By Aaron Wilson and Jeff Zrebiec
The Baltimore Sun
8:45 PM EDT, April 3, 2013
Continuing to address the age and flexibility of their roster, the Ravens are planning to release reserve linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, a veteran known primarily for his work on special teams and his advocacy of same-sex marriage.
The move is expected to become official by the end of this week, according to multiple sources. However, Ayanbadejo said his goodbye to the organization and city of Baltimore on his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon.
“I would like to thank the city of Baltimore and the Ravens organization for an amazing ride,” Ayanbadejo said on Twitter. “We will forever be united as champions!”
He didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment and the Ravens won’t have anything to say about his release until the transaction is official.
When it is, the move will save the Ravens $807,000 in salary cap space — Ayanbadejo signed a three-year, $3.22 million contract last year that included a $940,000 base salary for 2013 — and put them about $6 million under the cap. It will also continue their offseason trend of getting younger.
Ayanbadejo’s exit will mean that the Ravens will be without their six oldest players from their Super Bowl team — and eight of their nine oldest — next season. . The only exception is cornerback Chris Johnson, the 33-year-old who was re-signed last month. Johnson and fullback Vonta Leach (31) will be the only current members of the roster who are 31 or older.
Ayanbadejo, who turns 37 in September, spent the past five seasons with the Ravens, developing a reputation as one of the better special teams players in the NFL. Ayanbadejo started four games at linebacker in his Ravens’ career and has made seven starts in his 10-year NFL career.
He is a three-time Pro Bowl selection as a special teams performer, making the team twice with the Chicago Bears and once with the Ravens in 2008. Signed by the Miami Dolphins after playing three seasons in the Canadian Football League, Ayanbadejo has led or shared the team lead in special teams stops in seven of his 10 seasons.
He led the Ravens this past regular season with 14 special teams tackles and he also started three games at linebacker after injuries to Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe left the Ravens thin in the middle.
However, Ayanbadejo didn’t make a visible impact in the playoffs, finishing with no special teams tackles during the postseason, which ended with a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
The son of interracial parents, Ayanbadejo has long been an outspoken advocate for human rights and he used the Super Bowl platform to further the dialogue about same-sex marriage.
His profile had risen significantly this past year when he was one of the more vocal backers of legalizing same-sex marriage, which was passed in Maryland in November.
Ayanbadejo’s views weren’t always applauded both inside and outside the Ravens’ locker room. Veterans Matt Birk and Bernard Pollard were among the Ravens last year who spoke out publicly against the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Last September, Maryland State Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote a letter to Steve Bisciotti about Ayanbadejo, urging the Ravens owner to “inhibit such expressions from your employee.”
The Ravens publicly backed Ayanbadejo, who has more recently gotten national attention for his same-sex marriage advocacy. Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe jointly filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court, contending that California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the state, is unconstitutional. The brief also discusses the important role that professional athletes have in promoting tolerance.
Ayanbadejo and Kluwe are scheduled to be honored on Thursday in New York at a Straight for Equality event.