The Ravens released veteran safety Tony Jefferson Friday, saying goodbye to one of the team's most well-respected and liked defensive players after three seasons.
Jefferson, 28, signed a four-year deal in 2017 to be a key part of the defensive secondary. He teamed up with Eric Weddle for two seasons and then Earl Thomas III last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 5 in Pittsburgh.
Chuck Clark stepped into Jefferson's spot and took control of the defensive communication. Clark played so well in Jefferson's absence that the Ravens gave Clark a three-year contract extension earlier this week.
Releasing Jefferson saves $7 million in salary-cap space, per Spotrac.
"This is the worst part of the business," General Manager Eric DeCosta stated. "Tony is the consummate teammate and someone who is respected by everyone for his leadership, determination, humility and toughness. He's a friend to all and a true Raven. We know he's going to beat this injury and we'll be cheering for him all along the way. We wish the very best to Tony and his family."
Jefferson started every game he played in as a Raven the past three seasons. He had 153 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in his first two full years.
Jefferson was a strong tackler who took on a lot of tough assignments in the Ravens defense. He played close to the line of scrimmage and dropped deep in coverage as well. Off the field, teammates loved his infectious laugh and followed his work ethic.
"Tony is a tremendous leader, a true competitor, a team player and a family man," Head Coach John Harbaugh stated. "His time here has been a blessing. We have the utmost respect for his professionalism and positive contributions to our team and the Baltimore community. We wish he and his family the best going forward."
When Clark was signed to his extension, Jefferson showed his typical class. Now Jefferson will have his sights on getting healthy and back in somebody's starting lineup.