ORLANDO -- What kind of player are the Lions getting in new safety James Ihedigbo?
Ihedigbo, 30, and the Lions agreed to terms on a new two-year contract late Monday night, which fills a big hole in the Lions defense.
Ihedigbo had a career-high 101 tackles and three interceptions last season.
He spent the last two seasons in Baltimore with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, and Harbaugh told reporters at the AFC Coaches Breakfast Tuesday morning at the NFL Annual Meetings that the Lions are getting a good player and an even better leader.
“You want tacklers and guys with range and guys with ball skills,” Harbaugh said. “James has all those things. He can cover ground, he’s got ball skills and he’s a tackler.
“The thing you’re going to find with James Ihedigbo, and the thing he brought to our team the last two years, he’s a high quality person. I mean he’s a leader. He’s a man of very strong faith and convictions. No one is going to work harder. He will be a great leader for your younger players.”
The Ravens have a good young safety in Matt Elam they drafted last season, and Ihedigbo was his mentor through the Ravens’ mentoring program.
“James filled that role for Matt on and off the field,” Harbaugh said. “He’s that kind of guy. When you meet him, you’re going to be impressed. He’s a straightforward, well-spoken, highly intelligent, high-character guy. I just can’t say enough about him.”
The Lions could certainly benefit from that kind of leadership with a number of second- and third-year players littering it’s secondary. There's certainly potential for a couple rookies to join the fray in May, too.
One other note of significance on Ihedigbo is he hasn’t had many injury issues over his career.
The Lions have had to manage Louis Delmas’ knee injuries the last couple years, and though he played in all 16 games in 2013, he missed most of the week’s practice during the season. The missed practiced time affected his performance on Sunday and also hurt the chemistry with fellow safety
“He’s had a few things with his neck because he’s such a hitter, but nothing serious,” Harbaugh said of Ihedigbo. “He’s never missed any practices that I can recall. He may have missed a practice here or there, but not with any regularity.”
Ihedigbo is already familiar with head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who were both in Baltimore last year. His familiarity with Austin’s defense should benefit Quin and the other players in the secondary immediately.
Harbaugh said the Ravens wanted to keep Ihedigbo, but he didn’t fit them financially.
The terms of Ihedigbo’s deal with the Lions has not been released.