The Ravens have agreed to trade starting safety Chuck Clark to the New York Jets for a 2024 seventh-round pick, a source with with knowledge of the situation confirmed Thursday.
Clark, a four-year starter, team leader and the defense’s signal-caller, was expected to be a salary cap casualty this offseason as the Ravens cleared space for quarterback Lamar Jackson. Coach John Harbaugh indicated last week that Kyle Hamilton would pair with Marcus Williams as the team’s starting safety duo next season.
The trade, which the NFL Network first reported and which can’t be finalized until the NFL’s new league year starts Wednesday, would create $4.1 million in cap space. That would leave the Ravens with about $5 million more to clear to become cap-compliant. Clark was entering the final year of his contract and had a $6.8 million cap hit in 2023, the ninth highest on the team.
Clark first asked for a trade last offseason, after the Ravens took Hamilton in the first round. But the team couldn’t find a suitable partner. Clark showed up for the Ravens’ voluntary organized team activities anyway.
“He just walked in the building, and he was Chuck Clark, running the defense,” Harbaugh said in May. “So it’s not surprising at all.”
Clark took over as the unit’s signal-caller in 2019 and emerged as the team’s emotional heartbeat. In 2020, teammates stood privately and publicly behind Clark after a training camp altercation with Earl Thomas that led to the star safety’s release. After the Ravens’ 2022 season collapsed amid a wave of injuries, Clark’s defiant message after the team’s regular-season finale — “Just watch how we bounce back” — became a rallying cry for the offseason.
Last year, under first-year coordinator Mike Macdonald, he helped lead a defense that finished seventh in the NFL in overall efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. Clark, who played over 1,000 defensive snaps in each of his final three years in Baltimore, started 17 games in 2022 and finished with 101 tackles, four passes defended and a fumble recovery.
Over six steady if unspectacular years in Baltimore, the former sixth-round pick played in 96 games, made 63 starts and posted 384 tackles, five interceptions, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown.
“Chuck means a lot to this team, a lot to the defense, for real,” reserve safety Geno Stone, who started alongside Clark after replacing the injured Williams last season, said in January. “He meant a lot to me, just because I sat next to him every day. I learned as much as I could from him. Ever since last year, my rookie year, I tried to learn as much as I could from him.
“The situations that he went through last year during the offseason or whatever, just for him to come out here and still be that leader, still be that guy ... he never really said much about it. He just went to work. And I salute Chuck a lot, just the type of guy he is and the way he works. I appreciate Chuck a lot.”
Clark was emotional after the Ravens’ season-ending playoff loss to the Bengals last season. Following the defeat in Cincinnati, he stared at his locker as players cleared out. A support staffer stopped to console a teary-eyed Clark on his way to the team bus. A day later, he acknowledged that his future in Baltimore was uncertain.
“This is the team that drafted me,” he said. “I’ve been here 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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.