Matt Judon

Ravens Use Franchise Tag On Matt Judon

Long mentioned as a candidate for the Ravens’ franchise tag, Matt Judon will not have the opportunity to test free agency. The Ravens will use their top tag on their top edge rusher, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. The Ravens made the designation official.

The interesting chapter will follow. The Ravens were linked to a Judon tag-and-trade scenario early in the offseason, and the team has a fairly extensive history of letting outside rushers leave. If Baltimore dangles Judon in trades, widespread interest will likely follow.

Judon will be tagged as an outside linebacker, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). While he is essentially a defensive end, 3-4 teams have used the linebacker tag in the recent past to save money. This could prompt a challenge from Judon, who will be on an approximately $15.8MM tender instead of a defensive end price ($17.8MM). Multiple pass rushers are prepared to dispute linebacker tags this year, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

I’d rather have a long-term deal for stability. It is what it is,” Judon said, via Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter). “I feel like this is what many of us go through that are facing free agency. At the end of the day, I know I’m playing football next season.”

The all-time compensatory pick kings, the Ravens have let Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee and Za’Darius Smith sign their second contracts elsewhere. Judon, however, has been a key weapon for the Ravens for years. And the team no longer has Terrell Suggs anchoring one side of its edge rush, complicating the prospect of Judon being the latest Baltimore edge to leave. A Judon exit, though, would net Baltimore far more than a comp pick.

A Division II product out of Grand Valley State (Mich.), Judon became vital for the Ravens’ Super Bowl push last season. After Suggs and Smith exited in free agency, Judon posted a team-record (since the stat surfaced in 2006) 33 quarterback hits in a 9.5-sack season. Judon, 27, now has 24.5 sacks over the past three seasons.

Three teams used the tag-and-trade route to recoup value for their pass rushers last year, with Dee Ford, Frank Clark and Jadeveon Clowney being dealt. The Jets are interested in Judon, who doubles as one of a few tag-and-trade pass rushers this year. Yannick Ngakoue and Bud Dupree join him. It will be costly for a team to acquire Judon, but we will surely hear more about this market soon.

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Jets Targeting Pass Rushers

The Jets are seeking some pass-rush help, and they’re eyeing some of the top names on the market. Sources tell Connor Hughes of The Athletic that “the Jets are doing their homework on Jadeveon Clowney” and are among the teams “in on him.” The Jets are also planning to “actively pursue” Rams pass rusher Dante Fowler.

The team could alternatively look to the trade market for help. Hughes writes that the Jets are expected to make a call on Ravens defensive end Matt Judon, who is expected to receive the franchise tag after finishing 2019 with a career-high 9.5 sacks. However, Hughes cautions that the organization may be wary to give up too much draft capital, especially when they’re looking to fill holes via the draft.

Hughes also expects the Jets to be in on a number of offensive lineman, including Joe Thuney and Graham Glasgow. We heard yesterday that the organization was planning on pursuing Redskins lineman Trent Williams. The front office could even pursue cornerback James Bradberry, according to the writer.

The Jets will have a whole lot of money to throw at a pass-rusher, as they’re currently sitting with more than $60MM in projected cap space. Hughes notes that the organization could easily move on from the likes of cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson, lineman Brian Winters, and others, which would open up an additional $20MM to $27MM in cap space.

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AFC East Notes: Jets, OL, Patriots, Kilgore

Add the Jets to the teams in the James Bradberry market. Cornerback resides among the many needs in New York, and the Jets are “very interested” in the Panthers starter, Connor Hughes of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Twenty-two teams have expressed some degree of interest on Bradberry, per Hughes. This includes the Redskins, now run by longtime Panthers coach Ron Rivera. The Giants are interested, but Hughes notes the No. 1 cornerback price tag will likely push them out of the running.

Here is the latest from the AFC East, first moving to other Jets rumors from Indianapolis:

