NFL training camp is set to open in a few days and veteran safety James Ihedigbo is still on the open market. The 32-year-old recently told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he has garnered interest from teams and believes it is only a matter of time before he finds a landing spot.
“The thing about this part of the game and just the business aspect of it, teams are going to want to see if their young guys got it — they want to see guys that they drafted two years ago, if they can play at a high level, if they can handle the mental aspect of the game more than special teams, of playing offense and defense. And then you have to account for the injury rate. It happens every year, the first week of training camp, guys go down or guys aren’t performing up to management’s expectation, and that’s when guys like myself get that phone call.”
The Houston Texans — Ihedigbo’s hometown team — is one of the teams that could be interested in the 6-foot-1, 214-pounder and he would welcome that opportunity, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle.
I would love to play for the Houston Texans,” Ihedigbo said. “I think it’s a great fit. It could be a great fit for both of us. I could definitely add to an already stout defense.”
Houston currently has six safeties on its roster, and ESPN projects that the Texans will keep five on their 53-man roster – Andre Hal, Quentin Demps, K.J. Dillon, Eddie Pleasant and Lonnie Ballentine. Ballentine has yet to play a full season, and Dillon was selected in the fifth round in this past draft. The Texans also have free agent signee Antonio Allen on their roster.
Ihedigbo started 21 games the past two years with the Detroit Lions, but he lost his starting spot to Isa Abdul-Quddas late last year and was told by the team early this offseason that he was not in the club’s future plans. The 2014 Pro Bowler registered 63 tackles, three forced fumbles, one interception along with a sack in 15 contests last season.
Ihedigbo, a key piece of the No. 2-ranked defense that carried the Lions to the NFL playoffs in 2014, has played eight seasons in the NFL. He has registered 378 tackles along with nine sacks and eight interceptions for his career.
The Carolina Panthers could also use help at safety. Carolina is expected to go with youngster Tre Boston opposite starter Kurt Coleman after losing Roman Harper to the New Orleans Saints this offseason. Boston has seen limited playing time over the past two seasons, though he has made six starts. The 24-year-old totaled 29 tackles a season ago and has made 55 stops along with one interception in his career. Coleman led the team with nine interceptions, including two in the postseason.
Marcus Ball, Travell Dixon, Colin Jones, Dean Marlowe and Trenton Robinson are the other safeties on Carolina’s roster. Marlowe, an undrafted rookie in 2015, appeared in four games last season.
The Cowboys secondary remains unchanged from last year. However, second-year pro Byron Jones is the team’s highest-rated player in the defensive backfield. Veteran Barry Church is nothing special, and J.J. Wilcox struggled last year.
Jacksonville revamped its defense this offseason but strong safety is still a weakness. According to Pro Football Rumors, Johnathan Cyprien graded out as one of the three worst safeties. Cyprien could lose his job to James Sample.
The Chiefs may start the season without three of their top four safeties from last year with Eric Berry still holding out. Kansas City’s only significant addition was Stevie Brown, who didn’t play last year. In addition, Jamell Fleming and Marcus Cooper are converting from cornerback to safety.
Strong safety is an issue for the Chargers and they did replace Eric Weddle with Dwight Lowery.
Donte Whitner and Antrel Rolle are among the other safeties that are currently free agents.
[Photo by Rick Osentoski/AP]