Making over the secondary was an obvious priority for the Baltimore Ravens this offseason. A litany of injuries on the back end made a usually stout defense easy pickings for star quarterbacks and marquee wide receivers last season.
Fortunately, the Ravens didn’t mess around when it came time to revamp the defensive backfield. General manager Eric DeCosta added veteran talent in free agency, including safety Marcus Williams and cornerback Kyle Fuller. Meanwhile, the 2022 NFL draft yielded safety Kyle Hamilton and corners Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams.
Those additions have left one key veteran defensive back as an odd man out headed into the new season. One NFL writer has proposed a trade where the Ravens flip this versatile leader for a draft pick next year if he’s sent to Dallas Cowboys.
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Ravens Get Mid-Round Pick for Safety
Acquiring Chuck Clark would be worth the Cowboys giving up a fourth-round pick in 2023, according to Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton. He thinks “Dallas has the perfect opening next to free safety Malik Hooker and versatile defender Jayron Kearse. The Cowboys saw both Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee depart in free agency, and Clark could help fill the box safety role they split in 2021.”
Wharton also referenced how “Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald even acknowledged there’s not a clear role for Chuck Clark after those moves.” MacDonald, who replaced Don ‘Wink’ Martindale as play-caller this offseason, said it’s “probably way too early” to define specific roles for individual players, including Clark, per Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports.
Giving up Clark would rob the Ravens’ defense of one of its most flexible players. The 27-year-old has the ability to line up in multiple positions and impact offenses, something Pro Football Focus analyst Jon Macri outlined early last season:
Moving around forces Clark to showcase many skills, specifically the ability to provide run support in the box, blitz the pocket and cover against slot receivers. Those skills helped Clark post positive numbers in every category last season, 80 tackles, 10 pass breakups, 2 interceptions and 1.0 sack.
Clark has registered just 3.5 sacks in his career, but he’s been a key part of the way the Ravens bring pressure the last three seasons. His blitz percentage from 2019 showed how often the Ravens called his number in pressure situations, per Next Gen Stats:
MacDonald won’t call exactly the same scheme as Martindale, but he’ll know how important blitzing defensive backs can be for a unit that logged a mere 34.0 sacks last season. The group also allowed 4,742 yards and 31 touchdowns through the air.
Clark’s talent for rushing the passer is just one reason why the Ravens may not welcome a trade.
John Harbaugh Not Open to a Deal
It’s possible some team, even the Cowboys, make the Ravens an offer they can’t refuse for Clark, but it’ll take a lot to convince head coach John Harbaugh. When asked about the safety’s future back in May, Harbaugh made clear how much he still values Clark, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley:
The idea of Clark moving on gathered steam during the draft, especially after the Ravens selected Hamilton 14th overall. Hensley’s ESPN colleague Jeremy Fowler reported that “multiple teams checked in on his (Clark’s) status on draft night.”
Clark’s position group is crowded now, but it’s not a stretch to envisage him still playing a heavy number of snaps this year. Most teams incorporate some sort of three-safety package in today’s league, and the Ravens are perfectly equipped to do the same.
There’s also Clark’s hidden value as a leader. He’s a gritty and resourceful player who helps define the toughness of Baltimore’s defense.
That toughness has been a franchise hallmark for over two decades, but it deserted the Ravens last season when injuries exposed a lack of quality depth. Having three starter-level safeties is an asset, not a problem, so the Ravens should think twice before even considering trading Clark.