The Ravens released popular safety Tony Jefferson Feb. 14, a move that was expected given the major salary cap implications and Chuck Clark’s ascension to a starring role in the Ravens’ defense.

Jefferson was entering the final season of a four-year, $34 million deal he signed with the Ravens in 2017, and his release clears $7 million in cap space. Jefferson on social media recently had hinted that his release was expected.

“This is the worst part of this business,” general manager Eric DeCosta said. “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.”

Head coach John Harbaugh called Jefferson “a tremendous leader, a true competitor, a team player and a family man. 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.”

Jefferson, 28, started 35 games over three seasons with the Ravens, but this season was cut short when he suffered a major knee injury in Week 5 at Pittsburgh. He finished the season with 21 tackles and three passes defensed.

Jefferson’s injury opened the door for Clark to emerge, as the third-year safety established himself as a linchpin of the Ravens’ defense. Clark quickly took over wearing the defensive headset helmet and led the team with 68 tackles. Earlier this week, Clark signed a three-year extension with the Ravens, and with Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas returning for his second year with the Ravens, Jefferson and his $7 million cap hit no longer fit into the Ravens plans.

Jefferson is one of several veteran players in the secondary whose futures with the team will be decided in the next few weeks. The Ravens have to decide whether to pick up the option on Brandon Carr’s contract, and veteran Jimmy Smith is a pending free agent, as is safety and special teams ace Anthony Levine.

Jefferson, who went undrafted out of Oklahoma in 2013, played for the Arizona Cardinals for four seasons before joining the Ravens.

In three years with the Ravens, Jefferson totaled 174 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Some of Judon’s former teammates chimed in on Twitter about the safety’s release …

QB Lamar Jackson:

Pending free-agent OLB Matthew Judon:

LT Ronnie Stanley:

RB Mark Ingram:

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Bo Smolka

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