Ravens Re-Sign Veteran Safety, Locker Room Leader for 2022 Season

Ravens Tony Jefferson

Getty Ex-Baltimore Ravens safety Tony Jefferson celebrates a play against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017.

The Baltimore Ravens have re-signed Tony Jefferson for the 2022 season, the team announced on February 24, continuing the veteran safety’s second stint in Baltimore after reuniting with the Ravens in 2021.

Jefferson first signed with the Ravens in 2017, starting 30 games in his first two seasons before a knee injury in 2019 limited him to just five appearances. He did not play during the 2020 season, but made his NFL comeback with the San Francisco 49ers in 2021. After being released from their practice squad, Jefferson returned to Baltimore in December after defensive backs Marlon Humphrey, DeShon Elliott and Ar’Darius Washington all suffered season-ending injuries. 

He earned elevations from the practice squad for the Ravens’ last four regular-season games, even leading the team with 10 tackles against the Cincinnati Bengals. He earned an 85.2 overall defensive grade from Pro Football Focus for that performance, in which he saw the field for 62% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps.

Jefferson is also a proven special teams contributor and, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, “a very popular player in [the Ravens’] locker room.” He could also fill the void left by the retirement of longtime Ravens safety Anthony “Co-Cap” Levine Sr., who was a beloved locker room leader and special teams ace.

Jefferson Will Bolster Secondary

With Jefferson’s re-signing, the Ravens now have four safeties under contract for the 2022 season, with Chuck Clark, Brandon Stephens and Ar’Darius Washington already set to return.

Clark is expected to start at strong safety for a fourth season in a row, but it’s unclear who will be next to him in Baltimore’s defensive backfield.

Jefferson is a reliable safety, but he’s never been the ballhawking free safety that the Ravens currently need. Washington was a highly-coveted undrafted free agent out of TCU, but he only made three appearances in 2021 before a brutal injury prematurely ended his season. His 5-foot-8, 176-pound frame is also a clear barrier to becoming an every-down starter in the NFL, though Washington still has the tools to succeed as a pro.

Stephens is the leading in-house candidate to start alongside Clark in 2022 after he closed out the season with 11 starts in Elliott’s place. He showed steady improvement in zone coverage, run defense and tackling while appearing in all 17 games for the Ravens, a feat even more notable considering that Stephens was a running back in high school and at UCLA before transitioning to cornerback at SMU. Baltimore’s coaching staff appears to trust Stephens as a starting safety, but he’s also a valuable matchup weapon with experience at cornerback and the size (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) to go with it.

Potential Ravens Safety Targets

Despite Stephens’ development at safety, the Ravens still may value him more as a versatile defensive chess piece rather than a traditional free safety. If that’s the case, they still may want to pursue a safety in free agency.

Tyrann Mathieu has been linked with the Ravens multiple times, but it’s possible that he’s too expensive to land in Baltimore. The same could be said of Marcus Williams, who doesn’t have the same pedigree as Mathieu but is just 25 years old with five solid seasons under his belt.

As a result, the Ravens may take the less-exciting route of re-signing DeShon Elliott, who started all 16 games for the Ravens in 2020 but only started six games in 2021 before a season-ending injury of his own. He’s set to hit free agency in March, but his lengthy injury history – which includes season-ending injuries in 2018, 2019 and 2021 – could be cause for concern around the league, making Elliott affordable enough to stay in Baltimore.

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