Safety Chuck Clark, the breakout star of the Ravens’ defense this year in his first season as a starter, has been signed to a three-year contract extension, the team announced Feb. 10. According to the NFL Network, the deal is worth $19 million with $10 million guaranteed.
Clark becomes the ninth Ravens player re-signed by the team in the past year as general manager Eric DeCosta continues to make good on his pledge to retain the team’s core talent as much as possible. Clark, who turns 25 in April, was to enter the final year of his rookie contract in 2020. He is now signed through 2023.
“Chuck is a great story about hard work, patience, preparation and passion,” DeCosta said in a statement from the team. “He waited for his chance and seized the opportunity. Chuck’s a good football player, a fine teammate and respected leader. He’s the type of player we want on our defense for a long time.”
Clark began the season as a backup safety, moving into the starting lineup in Week 6 after Tony Jefferson was sidelined by a season-ending knee injury. By midseason, Clark was wearing the team’s defensive headset helmet and playing every snap on defense while also retaining a key role on special teams.
Clark finished the season as the team’s leading tackler with 68 (73 counting special teams) and also had one sack, one interception and nine passes defensed. He often played dime linebacker, directing all three levels of the Ravens’ defense with a confidence that belied his experience but reflected the comments of several in the organization who called him the most intelligent player on the field.
“Chuck is extremely smart,” defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt said. “He can line everybody up, he can manage the defense, and on top of that, he’s a great athlete. He has every attribute to become a great player in this league.”
The Ravens overhauled their defense midseason this year after they struggled mightily in back-to-back losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns that left them with a 2-2 record. In those two games, the Ravens yielded 500 yards of offense in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history.
The Ravens signed several key players, including linebackers Fort and Josh Bynes and defensive linemen Jihad Ward, Domata Peko and Justin Ellis, and they traded for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters. All made key contributions, but Clark’s insertion into the starting lineup had perhaps as large a role as any in the defensive turnaround.
The Ravens, who ranked 27th in total defense and 30th against the pass after Week 4, finished the year ranked fourth overall and sixth against the pass. After that Week 4 loss, the Ravens didn’t lose again in the regular season, reeling off a franchise-record 12 straight wins en route to a 14-2 record, their second straight AFC North title and the AFC’s No. 1 overall seeding for the first time in franchise history.
A sixth-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech in 2017, Clark had a limited role on defense in his first two seasons, totaling 18 tackles in his first 31 career games. Last year, Clark recorded his first career interception when he intercepted Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
With the signing of Clark, the Ravens have much of their secondary in place for the foreseeable future. Clark, Peters and Young have all been re-signed to extensions in the past year that keep them under contract through 2022 or longer. Safety Earl Thomas has a four-year deal that runs through 2022, and cornerback Marlon Humphrey is signed through 2020, though the Ravens retain a fifth-year option on him that figures to be exercised and would keep him under contract through 2021.
The Ravens still have decisions to make on a few other veteran defensive backs. Cornerback Jimmy Smith is scheduled to become a free agent, safety Tony Jefferson is considered a potential salary cap casualty, and cornerback/safety Brandon Carr has a team option for 2020 that must be exercised by March.
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