FS Ed Reed will be 34 in September, and he enters the final season of his contract, so it’s reasonable to start pondering a Ravens defense without the future Hall of Fame centerfielder. By extension, the development of rookie S Christian Thompson, whom the Ravens selected in Round Four of April’s draft, is something to monitor this season. Thompson, who finished his collegiate career at South Carolina State after being dismissed from Auburn’s team for academic reasons, ran the fastest 40-yard dash among safeties at the Scouting Combine (4.49). However, he “plays slower than he times and was not an impactful playmaker at the FCS level,” personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki noted in PFW's 2012 Draft Preview.
The Ravens’ safety depth was hurt by the offseason departures of Tom Zbikowski (Indianapolis) and Haruki Nakamura (Carolina). Ideally, Thompson proves a capable reserve in his first season, and thereafter, the focus turns to how the Ravens will proceed at free safety. The 2013 UFA safety class could be fairly deep. In addition to the ball-hawking Reed, free safeties Jairus Byrd (Buffalo) and Louis Delmas (Detroit) have expiring contracts. What’s more, Patrick Chung (New England) and Kenny Phillips (N.Y. Giants) — who are listed as strong safeties but have shown playmaking flair and play in schemes where the safeties are basically interchangeable — are also in the final year of their deals.