Tony Jefferson

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.

Contract Details: Ravens, Zeitler, Guy

Let’s take a look at the details of some recently-signed free agent contracts:

  • Danny Woodhead, RB (Ravens): Three years, $8.8MM. $4.25MM guaranteed. $1.75MM cap number for 2017 (Twitter links via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun). As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com observes (via Twitter), that represents a sizeable investment for a running back in this market. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets that Woodhead gets a $2.5MM signing bonus.
  • Tony Jefferson, S (Ravens): Four years, $34MM (max value of $37MM). $19MM guaranteed. $5.5MM cap number for 2017 (Twitter links via Zrebiec). La Canfora tweets that Jefferson gets a $10MM signing bonus.
  • Kevin Zeitler, G (Browns): Five years, $60MM. $31.5MM guaranteed ($6MM 2017 base salary fully guaranteed). $12MM signing bonus. Cash per year values of $18MM, $10MM, $10MM, $10MM, $12MM (Twitter links via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer).
  • Lawrence Guy, DL (Patriots): Four years, $19MM. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald (via Twitter) reports that Guy receives a fully-guaranteed $4.9MM in 2017, but that the total base value of his contract is $13.4MM, with the chance to reach $19MM with $1.4MM playing-time incentives each year. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets, Guy’s deal effectively amounts to a one-year pact, as the final three years of the contract are non-guaranteed. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets that Guy receives a $4MM signing bonus.
  • Marshall Newhouse, OT (Raiders): Two years, $3.5MM. Can earn an additional $1MM in playing-time bonuses (Twitter link via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com).

Extra Points: Browns, Osweiler, Jets, Eagles

The Browns are reportedly trying to trade Brock Osweiler after acquiring him (and more specifically, his contract) from the Texans yesterday, and while Cleveland might be willing to pay Osweiler’s deal down to $8MM or so, some executives don’t think the Browns will find a taker. “Get the [expletive] out of here,” said one personnel man, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Another evaluator: “No one will do their new trade … but I don’t blame them for trying.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Free agent safety Tony Jefferson reportedly turned down a better proposal from the Browns before signing with the Ravens, and Jefferson himself says Cleveland $1.5MM more than Baltimore, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link), Jefferson claims the Jets offered him the same overage, although Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News disputes that assertion (Twitter link).
  • Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks saw $4.35MM of his $4.85MM 2017 base salary fully guarantee today, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Kendricks has long been the subject of trade rumors, and the base salary guarantee could impact any such discussions. Unlike signing bonus money, which accelerates onto the original team’s cap in the event of a trade, guaranteed base salaries stay with the player and carry over to the acquring club.
  • Both linebacker DeAndre Levy (Lions) and safety Aaron Williams (Bills) were designated as post-June 1 releases, according to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com and Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Those decisions will save Detroit and Buffalo some cap space the short term, but both teams will see dead money incur on their 2018 books.

Ravens To Sign Tony Jefferson

A year after signing safety Eric Weddle, the Ravens are set to make another splash at the position in free agency. The club will sign Tony Jefferson, report Adam Schefter and Dianna Russini of ESPN (Twitter link).

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Jefferson is the second big-name defender who has agreed to depart the Cardinals this evening, joining soon-to-be Jaguar Calais Campbell. The safety’s decision to sign with the Ravens came in spite of a better offer from the AFC North rival Browns, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The Jets also had interest in Jefferson, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link), but Weddle helped convince him to head to Baltimore, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (via Twitter).

Jefferson hit clubs’ radars in the wake of a season in which he logged career bests in tackles (92), starts (14) and sacks (two). Although Jefferson failed to intercept a pass last year, and has recorded only two picks in four NFL seasons, he’s known for his line-of-scrimmage prowess and managed to rank an outstanding fifth in performance among Pro Football Focus’ 89 qualified safeties. He also rated as our 11th-best free agent and top safety.

