Just a short period of time after signing three-year veteran safety Chuck Clark to a (relatively modest) contract extension, the Baltimore Ravens also announced that they have released starting safety Tony Jefferson, whom they signed in free agency only in 2017. This is the second time in as many offseasons that they have released a starting safety during his first contract with the team after signing him as an unrestricted free agent, following the release of Eric Weddle last year.
Clark, a former sixth-round pick, spent most of the 2019 season in the starting line because Jefferson suffered a torn ACL in the fifth game of the year, against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was working in coverage when the non-contact injury occurred. He was forced to commit a foul in order to try to prevent the play from happening as he was injured.
Jefferson signed a four-year, $34 million contract with the Ravens three years ago, which included $19 million in guarantees. He has seen three quarters of the deal and earned $27 million from it, or roughly 80 percent of the total value.
With the move, Baltimore saves $7 million against the salary cap, as Jefferson was due to earn a base salary of that amount in 2020. He will remain on the books for over $4.5 million in dead money, stemming from his original signing bonus.
The Ravens utilized that cap savings to lock up Clark, signing him to a three-year extension worth $15.3 million, or an average of $5.1 million in new money on the three new years. He will have a cap hit of just under $3.5 million in 2020 with a base salary of $2 million. His base salaries over the next two years have been fully guaranteed as part of the deal, and included a $5.5 million signing bonus.
The Ravens’ big move last year, of course, was to go out and get Earl Thomas in free agency, a former All-Pro safety for the Seattle Seahawks, a part of the ‘Legion of Boom’ of the great secondaries for that team, which reached multiple Super Bowls, winning one in dominating fashion over a Peyton Manning-led team, spoiling an otherwise terrific season.
In his first season with the Ravens, Thomas registered two interceptions over 15 games (resting in the finale) along with four passes defensed. He had three interceptions and five passes defensed in just four games during the 2018 season before suffering a season-ending injury. His four passes defensed are a career-low.
Baltimore has a healthy stable of cornerbacks in Marcus Peters, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, and Tavon Young. Jimmy Smith is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, though he has said that he would like to return.