Since Eric DeCosta was elevated to general manager following the 2018 season, the Ravens’ boss has repeatedly made good on his vow to sign players before they reach the open market in free agency.
The trend continued Monday as Baltimore announced a three-year contract extension for safety Chuck Clark, worth a reported $16 million. Clark was set to become a free agent following next season.
“It was kind of something that was in the works towards the end of season, and we just kind of let it die down during the playoffs to focus on that and try to get our run and go,” Clark said Tuesday at the Under Armour Performance Center. “But definitely when the season ended, we got back, both sides going back and forth, and we finally came to something.”
Clark was the Ravens’ last pick of the 2017 draft, being chosen in the sixth round. His first two years in Baltimore were typical of a late-round draft pick, playing behind starters Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. Clark’s contributions came mostly on special teams.
When Weddle was released following the 2018 season, the Ravens signed Earl Thomas to replace him. Clark continued in his back-up role into his third year.
But in Week 5, Jefferson suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Steelers. Clark assumed the starting job and never relinquished it. He finished the year with a team-best 68 tackles and added an interception, a sack, nine passes defensed and a pair of forced fumbles.
“Chuck is a great story about hard work, patience, preparation and passion,” DeCosta said. “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. Congrats to Chuck and his family.”
Clark spoke Tuesday about spending his first two seasons playing being a pair of solidified starters.
“It’s a lot of ups and downs, especially [for] a guy that was in my position. You’re a second-string, third-string, special teams player, and in the back of your mind, you know what you can do and you know what you’re able to do in this league,” he said. “You have to be able to manage your emotions and handle the ups and downs that come with this game, because not everything is going to be smooth sailing as opposed to somebody that comes in in the earlier rounds and they’re almost guaranteed an opportunity to play on their side of the ball.”
The Ravens’ defense turned around after Clark became an every-down player. He wore the green dot on his helmet, signaling he had the headset and was responsible for relaying play calls. Baltimore quickly cleaned up its communication errors that plagued the defense in the season’s opening weeks.
Jefferson tweeted his congratulations to Clark on Monday, even though the signing all but solidifies his own impending release.
DeCosta signed slot cornerback Tavon Young to an extension last year to keep him from hitting the market. Late in the season this year, cornerback Marcus Peterson received an early extension. The Ravens hope to lock up 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey before he becomes a free agent, too.
“It’s definitely exciting. We have a lot of pieces coming back and we gel together well on the field. We play together well,” Clark said of the Ravens’ investment into the secondary. “As a ball player, you want to win championships, and I think we have the right pieces to go and do that.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig