In retweeting a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter indicating that the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to push back the franchise and transition tag windows, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com made a seemingly offhand, but still important, observation. Hensley tweeted that the new window is relevant to the Ravens, who are expected to tag linebacker Matt Judon.
We heard back in December that Baltimore is prepared to hit Judon with the franchise tag if the two sides cannot work out a long-term pact, but then head coach John Harbaugh conceded that it would be difficult to retain the team’s top pass rusher. Shortly thereafter, reports surfaced indicating that the Ravens may explore tag-and-trade scenarios with Judon.
As such, the fact that Baltimore plans to tag the Grand Valley State product is not surprising. The Ravens could look for trade partners for Judon once he’s tagged — the tag-and-trade market for edge rushers was rather robust last season — and they will certainly continue to negotiate their own contract with him.
The problem is that Judon has proven himself to be a good player, but not necessarily a player worthy of a deal that could approach an AAV of $20MM. He can dominate a game but does not do so routinely, and though he earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2019, that largely seemed to be a function of the team’s overall success.
On the other hand, the Ravens need a proven commodity at pass rusher, and beyond Judon, they don’t have one. They have high hopes for 2019 third-rounder Jaylon Ferguson, but the jury is still out on him, and it’s unlikely that any of the league’s other top edge rushers eligible for free agency will actually hit the open market. And Baltimore did let Za’Darius Smith walk in free agency last year because it deemed his price tag too rich, only to see Smith break out for the Packers.
So where Judon will play in 2020 is still an open question, but it sounds as if the franchise tag is all but a done deal.
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