The addition of an in-his-prime Jefferson, 25, is a boon for the Ravens, but not for one of their other safeties, Lardarius Webb. The team is now primed to release him and pick up $5.5MM in cap room, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. Interestingly, PFF liked the 15th-ranked Webb’s play nearly as much as it did Jefferson’s last season. However, at 31, Webb is the far older of the two. To this point, he has spent his entire eight-year career in Baltimore, where he has amassed 111 appearances, 82 starts and 13 interceptions. Webb started all 16 of the Ravens’ games last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Have High Bid On Tony Jefferson

The Browns are in on Tony Jefferson and their offer is currently the most lucrative one on the table, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. The Ravens, he adds, are also involved. "<strong

This week, I ranked Jefferson No. 11 on my Top 50 Free Agents List, which lists players in order of earning power. I estimated a $10MM+/year salary for Jefferson, particularly since Eric Berry is now off of the market. Jefferson is far and away the best strong safety in this year’s free agent crop.

The Cardinals want to keep Jefferson, but they expect to lose him. The Buccaneers, Redskins, Titans, and Panthers would all make varying degrees of sense for him, but it’s not clear if they are serious bidders.

One notable safety came off the market on Wednesday when Barry Church agreed to terms with the Jaguars. Duron Harmon, Jonathan Cyprien, T.J. McDonald, and Micah Hyde remain on the board. Darius Butler could also play safety, if asked.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cole’s Latest: Jackson, Zeitler, Poe, Williams

DeSean Jackson looks set for a raise despite having turned 30 during the 2016 season. His market is heating up on Day 2 of the legal tampering period, and it’s expected to clear the $11MM mark in terms of AAV, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report notes (on Twitter). The 10th-year deep threat is likely to leave Washington, and two Redskins rivals — the Cowboys and Eagles — remain interested, per Cole. He adds the Patriots and Buccaneers are in on Jackson as well. We’ve heard Jackson’s salary could climb toward the $12MM-per-year neighborhood. That would lean toward a team like the Bucs ($58.3MM in cap space), with the Cowboys and Eagles on the lower end of the cap-room hierarchy and the Patriots not big on monster skill-position contracts. Dallas’ interest, though, has been disputed, with Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporting the team isn’t interested. The Cowboys have just $8.3MM in cap space.

Here’s more from free agency, courtesy of Cole.

  • Kevin Zeitler may raise the guard salary ceiling, and the Jaguars continue to come up in connection to the former Bengals first-round pick, Cole tweets. The Jags re-signed guard Patrick Omameh on Tuesday, but at $775K, that won’t figure to preclude them from making a splash to upgrade their front. Zeitler’s been connected to a $12MM-per-year deal on a heated guard market. Kelechi Osemele‘s $11.7MM currently tops all guards. Jacksonville has $75.6MM in cap space. The Jags’ line does not have a veteran contract on its interior, with rookie-deal cogs Brandon Linder and A.J. Cann having been the primary starters last season, along with Omameh.
  • Dontari Poe might not get the kind of long-term security he wants this year, and Cole tweets the five-year Chiefs starting nose tackle could opt for a one-year deal and re-enter free agency in 2018. The Chiefs prioritized Eric Berry among their big two free agents, signing the cornerstone safety to a record extension. They also drafted Chris Jones in the second round in 2016 and are short on cap space, with a league-low $4.6MM presently. Poe made Pro Bowls in 2013 and ’14, but a 2015 back surgery slowed him. And Poe’s 2016 season, per Pro Football Focus, didn’t compare with his work at his peak. Cole notes Poe could look for a team that wants him to rush the passer more. Poe made just more than $6MM in 2016 on a fifth-year option.
  • Conversely, Ravens 3-4 nose Brandon Williams looks like he’ll do well in his first UFA foray. Cole tweets the fifth-year defender could well sign for around what the Giants paid Damon Harrison last year (five years, $46.25MM). That would bridge the gap for 3-4 nose players between Marcell Dareus and the field, and it might be more than the Ravens ($12MM-plus in space) can afford.
  • After one tampering day, Cole notes (on Twitter) Andre Branch could have a strong market. Cole associates the veteran defensive end as being worth between $7-9MM per year. Branch recorded 5.5 sacks on what could be a short-term stay with the Dolphins in 2016. As of January, the Fins wanted to keep Branch in Miami, but not much has surfaced on the now-two-time free agent since.
  • The Tony Jefferson rise seems real, with Cole now reporting (on Twitter) the Cardinals safety could earn more than $9MM annually. Previously, Cole had Jefferson — likely the market’s top safety after Berry re-signed in Kansas City — pegged to command around $7MM per year. But Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com attached the safety to a market around nearly $10MM AAV.