Tony Jefferson

Tony Jefferson On Free Agency, Recovery

Tony Jefferson is still a free agent, and the safety is one of the biggest names left on the market. During a recent interview with Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, Jefferson spoke about his situation, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted his ability to find a new home.

Jefferson tore an ACL back in October, and the Ravens released him in February. COVID-19 has made it harder for teams to get a clear picture of his health, and for Jefferson to continue his rehab.“I was really getting into a groove with my workouts and my rehab,” Jefferson said. “I was really turning the corner and then, this comes.” Once he was no longer able to see his physical therapist, he struggled to get all of the stuff he needed for his workouts. “Most of it is sold out because I guess everybody is trying to use the (in-home) equipment now,” Jefferson explained. “I’m waiting two or three weeks just to get a medicine ball.”

Still he isn’t getting too down about it, and he indicated that he has been in touch with multiple interested teams. “I know that my knee is feeling fine, and I know that I have teams that are ready. I’ve just kind of let my agent do his thing. We’re just waiting for this virus to settle down, and I think something will happen quickly.” A Bucs beat writer floated Jefferson as a potential fit in Tampa due to his time spent with Bruca Arians in Arizona, but other than that we haven’t heard anything about him since his release.

The Oklahoma product is just one example of players with serious medical concerns who have had their markets impacted. There’s been a lot of talk that Jadeveon Clowney‘s offers have been underwhelming in part because team doctors haven’t been able to examine him and make their own determinations on his length medical history.

Zrebiec also notes that Jefferson is on track to be able to return to the field around the beginning of training camp, assuming training camp happens in late July and isn’t pushed back or canceled. Jefferson entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2013, and quickly became a starter with the Cardinals. He then signed a four-year, $34MM contract with the Ravens in 2017. He started all 35 games that he appeared in across his three years in Baltimore. While he’ll certainly end up signing somewhere, it doesn’t sound like it’s likely to come before the draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs Notes: Winston, Jefferson, Crowell

Throughout his first season as the Buccaneers’ head coach, Bruce Arians was generally non-committal towards former starting QB Jameis Winston. In one memorable sound-bite towards the end of the 2019 campaign, Arians was asked if Tampa could win with a different signal-caller, and he replied, “With another quarterback? Oh yeah. If we can win with this one (Winston), we can definitely win with another one, too.”

Despite that, Arians recently told Rich Eisen of the NFL Network that he is trying to sell other clubs on Winston (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). “I’ve called a couple teams,” Arians told Eisen. “You’re going to get one of the hardest workers you’ve ever had and a great young man.” 

However, none of the teams that Arians spoke with indicated they were interested in Winston as a starter. And indeed, teams that entered the offseason with QB needs have either filled those needs, plan to stay the course with their current group of passers, or are expected to use a high draft pick on a quarterback. So at this point, Winston will just need to get on a roster and hope that an opportunity opens up.

Now for more on the suddenly interesting Bucs:

  • We recently heard that the Buccaneers’ top QB choices were Tom Brady, then Teddy Bridgewater, then Winston, and Arians confirmed as much in the above-referenced interview with Eisen. “[A Winston re-up] didn’t work out for us only because [Brady] was available and we had [Bridgewater] if that wouldn’t have worked out,” Arians said. “We were going full steam ahead back with Jameis.”
  • After entering the offseason with a ton of cap space, the Bucs have only about $14MM left to spend, as Greg Auman of The Athletic observes, and some of that will be needed to sign the club’s draft picks. Auman takes a look at a few veteran FAs still available that could fit the Bucs’ remaining needs. One such player is safety Tony Jefferson, who played for Arians for four years in Arizona and who would represent a quality veteran presence in Tampa’s young defensive backfield.
  • The Bucs could wait until the draft to fill their need for a pass-catching RB, but if they are unable to do so or unwilling to wait, they could look at Isaiah Crowell, per Auman. Crowell does not have a past connection to Arians but did play for DC Todd Bowles when Bowles was the Jets’ head coach in 2018.
  • DB Ryan Smith re-signed with the Buccaneers several days ago, and Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports says Smith’s one-year deal has a max value of $2.25MM (Twitter link).
  • Even though Brady may want him, the Buccaneers have no intention of signing Antonio Brown.

