giants might be willing to trade Pro Bowler James Bradberry, per Fansided’s Matt Verderame, though his hefty contract would likely be a sticking point.

There are plenty of high-caliber free agents still available as well, with 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore headlining a group that also includes former All-Pros Chris Harris and Kyle Fuller. The Ravens might choose to wait out that market, though, in order to get the best deal possible with their limited salary cap space.

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