After locking up Marcus Peters, the Ravens have Matt Judon looming as their top in-house priority. But a team that has frequently let edge rushers walk after big contract years is not a lock to retain him.
The Ravens are preparing to use their franchise tag on Judon and will be ready to take trade inquiries on the Pro Bowl outside linebacker, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports. While the Ravens want to retain Judon, Schefter notes they are likely prepared to listen to offers. This would make sense on multiple fronts yet strip the already edge-rush-needy Ravens of their top sack artist.
The Ravens have let several pass rushers walk in free agency in recent years. Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee and Za’Darius Smith defected in free agency after standout contract years. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore’s edge anchor for so many seasons, left last year after his most recent Ravens contract expired. Baltimore recouped subsequent compensatory rewards.
The tag-and-trade market for edge rushers also heated up last year. More tagged edges ended up playing for other teams this season than the teams that applied the tag. Dee Ford, Frank Clark and Jadeveon Clowney were dealt, with the Seahawks collecting by far the top trade haul (Chiefs first- and second-round picks). Judon would naturally generate interest. However, he is on the older end for a player with four years’ experience — set to turn 28 before next season — and will command a contract that perhaps pushes toward $20MM annually.
Clark (zero Pro Bowls as a Seahawk) and DeMarcus Lawrence (two with the Cowboys) became the second- and third-highest-paid edge defenders last year. The Lions gave Trey Flowers (no Pro Bowls) an $18MM-per-year pact with higher guarantees than either, while the Packers gave Smith (no Pro Bowls as a Raven) $16.5MM. With the cap set to approach $200MM, Judon’s price will not be cheap. The 2019 Pro Bowler is coming off a career-high 9.5 sacks and a Ravens-record 33 quarterback hits (since the stat became tracked in 2006). Judon also proved more consistent than Smith in Baltimore, combining for 15 sacks between the 2017-18 seasons.
The Ravens are projected to hold more than $28MM in cap space. A Judon tag — if he’s tagged as a linebacker — would cost nearly $16MM. John Harbaugh acknowledged recently it might be difficult to keep Judon, and the Ravens also have Michael Pierce, Patrick Onwuasor and Jimmy Smith set for free agency.
Judon is among a lengthy list of impact pass rushers set for free agency. Clowney, Shaquil Barrett, Arik Armstead, Yannick Ngakoue, Bud Dupree, Dante Fowler and Jason Pierre-Paul headline this group. While the Buccaneers are planning to keep Barrett, it will be interesting to see how this market shapes up in the weeks between now and free agency.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.