Baltimore Ravens should hold on to Tony Jefferson for 2020

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 31: Strong Safety Tony Jefferson #23 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after a play in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 31: Strong Safety Tony Jefferson #23 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after a play in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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The Baltimore Ravens have some tough decisions to make this offseason, but they should strongly consider bringing back Tony Jefferson for 2020.

Coming into 2019, the Baltimore Ravens were believed to have arguably the best safety-duo in the NFL between newly signed Earl Thomas and veteran Tony Jefferson. The former went on to have a Pro Bowl-caliber season while the latter had a season-ending injury that robbed him of the majority of 2019.

In his absence, Chuck Clark stepped up and earned himself a payday for his stellar play. With the signing came a new question for the Ravens: What do they do with Tony Jefferson?

The simple answer is the team should move on from him. After all, Baltimore can recoup almost ~$7 million worth of cap space and the team has quite a few free agents to retain. Guys like Matt Judon should take precedence over a guy like Jefferson, who has admittedly not played up to the level of his contract.

It seems like a pretty open-and-shut case, right? Well, I’m here to tell you otherwise. Not only am I saying to bring back Tony Jefferson for 2020, but I’m also here to say that the Baltimore Ravens would be wisest to reinvent his job with the team.

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Before someone comes at me with the “he’s coming off a major injury” argument let me say this: Tony Jefferson is just 28-years old and ACL tears aren’t what they used to be. With modern medicine and a good medical staff in place, Jefferson can return to form with ease. It’s no guarantee, but using that as an argument against Jefferson is certainly a weak one.

Right now, the Ravens have a ton of money invested into their secondary. Earl Thomas, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young, and now Chuck Clark are all on long-term deals with the team. Jefferson also has a nice contract with the team, but he’s entering the final year of his deal. Prior to his injury, Jefferson was a solid starter at strong safety for the team. With the way Clark played in Jefferson’s absence, there’s a strong case to be made that he’s taken Jefferson’s spot there, however.

So then what does Baltimore do? It’s quite simple: move him into a hybrid-position. The Ravens made a mistake when they first signed Tony Jefferson in that they forced him to primarily be a safety. What they should’ve done was create a position where he can lineup throughout the defense, particularly in the front-seven. Now that Clark is seemingly etched in as the team’s starting strong safety, Baltimore can make amends by moving Jefferson into that role.

In doing this, the Ravens are getting the most out of their investment. This way, Tony Jefferson is still a starting-caliber guy who won’t be pigeonholed into one spot. When Jefferson was with the Arizona Cardinals he played this exact role and was at his best. His performance in that scheme is what made him great and got him that shiny new contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Now, the Ravens have no excuses to not move him into that position and let him excel.

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Considering the Baltimore Ravens are quite weak at the linebacker spot even if they bring back guys like Patrick Onwuasor, it makes all the more sense to retain Tony Jefferson. The fact of the matter is this guy is too talented to just outright cut and the Ravens can put him in a better position to succeed in 2020. As a safety/linebacker-hybrid, Jefferson could be back better than ever.

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