  • A high probability exists the Jets will be the rare team to replace its entire starting offensive line. Week 1’s front five — Kelvin Beachum, Kelechi Osemele, Ryan Kalil, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell — are either unlikely to be back or certainties (in Osemele’s case) not to return, and Hughes notes that the Jets are eyeing four new O-line starters. Alex Lewis, a 2019 trade get who took over after Osemele’s injury, is a free agent but could be the player from last year’s front retained. The Jets are eyeing guards Joe Thuney and Graham Glasgow, per Hughes. While the Jets want to come away with a high-end free agent — they are also in on Jack Conklin — GM Joe Douglas will look to the draft to fill much of the O-line needs, Hughes adds. This points to Gang Green being in the market for this atypically stacked tackle class at No. 11.
  • Thuney is expected to cost at least $14MM, with Jeff Howe of The Athletic adding his bidding could push a guard-high $15MM. The Patriots have seen Nate Solder and Trent Brown sign O-line-record money the past two offseasons; they are not expected to try to keep Thuney. Even Thuney’s backup could have a big market. Ted Karras, a full-time starter only in 2019, may be set to earn command a near-$10MM-AAV deal, per Howe. That would be a good indication of the recently seller-happy O-line market hitting another level.
  • The Jets have also been in the market for edge rushers for years, finishing second in 2018’s Khalil Mack sweepstakes and seeing a player they wanted to turn into an edge defender — Anthony Barr — renege on a deal at the 11th hour. League sources expect Gang Green to target Dante Fowler, Hughes notes. The Rams’ bevy of big contracts will likely limit them from franchise-tagging Fowler. The Jets are also interested in Matt Judon, though the Ravens are likely to tag him. He could be a tag-and-trade option, however.
  • Despite their desperation for edge help, the Jets are not expected to be in the Jadeveon Clowney market. An issue with what some Texans sources described as a “cavalier attitude” made Douglas leery of pursuing a Clowney trade last year and has him looking elsewhere for outside linebacker aid, per Hughes. Clowney’s price tag figures to be immense. The Jets hold $49MM-plus in cap space but have many needs.
  • Optimism exists Devin McCourty will be back in New England on a third contract, Howe adds. McCourty and the Patriots are expected to meet before week’s end. The standout safety has spent all 10 seasons of his career in New England. With Jason McCourty still under contract, Devin returning to the Pats should not exactly surprise.
  • Like the Jets, the Dolphins could have a retooled offensive front. They are looking around for centers to replace Daniel Kilgore, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Kilgore has started 17 games since signing with the Dolphins in 2018. Releasing him in the final year of his contract would save the Dolphins $4MM.

Ravens Expected To Franchise Tag LB Matt Judon

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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Matt Judon To Be Tag-And-Trade Candidate

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.

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AFC Notes: Ravens, Brady, Mosley

We heard at the end of December that the Ravens are prepared to slap pass rusher Matt Judon with the franchise tag if they cannot work out a long-term deal with him, but recent comments from head coach John Harbaugh suggested Judon could be suiting up elsewhere in 2020. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic says Baltimore may be disinclined to use the tag, as it would take up a big chunk of their cap and could alienate the emotional and outspoken Judon.

On the other hand, Judon is the only proven pass rusher on the team, and there’s no guarantee the Ravens can win a bidding war for one of this year’s top FAs or land a player at the bottom of the first round of the draft who can make an immediate impact, so GM Eric DeCosta will have to carefully weigh a number of factors.

Let’s round up a few other AFC items, starting with several more nuggets out of Baltimore:

  • The Ravens and veteran CB Jimmy Smith have mutual interest in a reunion, per Zrebiec. However, if Baltimore brings back Smith, it’s unlikely that CB/S Brandon Carr also returns. Meanwhile, the Ravens will almost certainly cut safety Tony Jefferson.
  • Regardless of what they do with Judon, the Ravens will have to add three or four starting-caliber players to their front seven, so Zrebiec expects the team to focus on those areas heavily in the draft, and he fully expects DeCosta to draft a WR or two.
  • Add Jay Glazer of The Athletic to the list of pundits who believe a Tom BradyRaiders partnership makes sense. Like others, Glazer thinks the Chargers are an obvious non-Patriots landing spot, but given the international presence that the Las Vegas outfit is expected to have, both Brady and the team would stand to benefit from a Sin City marriage.
  • In a recent interview with Eddie Paskal of the team’s official website, Raiders GM Mike Mayock said he believes the move to Las Vegas will help the club attract top free agents, even those not named Brady. The fact that Nevada does not have a state income tax will obviously be appealing, as will the sleek new stadium and the general excitement surrounding the franchise. Mayock also noted that he will look to add wide receiver help this offseason.
  • Jets LB C.J. Mosley had to undergo groin/abdominal surgery about six weeks ago, but he expects to be ready for the team’s offseason program this spring, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. One of last year’s biggest free agent fish, Mosley played in just two games for Gang Green, and he has started a vegan diet in the hopes of giving himself an edge.

Ravens HC: Will Be Hard To Keep Matt Judon

The Ravens want to keep Matt Judon, but head coach John Harbaugh admits that it’ll be “pretty hard” to retain the in-demand pass rusher. 

We’re going to try to get as many of these guys re-signed as we can. Matt [Judon] is probably right at the top of the list, for sure,” Harbaugh told reporters on Friday. “Our goal will be to have Matt back.”

