The Ravens officially released linebacker and special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo Thursday afternoon, but did leave the door open for a possible return.
Head Coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Ozzie Newsome talked about the leadership the team will be losing with the veteran's departure.
"Brendon was the first player we signed when we arrived in 2008 and he went to the Pro Bowl again that season," Harbaugh said. "We considered him one of the foundations of our team, and he gave me sound counsel as one of our team leaders."
Ayanbadejo, 36, played five years with the Ravens. He led the special teams unit in tackles in all but one of those seasons, including last year with 14 special teams stops.
"As a team, we place a high value on special teams, and Brendon was one of our top performers in that area for the last five seasons," Newsome said. "He was one of the best special teamers in the league."
Newsome also spoke about Ayanbadejo's value in the Ravens' defensive sub packages. Ayanbadejo made three starts and a career-high 43 tackles last year due to the influx of injuries to Baltimore's inside linebackers.
Baltimore reportedly saved $807,000 in salary-cap space by cutting Ayanbadejo, but could be open to bringing him back at a cheaper price.
"He became a leader for us, and the door may not be closed to bring him back to help us again," Newsome said.
Ayanbadejo was a well-spoken and well-liked person in the locker room. He was also very interested in politics, and engaged in some good debates with his coaches and teammates. "He was a pleasure to have on our team," Harbaugh said. "We'll stay in contact, I hope, but I'll miss our regular conversations."