The Ravens made their first move to clear salary cap space, agreeing to trade durable safety Chuck Clark to the New York Jets for an undisclosed draft pick, the team announced Wednesday.
The move, which ESPN and NFL Network reported is for a 2024 seventh-round selection, saves the Ravens about $4.1 million on their 2023 salary cap. Baltimore needed to clear about $9 million by Wednesday to comply with the cap, and Clark, 27, was entering the last year of his deal.
The 2017 sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech became a starter in 2019 and played almost every defensive snap each of the past three seasons. He made 101 tackles, defended four passes and forced a fumble for a pass defense that ranked 11th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA in 2022.
Clark was unhappy when the Ravens signed Marcus Williams in free agency last offseason then used a first-round draft pick on Kyle Hamilton. But coaches praised his professionalism in the wake of those moves, and he ultimately started beside Williams, with Hamilton thriving as the Ravens’ nickel back.
“It was tough in the beginning, honestly,” Clark said after the season. “The people around here, they could tell you, I was frustrated. It was mentally challenging. I overcame it, and once I started balling, I got in my comfort zone — getting out there on the field and getting back to it.”
But with Williams signed long-term, Hamilton headed for a bigger role and financial constraints created by the nonexclusive franchise tag the Ravens applied to quarterback Lamar Jackson, Clark became an obvious candidate to be cut or traded.
He knew as much when he spoke to reporters the day after the Ravens’ season ended with a playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
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“Oh, yes, definitely,” he said when asked if he’d like to be back in Baltimore. “This is the team that drafted me; I’ve been here [for] all my career; I’m comfortable here; I know the other guys, the locker room, the environment. I don’t know. Sometimes, you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone. You never know what’s going to happen.”
With Clark headed to New York, Hamilton will be expected to start at safety after he blossomed playing in the middle of the defense last season.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last week that Hamilton had undergone minor wrist surgery after the season, but he praised the rising star’s versatility: “He’s capable of doing pretty much everything. He covers tight ends really well, he even covered slot receivers pretty well this year, man coverage. That’s pretty unique for a safety.”
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The Ravens also cleared cap space by releasing defensive end Calais Campbell and reportedly restructuring deals for running back Gus Edwards, right guard Kevin Zeitler and nose tackle Michael Pierce. Campbell, 36, said he plans to play a 16th NFL season in 2023, and he was the Ravens’ most consistent defensive lineman in 2022. But the Ravens saved $7 million by cutting him.
Edwards, 27, averaged 5 yards per carry over nine games last year after he returned from a torn ACL that cost him all of the 2021 season. The Ravens counted on him as a powerful backfield complement to J.K. Dobbins.
Other potential cuts include wide receivers Devin Duvernay ($4.3 million) and James Proche II ($1 million), linebacker Malik Harrison ($1.1 million) and offensive lineman John Simpson ($1 million). The Ravens could also clear room by restructuring the deals of left tackle Ronnie Stanley, cornerback Marlon Humphrey or tight end Mark Andrews, but they would risk cap difficulties in future years by going that route.