After becoming the elder statesman of the Ravens locker room following the retirements of Ray Lewis and Matt Birk earlier this offseason, linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo became the latest veteran to part ways with the organization on Wednesday.
The 36-year-old announced via Twitter that he will no longer be a member of the Ravens and multiple reports confirmed he had been released after five seasons in Baltimore. The three-time Pro Bowl selection served primarily as a special-teams standout but also served as a pass-coverage linebacker in the team’s sub packages at different times.
“I would like to thank the city of Baltimore and the Ravens organization for an amazing ride,” Ayanbadejo wrote. “We will forever be united as champions!”
Ayanbadejo’s release will save just over $800,000 in salary cap space as he signed a three-year, $3.22 million contract last offseason. He made three starts and played in 16 games last season, collecting 43 tackles and a sack.
He joins safety Bernard Pollard and offensive lineman Bobbie Williams as players from the Super Bowl XLVII team to be released this offseason.
After spending 10 seasons in the NFL, Ayanbadejo has gained off-field fame in recent years with his outspoken support of marriage equality. He and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe recently filed a joint brief with the Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Proposition 8 in his home state of California, which says only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized as being valid in the state.
Ayanbadejo is popular and will have lots of success after football, but this isn’t a significant move from a football standpoint. He will be 37 in September, which could hinder his ability to find a new team if he chooses to continue his playing career.
It became evident late last season that Ayanbadejo’s role with the Ravens was diminishing with the defense no longer turning to him to play linebacker in passing situations and electing to go with younger linebackers such as Josh Bynes and even Albert McClellan while Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, and Jameel McClain were sidelined with injuries.
However, his departure does open an even bigger hole at inside linebacker as the Ravens have also lost Lewis and Ellerbe at the position and are still awaiting official word that McClain will be cleared to play in 2013 after he ended last season on injured reserve with a spinal cord contusion suffered last December. Optimism does remain high that the starting inside linebacker will be cleared to play again.
Undrafted out of UCLA in 1999, Ayanbadejo spent time in the CFL and also played with the Dolphins and Bears before arriving in Baltimore with new head coach John Harbaugh in 2008. It was technically Ayanbadejo’s second stint with the Ravens after he spent part of the 2001 offseason with the organization but was released before training camp.