Ravens To Release Tony Jefferson

The Ravens will release safety Tony Jefferson, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Jefferson was set to count for just under $12MM against the cap in 2020. Instead, the Ravens will erase a big chunk of it by cutting him. 

After making a name for himself with the Cardinals, Jefferson signed a four-year, $34MM deal with the Ravens in 2017. Since then, he’s started in all of his games for the Ravens over the last three seasons. Last year, he saw his season cut short by an October ACL tear.

The move does not come as a surprise – Jefferson only played in five games last year and he was gone for most of the Ravens’ incredible 12-game win streak. Earlier this month, they extended fellow safety Chuck Clark, adding $15MM+ and three years to his last remaining contract year. Clark and Earl Thomas will start at safety for Baltimore in 2020 while Jefferson moves on to a new team.

After dropping Jefferson, the Ravens will have an additional $7MM as they head into the offseason. They’ll still be on the hook for $4.7MM in dead money, but that’s preferable to paying ~$12MM for a backup.

The Ravens appear poised to contend once again in 2020, but they’ll have some key issues to address this offseason. The to-do list includes the status of Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matt Judon, who could be tagged-and-traded. They’ll also look to extend left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who helped Lamar Jackson capture the MVP trophy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Garrett, Bengals, Ravens

Myles Garrett crossed a key item off his rather important offseason to-do list, meeting with Roger Goodell about a potential reinstatement. That was only a step, however. The now-polarizing Browns defensive end must now wait on the NFL to determine if he’s met reinstatement requirements, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post (on Twitter). No timetable exists on this front, but Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer expects a reinstatement soon. The expectation remains for Garrett to return to action in 2020, his fourth season, but it is not certain if he will be able to participate in all of Cleveland’s offseason program.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • The Browns having hired Kevin Stefanski as head coach and added Alex Van Pelt as OC may prompt them to leave one key staff position vacant. Stefanski and Van Pelt’s experience coaching quarterbacks might move the Browns to forgo the hiring of a quarterbacks coach, Cabot writes. Stefanski and Van Pelt have 17 combined seasons coaching NFL quarterbacks. The Browns’ hire of 2019 Broncos QBs coach T.C. McCartney as an offensive assistant may further convince Stefanski the team is covered on quarterback coaches.
  • The NFL’s other Ohio team did some hiring recently, adding two coaches to Zac Taylor‘s staff. Former NFL wide receiver Troy Walters is now the Bengals‘ wideouts coach, the team announced. The team also brought in another coach with 21st-century NFL experience, hiring Colt Anderson as its assistant special teams coach. Walters played eight seasons, from 2000-07. His most notable work came for some high-powered Colts teams in the mid-aughts. Walters, who has yet to coach in the NFL, spent 2018-19 as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator. Taylor is ex-Cornhuskers quarterback and coach. Anderson spent time with the Eagles, Colts and Bills from 2010-17. This will be his first NFL coaching gig.
  • Expected to place the franchise tag on A.J. Green, the Bengals will likely accelerate negotiations with the star wideout between the tag window, per Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic (subscription required). Teams can apply tags to players from Feb. 25-March 10. Green has voiced opposition to being tagged in advance of his age-32 season and pointed to a likely holdout, though he has stopped short of saying he would not play on the $18.5MM tag. Green’s recent injury history and the Bengals’ likely reluctance to offer a highly guaranteed contract leads Dehner to predict the seven-time Pro Bowler will play 2020 on the tag.
  • Chuck Clark‘s extension agreement makes Tony Jefferson‘s Ravens departure a matter of when, not if, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Lost for the season in early October, Jefferson missed the bulk of Baltimore’s 12-game win streak. The Ravens releasing the three-year safety starter would save them $7MM in 2020, the final year of Jefferson’s contract. Clark will then expected to reprise his role alongside Earl Thomas next season.

