The Ravens have signed safety Chuck Clark to a three-year contract extension, the team announced Monday morning, their first move in a key offseason for general manager Eric DeCosta.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the extension’s reportedly worth $19 million, with $10 million guaranteed.
Clark, 24, who’s now signed through 2023, was set to hit free agency after next season. But DeCosta has been determined to keep young, talented Ravens from reaching the open market, and Clark had a breakout 2019 in his first year as a full-time starter.
The former sixth-round draft pick started a career-high 12 games last season, including 11 straight after replacing injured safety Tony Jefferson in Week 6. Wearing the defensive headset, he emerged as a dependable presnap communicator and reliable box safety. He played every defensive snap in all but two games after Week 5 while finishing sixth on the team in special teams snaps.
In coverage, Clark allowed a passer rating of just 75.1, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. Under pressure-happy defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, he also had one of the NFL’s highest blitz rates for a safety.
“Chuck is a great story about hard work, patience, preparation and passion,” DeCosta said in a statement. “He waited for his chance and seized the opportunity. Chuck’s a good football player, a fine teammate and respected leader. He’s the type of player we want on our defense for a long time."
Clark’s extension is the latest significant investment in the Ravens’ secondary. Safety Earl Thomas III and cornerback Marcus Peters, both All-Pro selections last season, are under contract through 2022, while All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey’s contract has a team option for 2021. Slot cornerback Tavon Young, who’s expected to make a full recovery after season-ending neck surgery in 2019, is also signed through 2022.
With Clark’s deal done, the Ravens can move on to their other defensive backs. Brandon Carr has a $7 million team option for 2020, while Jimmy Smith is a pending free agent. Jefferson, who’s started 35 games over three years in Baltimore, is unlikely to return for the final year of his contract.
Clark’s growth into to a cornerstone piece happened almost overnight. He started just two games in his first two seasons, his work mostly limited to special teams. But when Jefferson suffered a season-ending knee injury in early October against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Clark stepped in seamlessly.
Thomas joked that the soft-spoken Clark was ready for a bigger role as early as offseason workouts. “He was just like a starter,” Thomas said in October. “I was like, ‘Bro, why are they bringing me in here when they’ve got this guy?’ "
“As far as the communicator, as far as the checks, as far as just the football smarts, he has become that [Eric] Weddle, that Magic Johnson of the defense, of getting people lined up and setting them up to make plays as well,” Martindale said in December. “He has had a tremendous year and I’m really happy for him.”