The new defensive approach Solak is referring to is the shift from former Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale’s penchant for sending pressure and playing man coverage to new Defensive Coordinator’s Mike Macdonald’s penchant for simulated pressure and playing a variety of coverages.
That translates to having three safeties on the field, which explains why the Ravens drafted Hamilton when they already had returning starter Chuck Clark and marquee free-agent acquisition Marcus Williams.
“At Hamilton’s size and explosiveness he can make legit plays as a pass rusher moving downhill. And with his length and coverage acumen he can bail into pass defense and be equally effective,” Solak said. “Hamilton was one of the premier players in all of college football but he endured a pre-draft slide after a poor 40-yard dash. This slide dropped him in the lap of the Ravens, one of the league’s perennial best drafting teams.
“The new reality of the franchise that a defensive philosophy shift demanded new resources at safety intersected with the tried and true commandments of the franchise: to draft for value and gamble on super-sized athletes. And the Ravens made that pick easily. The Ravens are at the forefront of investment at the safety position now.”
With safeties becoming more valuable in the NFL — the four-highest safety contracts by average annual value have all been signed in 2021 or later — Hamilton is an incredible bargain, as he is only the 29th-highest-paid safety in the league.
Hamilton’s four-year, fully guaranteed rookie contract is reportedly worth $16.255 million. Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Minkah Fitzpatrick signed a four-year contract extension that makes him the league’s highest paid safety, with an average annual value of $18.4 million.
“The league is learning just how much safeties matter, and teams are scrambling to get ahead of that wave,” Solak said. “Predicting that the Ravens will look smart for one of their draft picks isn’t a hard bet to make. They’re an easy team to trust. But the Hamilton pick should look smart for a myriad of reasons.
“It’ll look smart because Hamilton will be a doggone good football player, an outcome made all the more likely by his joining a good defensive coaching staff with a system that should maximize his impact. It’ll look smart because when he becomes a doggone good football player in that system, he’ll be a cornerstone of the system, a key cog in the machine and a big reason why it works. And it’ll look smart because safeties got paid last year, safeties got paid this year and safeties are going to keep getting paid. And for every safety that gets paid, Hamilton’s contract is going to look more and more like a bargain.”