With recent season-ending injuries to defensive backs Marlon Humphrey, Ar’Darius Washington and DeShon Elliott, the Baltimore Ravens could be looking to bolster their secondary for a late-season playoff push.
Lucky for them, an ex-Ravens starting safety just became available: Tony Jefferson, who was released from the San Francisco 49ers‘ practice squad on December 8, as first reported by Dov Kleiman and later confirmed by the NFL’s official transaction report on the same day.
Jefferson made his NFL comeback with the 49ers in November after missing two seasons with a knee injury.
Ravens fans quickly took to social media to encourage the Ravens to re-sign Jefferson, who would bring seven years and almost 5,000 snaps of experience to a badly-depleted Baltimore secondary.
Jefferson himself even responded to one fan’s call to “bring him home,” posting a GIF of from Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame.”
The GIF is a clever – and somewhat cryptic – response to a potential reunion with the Ravens for Jefferson.
In the scene he referenced, Thanos, the movie’s main villain says, “You could not live with your own failure. Where did that bring you? Back to me,” according to IMDb.
While it’s unclear if Jefferson actually has any interest in returning the Baltimore – or if that interest is reciprocated by the Ravens – the first step would likely be an official team visit and workout sometime within the next week. While it’s unlikely that Jefferson could get settled in the Ravens’ defense quickly enough to take the field on December 12 against the Cleveland Browns, his experience suggests that he could be ready to play by the Ravens’ Week 15 matchup with the Green Bay Packers on December 19.
Amicable Departure from Baltimore
While the quote indicates that Jefferson might bear ill will towards the Ravens for his release in February 2020, the context around his departure from Baltimore indicates that the veteran safety was likely just having some fun on Twitter.
Jefferson started 30 games across his first two seasons as a Raven in 2017 and 2018, but a season-ending knee injury in 2019 limited him to just five games. Current Ravens starting safety Chuck Clark played so well in Jefferson’s absence that he earned a contract extension to be the team’s future at the position.
As a result, the Ravens released Jefferson to save $7 million in cap space, per the Ravens’ Ryan Mink, but both player and team made it clear that it was nothing personal.
Jefferson posted a message to Ravens fans on Twitter and also congratulated Clark, his eventual replacement, on his new contract.
“This is the worst part of the business,” said Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta who called Jefferson “the consummate teammate and someone who is respected by everyone for his leadership, determination, humility and toughness.”
Head coach John Harbaugh echoed DeCosta’s sentiments, saying, “Tony is a tremendous leader, a true competitor, a team player and a family man…We wish he and his family the best going forward.”
Jefferson’s Fit on the 2021 Ravens
Even if Jefferson signs with the Ravens for his second stint in Baltimore, it’s unclear exactly what role he’d play in defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s scheme.
For starters, Jefferson has only played 22 total snaps since his 2019 knee injury, with the majority coming on special teams for the 49ers in Weeks 9 and 10 this season. While he appears to be in playing shape, that much time away from the field is likely to hamper even an experienced veteran like Jefferson.
As a result, Jefferson would likely play a backup role on defense while also contributing on special teams. While that’s unlikely to make a huge difference to the Ravens’ playoff chances, depth is always important, and Jefferson would be an affordable veteran addition with experience playing in Baltimore.