AFC Notes: Ravens, Brady, Mosley

We heard at the end of December that the Ravens are prepared to slap pass rusher Matt Judon with the franchise tag if they cannot work out a long-term deal with him, but recent comments from head coach John Harbaugh suggested Judon could be suiting up elsewhere in 2020. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic says Baltimore may be disinclined to use the tag, as it would take up a big chunk of their cap and could alienate the emotional and outspoken Judon.

On the other hand, Judon is the only proven pass rusher on the team, and there’s no guarantee the Ravens can win a bidding war for one of this year’s top FAs or land a player at the bottom of the first round of the draft who can make an immediate impact, so GM Eric DeCosta will have to carefully weigh a number of factors.

Let’s round up a few other AFC items, starting with several more nuggets out of Baltimore:

  • The Ravens and veteran CB Jimmy Smith have mutual interest in a reunion, per Zrebiec. However, if Baltimore brings back Smith, it’s unlikely that CB/S Brandon Carr also returns. Meanwhile, the Ravens will almost certainly cut safety Tony Jefferson.
  • Regardless of what they do with Judon, the Ravens will have to add three or four starting-caliber players to their front seven, so Zrebiec expects the team to focus on those areas heavily in the draft, and he fully expects DeCosta to draft a WR or two.
  • Add Jay Glazer of The Athletic to the list of pundits who believe a Tom BradyRaiders partnership makes sense. Like others, Glazer thinks the Chargers are an obvious non-Patriots landing spot, but given the international presence that the Las Vegas outfit is expected to have, both Brady and the team would stand to benefit from a Sin City marriage.
  • In a recent interview with Eddie Paskal of the team’s official website, Raiders GM Mike Mayock said he believes the move to Las Vegas will help the club attract top free agents, even those not named Brady. The fact that Nevada does not have a state income tax will obviously be appealing, as will the sleek new stadium and the general excitement surrounding the franchise. Mayock also noted that he will look to add wide receiver help this offseason.
  • Jets LB C.J. Mosley had to undergo groin/abdominal surgery about six weeks ago, but he expects to be ready for the team’s offseason program this spring, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. One of last year’s biggest free agent fish, Mosley played in just two games for Gang Green, and he has started a vegan diet in the hopes of giving himself an edge.

Ravens’ Tony Jefferson Done For The Year

The Ravens escaped with an overtime win over the Steelers on Sunday, but they suffered a huge loss on defense. Safety Tony Jefferson tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season, coach John Harbaugh announced after the game.

“He at least has an ACL and probably more, so he’ll be out for the season as it stands right now,” Harbaugh said. It’s a really tough blow for a Ravens secondary that has already suffered a rash of injuries and has been struggling. Cornerback Tavon Young was lost for the season with a neck injury during training camp, and cornerback Jimmy Smith has missed each of the past four games with a knee injury. Unsurprisingly the pass-defense has struggled, and the Ravens were allowing 9.0 yards per pass attempt entering Sunday, which was 30th in the league.

Jefferson has only missed three games since entering the league as an undrafted free agent with the Cardinals back in 2013. He signed a four-year, $34MM deal with Baltimore in March of 2017, and has started 30 games the past two years. The Oklahoma product is set to have a $7MM base salary next season in the final year of his deal. With the way their secondary has been struggling, it’s definitely possible the Ravens could look to bring in a veteran safety from outside the building. If they don’t, youngsters Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott will fill in.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens’ Tony Jefferson On Eric Weddle’s Departure, Earl Thomas’ Arrival

Tony Jefferson joined up with the Ravens on a four-year, $34MM contract in 2017, making him one of the league’s highest-paid safeties at the time. While he’s been solid for Baltimore, he has yet to reprise the 2016 performance in which he finished out as the No. 5 ranked safety in the NFL, according to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. 

