After starting safety DeShon Elliott suffered a season-ending injury during Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore Ravens could be looking to add some depth to their secondary, and lucky for them, a veteran safety just became available.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier today that “safety Tre Boston is now healthy, in shape, vaccinated and willing to sign on with a practice squad, per his agent,” giving Baltimore an intriguing option to reinforce their secondary.
The seven-year veteran has played in 104 games in his NFL career, starting 76 of them. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, where he spent the first three seasons of his career. He then made 15 starts with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017 and 13 starts with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 before returning to Carolina for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Despite starting all 16 games both years, the Panthers released Boston in March, and he has remained unsigned ever since.
But his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, thinks that Boston will find a new team soon, telling Schefter, “Tre’s been a really good player for a long time and I’m shocked he hasn’t been signed yet.”
Without Elliott’s injury, Boston may not have been on the Ravens’ radar, but they’re likely to take a hard look with a sudden need for more depth at safety.
Read on to find out the pros and cons of Boston’s potential signing in Baltimore.
Pro: Excellence in Coverage
Over the course of his career, Boston has developed a reputation as a classic coverage free safety, with plenty of range and a knack for being around the ball.
Boston totaled 11 interceptions and 28 passes defended from 2017 to 2019, bookended by two seasons with at least an 89.0 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus. He earned a 78.2 coverage grade in 2017, but only allowed a 61.0 passer rating when targeted that year.
For a Ravens team that has given up too many big plays this year, including a 50-yard touchdown to Justin Jefferson on Sunday, Boston could shore up the backside of the defense after Elliott’s injury. He’s extremely reliable in deep coverage, where his years of experience and veteran savvy help him read quarterbacks and diagnose plays.
Con: Potential Tackling Liability
But just as Boston could provide the Ravens with much-needed support in pass coverage, he could be a liability when it comes to tackling, another huge issue for Baltimore’s defense this season.
While he was a solid tackler in the first few seasons of his career, Boston has since struggled to finish plays, missing at least 12 tackles in each of the last three seasons, per PFF.
The Ravens have been one of the worst-tackling teams in the NFL this season, though they looked better coming out of the bye against the Vikings.
Though Elliott struggled with missed tackles against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7, he’s still a much more reliable tackler than Boston. With the entire secondary struggling to tackle this season, Boston may not help the Ravens improve on that particular weakness. He hasn’t played since last season, and as the Ravens know all too well, there’s no reliable way to practice tackling NFL ballcarriers other than playing in a game.
Pro: Positional Versatility
Boston does have experience across several positions in his NFL career, which is especially valuable in Baltimore’s defensive scheme.
Defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale loves versatile, multi-positional players, and Boston could be his latest find. While Boston has spent the majority of his career as a high free safety, he also has substantial experience playing in the box and as a slot cornerback.
He also has more than 500 snaps on special teams under his belt, another plus in Baltimore where special teams contributions are highly valued.
Verdict: Low-Risk Signing for Key Depth
Ultimately, Boston would be a smart signing for Baltimore.
Beggars can’t be choosers at this point in the season, and Boston’s availability could be a huge stroke of luck for the Ravens. Concerns about his tackling are not substantial enough to overcome his demonstrated excellence in pass coverage and positional versatility.
At the very least, the Ravens should add Boston to their practice squad, with the potential to call him up on game days if they need the depth.