Ravens Release ‘Highly-Respected’ Starting Cornerback, Clear Cap Space

Ravens Tavon Young

Getty Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tavon Young returns a fumble for a touchdown during a December 2018 game.

The Baltimore Ravens have released “highly-respected’ cornerback Tavon Young, per team writer Ryan Mink, in a move that will free up almost $6 million of cap space before the start of free agency.

While Young was a rare constant in the Ravens’ injury-riddled secondary in 2021, this move is all about Baltimore’s precarious cap situation.

Young was set to be paid $9.1 million in 2022, per OverTheCap, a figure that is too high for a slot corner who has struggled to stay healthy in his career. While cutting Young does incur a $3.3 million penalty against Baltimore’s salary cap, the team will save $5.8 million overall.

That money could go towards the signing of another defensive back or a new starting center; names like Tyrann Mathieu and Ryan Jensen have been linked with the Ravens in recent weeks.

But releasing Young isn’t a move that the Ravens make lightly. They’ve stood by their 2016 fourth-round pick through several major injuries, starting with a season-ending torn ACL in 2017.  The Ravens even expressed their faith in the Temple product financially, making Young the highest-paid nickel cornerback in the NFL with a three-year, $25.8 million extension in 2019. But a preseason neck injury followed by a torn ACL in 2020 robbed him of his next two seasons, leading to many questions about his long-term durability in the NFL in 2021.

Young answered those concerns by appearing in all 17 of the Ravens’ games in 2021 – his first full season since 2016 – though he did sustain a foot injury and a concussion over the course of the year. But Young was able to play the week after both of those injuries, as well as a bout with illness that landed him on the injury report as well.

That’s even more impressive when considering how fragile the rest of Baltimore’s secondary was, with three starters – Marcus Peters, DeShon Elliott, and Marlon Humphrey – as well as multiple depth players suffering season-ending injuries. By the end of the season, Young was the Ravens’ highest-graded cornerback left standing, per Pro Football Focus. But Young has never returned to his grades during his rookie season in 2016, which featured a top-15 cornerback grade from PFF in his 11 starts.

Young Could Be a Return Candidate

Still, the Ravens clearly like Young, so releasing him was more of a necessity to clear cap space for more important acquisitions than a decision to move on from the player. Since the cut cleared $5.8 million in cap space, though, the Ravens likely wouldn’t offer Young anything close to that number to bring him back, so he could seek a better deal elsewhere.

But with quite a few notable cornerbacks, including headliners Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, available in free agency, Young may not have much of a market, especially given his injury history. Since the Ravens stuck with him before, he may choose to stick with them now.

Furthermore, this response to Young’s release from veteran safety Tony Jeferson, who was recently re-signed by the Ravens himself, indicates that Young isn’t headed for an immediate return to Baltimore.

Instead, Young will test free agency for the first time in his career, though there’s a decent chance fans could see him back in Baltimore in 2022.

Young Thanks Baltimore After Release

Young was quick to express his appreciation for the Ravens fanbase after the team announced his release on the afternoon of March 9.

Fans responded in kind, posting their favorite memories and highlights of Young’s career in Baltimore.

Memorably, Young recovered two fumbles and returned them for touchdowns in 2018, one of his best seasons as a Raven.

If this is truly the end of Young’s time in Baltimore, he’ll be remembered fondly by both the franchise and its devoted fans.

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