This week, Jefferson sat down with Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic to discuss what’s in store for him and the new-look Ravens defense. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

On whether the Ravens have yet to see the best of him:

Oh, yeah, 100 percent. I’ve yet to play my best ball. I think it’s ahead of me, and I believe in my heart that this year will be one of the better years of my career. I’m comfortable and in a system I believe in. Obviously, I had some learning curves my first year here. The more comfortable I get, the faster I can play, the more I can be myself. … I’ve gotten an opportunity to learn from Eric Weddle for two years. Understanding concepts and things like that. I think it’s going to allow me to play faster.

On his reaction when Weddle told him he was being let go:

It still hurts to this day. I miss him each and every day. I don’t think we’ve gone a day without talking. That’s my brother right there. I’m used to being with him in the mornings every day working out, being the first ones here. Just me being around him, I’ve just carried on that tradition. That’s leadership on its own, just doing simple stuff like that. I’ve learned a lot from him. I just soaked it in.

On his early impressions of Earl Thomas:

He’s cool, a very instinctive guy on the field. I’ve gotten to talk ball with him a little bit. We both have been kind of doing the same thing. He’s still not taking it 100 percent because he’s still recovering. We’ve been in the training room together a little bit, so we’ve gotten to chitchat. He’s a very smart, instinctive football player. We’re going to play to each other’s strengths. I think we both kind of play the same. We go 100 miles an hour: react and go. That’s kind of our deal. But like I said, I think his instincts are what separates him from a lot of players, being able to dissect plays and stuff like that.

On his approach to recruiting free agents to the Ravens:

I’ve been doing this recruiting thing for a while….I’ve always been a kid who keeps it real with them. And it is what it is from there. I don’t try to sugarcoat anything.

The first thing I tell them is that it’s a family here. Like right now, I have my son here with me. It’s really like that. If you need anything, they are here for you, at your disposal. For any player, I think the first thing you want to hear is people around the building are real with you. That’s just how it is. That was the first thing that jumped out when I first got here. Everybody is welcoming, from the cafeteria to upstairs to wherever. That’s the first thing I always tried to tell people.

As far as the community, that speaks for itself, too. It’s Charm City. People are loving around here. They are accepting, and they love Ravens football. If you’re really into it, if you really love football, if you really want to play real defense, I think it speaks for itself. You know where to go. That’s really all I say. If you don’t choose it, you’re probably looking for more money, or you’re looking for something else.

But if you want to play real football and real defense, especially in December and in this division, you look at no other place but here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Redskins, Smith, Ravens, Jefferson, Texans, Reid

Alex Smith to recover from the devastating leg injury he suffered midway through the 2018 season, and Redskins team president Bruce Allen recently provided an update, per Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Allen didn’t sound overly confident in Smith’s prospects of being ready for 2019, saying “If anyone can come back, it’s Alex”, but finishing with a “we’ll see.” He also left the door open to drafting a quarterback this April, and sounded as if the team is preparing for being without Smith.

He seemed open to the possibility of Colt McCoy starting, saying “we like Colt a lot.” McCoy initially filled in for Smith but soon went down with his own season ending leg injury. He was then replaced by Josh Johnson who looked a lot better than expected, but Allen didn’t mention Johnson at all in his comments. Smith was recently seen out in public for the first time since his injury, wearing a bulky apparatus on his injured leg.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • Recently extended Ravens coach John Harbaugh spoke to the media today, and provided updates on several injured players, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Harbaugh said guard Alex Lewis, who recently underwent shoulder surgery, should be back by training camp, and that safety Tony Jefferson, linebacker Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Tavon Young would all be out around 4-6 more weeks, putting them on track for OTA’s.
  • Texans rookie safety Justin Reid had a great rookie season, earning very high marks from Pro Football Focus, and he was playing hurt throughout the year. Reid had been dealing with wrist issues, and he will undergo wrist surgery, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. It’s unclear how long he’ll be sidelined, but it doesn’t sound like anything major and he should be ready in time for offseason work.
  • In case you missed it, the 49ers hope to have Jimmy Garoppolo throwing by OTA’s.

