After a short stint on the open market, Geno Stone is officially back with the Baltimore Ravens on a one-year deal. The team had previously decided to not tender Stone, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent, suggesting that Baltimore was confident they would be able to retain him on a team-friendly deal.
After losing Chuck Clark to the New York Jets via trade, keeping Stone around was always a priority. Now, the third-string versatile safety will have as much responsibility as ever playing behind Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton.
In 2022, Stone played in all 17 games, starting seven, and making 38 total tackles and a forced fumble. He was leaned on heavily when Williams was out injured. While Baltimore’s off-season is currently marred by the Lamar Jackson contract struggle, re-signing Stone is a savvy move.
Locked In !! BMore 😈 pic.twitter.com/TVKdwHEv4d
— Geno Stone (@GenoStone22) March 16, 2023
How Geno Stone Will Help the Ravens in 2023
With Clark gone, the assumption is that Stone will be the primary backup safety to Williams and Hamilton. That said, expect Stone to see the field more than most backup safeties. In both 2021 and 2022, Stone was thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries in Baltimore’s secondary. He played admirably as a fill-in and was even one of the team’s top performers in some contests last year. His 71.4 PFF grade was a testament to that. Indeed, during the seven starts when Williams was out, Stone averaged a PFF grade of just under 70.
While Baltimore’s secondary will hopefully stay healthier in 2023, Stone will still likely have a rotational role even when the defense is at full strength. Being a reliable, starting-caliber safety, his presence on the field will let Baltimore use Hamilton as the chess piece he is. He played admirably in the slot but, with his rookie season now done, expect Hamilton to be used more creatively as the teething problems start to fade.
An underrated aspect of Stone’s return is also his contributions on special teams. Since his rookie year, the 23-year-old has never played fewer than 65% of special teams snaps. With Anthony Levine Sr. gone, Stone also stepped up as one of the leaders on special teams too. As a core special teamer and rotational safety, Stone’s retention is a smart, under-the-radar move for Baltimore.
Stone’s one-year contract means that he will hit free agency again in the 2024 off-season. He is an important contributor for the Ravens on defense and special teams, but his production could be replaced. There are a few different scenarios for the Ravens and Stone after the upcoming season.
One scenario is that Stone is retained on another cheap, team-friendly one-year deal. Both Williams and Hamilton will be starters in the next couple of seasons, leaving Stone in a reduced role. Of course, in this scenario, the team could also pay Stone the same contract that they gave Clark in order to keep Stone around long-term as a versatile backup.
The other scenario and, perhaps the likelier one, is that Stone plays well again next year and plays football for another team in 2024. He has shown that he is a capable starter at the NFL level and so other teams would be open to giving him a shot. Given his status as a rotational player, it would be unlikely that Stone would command a big contract.
There is, however, a third scenario. Williams currently commands a huge cap number in 2024 ($18 million). Should the Ravens opt to move on from Williams, Stone could become a starter and have a long-term deal. In this situation, the Ravens would draft a late-round safety to fill in Stone’s backup role, or entrust Ar’Darius Washington with the responsibilities.
Main Photo: Tommy Gilligan – USA TODAY Sports