"This is the worst part of his business," Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement. "Tony is the consummate teammate and someone who is respected by everyone for his leadership, determination, humility and toughness. He's a friend to all and a true Raven. We know he's going to beat his injury and we will be cheering for him all along the way. We wish the very best to Tony and his family."
Jefferson came to Baltimore as a coveted free agent in 2017, signing a four-year, $34 million deal with the Ravens after beginning his career in Arizona. He appeared in 35 games, recording 174 tackles, 11 passes defended 3.5 sacks and two interceptions. Jefferson was part of a safety tandem with Earl Thomas in 2019, but their run together ended after just five games due to a season-ending injury to Jefferson.
Backup Chuck Clark rose to the occasion, filling in excellently and proving the Ravens might be just fine without Jefferson. Baltimore rewarded Clark accordingly with a three-year extension Monday, then decided to save roughly $7 million in cap space (eating a $4.1 million dead cap number instead of taking up $11.6 million in cap hit) by cutting Jefferson before the final year of his contract begins.
With Jefferson still on the path back from the ACL injury he suffered in October, the February release allows him a month's head start on free agency before the new league year begins in March.