Ravens Restructure Tony Jefferson’s Deal

Last year, the Ravens signed Tony Jefferson to a four-year deal worth up to $37MM. This year, the Ravens moved some of that cash around to give themselves breathing room under the cap. Baltimore converted $5MM of Jefferson’s $6MM base salary into a signing bonus, creating $3.3MM in space for 2018, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets

As you may recall, the Ravens’ tight cap situation prevented them from signing Dez Bryant earlier this offseason. Bryant asked the Ravens for a lucrative one-year deal, but due to financial restrictions, the Ravens were only able to offer a three-year, $21MM deal that would have given him higher salaries in 2019 and 2020. Bryant turned Baltimore down and the Ravens instead signed restricted free agent Willie Snead.

Jefferson, 26, had a solid first year with the Ravens as he totaled 79 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and an interception. Pro Football Focus ranked Jefferson as the 24th best safety in the NFL last year, which probably sets a more realistic standard for his future performance than his No. 5 ranking in 2016.

The Ravens project to start Jefferson and Eric Weddle at safety alongside cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith. Last year’s first-round pick Marlon Humphrey also figures to see significant playing time at corner.

After this season, Jefferson will have two more years to go on his deal with cap numbers of $10.99MM and $9.99MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Cardinals, Joeckel, Raiders

Let’s take a quick swing around the league’s west divisions:

  • We learned earlier today that Tony Jefferson‘s new deal with the Ravens will pay him up to $37MM over four years. We also heard reports in recent days that the Browns and possibly the Jets offered him slightly more money, but that he spurned those offers to sign with Baltimore. As Andy Benoit of TheMMQB writes in a detailed piece on Jefferson’s free agent journey, Jefferson’s former team, the Cardinals, made him an initial “low-ball” offer of three years, $12MM, before upping their proposal to four years and $24MM, still well short of the winning bid.
  • Mike Jurecki of FoxSports910 passes along some contract details on two of the Cardinals‘ recent signings (Twitter links). Jurecki reports that safety Antoine Bethea‘s new three-year deal will pay him yearly base salaries of $2MM, $3MM, and $3MM, while A.Q. Shipley‘s new two-year pact is worth a total of $3.5MM with base salaries of $775K and $1.5MM, $725K in guarantees, and $250K in roster bonuses for 2017 and 2018.
  • Luke Joeckel‘s new one-year deal with the Seahawks will pay him a fully-guaranteed $7MM, with an additional $1MM available in per-game roster bonuses (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets that Robbie Gould‘s new two-year pact with the 49ers is worth a total of $4MM, with $1MM fully guaranteed.
  • The Raiders will likely not have a lease agreement for a proposed Las Vegas stadium in place before the league owners meet later this month, a meeting during which they could approve the team’s relocation bid. However, as noted in a piece from the Associated Press, the absence of a finalized lease agreement does not mean the league owners will be precluded from voting on the relocation proposal. Instead, they could conditionally approve the relocation as long as the lease adequately addresses issues that are important to the league.
  • The Raiders have made a few changes to their coaching staff, as Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com writes. Last season’s assistant secondary coach, Rod Woodson, will coach cornerbacks, as he did previously, and Brent Vieselmeyer, who was assistant linebackers coach last year, will coach the safeties in 2017. Meanwhile, Travis Smith has been promoted from quality control to outside linebackers coach, and Nick Holz is now the assistant receivers coach. Nate Tice, son of offensive line coach Mike Tice, is the offensive quality control coach.
  • We learned earlier today that the Broncos and OT Donald Stephenson have agreed to a restructured deal.