The Ravens took another step to solidifying their secondary long-term Monday as the team re-signed safety Chuck Clark to a three-year extension.
The deal is reportedly worth up to $19 million with $10 million guaranteed. But Clark’s signing, while it won’t break the bank, is an important step into locking down the future of the secondary.
Clark, 24, entered the 2019 season as a backup safety behind Tony Jefferson and Earl Thomas. But a knee injury to Jefferson launched Clark into the starting lineup in Week 6, where he missed just two snaps from the Bengals game on Oct. 13 to the Steelers game in Week 17.
He was also incredibly versatile and played in the box as a dime linebacker in sub-packages for Baltimore’s defense. As a do-it-all secondary player, he also was the lead communicator for a Ravens’ secondary that struggled early in the season with coverage breakdowns and miscommunication.
Now signed through the 2023 season, Clark joins a few other members of the secondary as having a firm spot for the foreseeable future.
“Chuck is a great story about hard work, patience, preparation, and passion,” Ravens executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement. “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. Congrats to Chuck and his family.”
While the Ravens have Clark signed for the next four seasons, they’ve also locked up cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Tavon Young as well as safety Earl Thomas through the 2022 season. Marlon Humphrey is still on his rookie deal, which runs through 2021 with a team option, but is in line for a significant contract extension on the horizon.
Humphrey and Peters were both All-Pro cornerbacks while Thomas was a Pro Bowler in his first season as a Raven. No player in that group, besides Thomas, is older than 27 years old.
With the starting secondary under contract, the team can now turn its attention to re-signing Jimmy Smith and extending Brandon Carr’s team option — should they wish. But with 2019 fourth-round pick Iman Marshall on the roster, and a few other younger players, there’s potential for a rebuilding of the secondary unit starting with those five.
One player whose future in the secondary looks all but confirmed is Tony Jefferson, who is still under contract for next season. It’s looking increasingly likely, though, that Jefferson’s time as a Raven is numbered. He’s due a base salary of $7 million with a cap number just under $12 million. With Clark’s role on the defense, there’s just no room for him.
Clark registered 68 total tackles and an interception in 15 games where he registered a defensive snap. According to Pro Football Reference, he allowed a passer rating of 75.1 when targeted.
He entered the season as the team’s third-string safety and didn’t register a defensive snap in Week 2 against the Cardinals. Clark, who will be 25 for training camp in July, has climbed the ladder and earned a well-deserved contract extension.
“As far as the communicator, as far as the checks, as far as just the football smarts, he has become that (Eric) Weddle, that Magic Johnson of the defense of getting people lined up and setting them up to make plays, as well,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said during the season. “He's had a tremendous year, and I'm really happy for him.”
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