Judon, 28 in August, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. After notching a career-high 9.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in his first season as a full-time starter, Judon could fetch big bucks on the open market.

There’s some question as to whether the Ravens can afford to re-sign him to a lucrative long-term deal, but they can ill afford to lose him, either. Judon stepped up after the Ravens’ front seven lost Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith to free agency. Now, there’s no one behind the fourth-year player that could replace his production.

The Ravens will have to balance their desire to keep Judon with other pending free agents, including cornerback Jimmy Smith, defensive tackle Michael Pierce, and linebacker Patrick Onwuasor. They’re also likely to exercise defensive back Brandon Carr‘s option, which would carry a $7MM cap figure.

As it stands, the Ravens are projected to have nearly $34MM in cap space for the offseason.

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Ravens Prepared To Franchise Tag Matt Judon

The Ravens are prepared to use the franchise tag on linebacker Matt Judon if they cannot reach a long-term deal with him this offseason, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes. Judon has already set a career-high in sacks in 2019 with 8.5, and he looks poised to make a lot of money in 2020.

The fourth-year player from D-II Grand Valley State has established himself as Baltimore’s most consistent pass rusher this year, and he is also a capable defender against the run. He has not yet become one of the league’s elite, but he continues to be on an upward trajectory, and the Ravens will have a fairly healthy cap situation for the first time in a long time in 2020. Plus, with QB Lamar Jackson still on his rookie deal, now is the time to lock up other core players.

The team lost Za’Darius Smith to free agency last offseason, and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has generally had to rely on blitzes to pressure the QB this year. Even if they retain Judon, the Ravens could be in the market for another pass rusher in free agency, and they will hope for continued growth from rookie Jaylon Ferguson.

Per La Canfora, rival GMs have resigned themselves to the fact that Judon will not hit the open market in 2020. If the Ravens do tag Judon, they would buy themselves until the middle of July to work out a multi-year pact. The franchise tag is expected to be worth roughly $17MM.

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Ravens Were Out Early On Za’Darius Smith

The Ravens for years have let edge rushers test the market, with several of those processes ending in the franchise recouping mid-round compensatory picks after contract-year standouts departed. They did not deviate from this formula this offseason.

But as a result of both Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith leaving this year, the team is thinner than usual at this premier position. As for Smith, the Ravens were never in the mix to bring him back, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Smith signed with the Packers on a four-year, $66.5MM contract; the former part-time Ravens starter is now the NFL’s third-highest-paid 3-4 outside linebacker. Ravens GM Eric DeCosta seemed to predict Smith’s exit in January, noting how the market escalates for this type of young talent, and Zreibec notes the Ravens did not want to compete with that cost. Smith registered 8.5 sacks and 25 quarterback hits last season and followed previous Baltimore walk-year standouts like Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee in signing big deals elsewhere.

McPhee is now back in Baltimore, with he, Shane Ray, third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson and returning starter Matt Judon comprising the Ravens’ edge-rushing contingent. Judon has yet to say if he and the Ravens have discussed an extension. In terms of young edge defenders potentially set for next year’s market, Judon (15 sacks over the past two seasons) joins Yannick Ngakoue, Bud Dupree and Dante Fowler among those in contract years.

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AFC Notes: Brown, Steelers, Broncos, Ravens

While the Antonio Brown saga might seem like it’ll never end, a resolution could actually be forced relatively soon. “The Steelers will try to trade Brown sometime during a five-day window that begins March 13, when the new NFL season opens, and March 17, the date on which the Steelers would have to pay him a $2.5 million roster bonus”, writes Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

It makes sense why the Steelers have no interest in paying him the roster bonus, and if that’s the case we should know where Brown will be playing next year within the next couple of weeks. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert confirmed yesterday that three teams have inquired about a trade for Brown. Having a set date they need to trade him by would seem to reduce Pittsburgh’s leverage in trade talks. League executives are already saying they don’t expect the Steelers to fetch more than a third round pick.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Broncos won’t be re-signing cornerback Tramaine Brock this offseason, according to Mike Klis of Denver 9 News. Klis also writes “the odds aren’t great for” fellow cornerback Bradley Roby being brought back, so Denver’s secondary will be undergoing a significant amount of turnover this offseason. Denver’s once vaunted ‘No Fly Zone’ is a thing of the past, and the team needs a young cornerback to develop next to Chris Harris Jr. Brock is 30, and coming off a down year, he could struggle to find a ton of interest on the open market. Roby was Denver’s first round pick back in 2014 and started 15 games last year, but has mostly been a disappointment and fallen out of favor with the front office.
  • The Ravens signed cornerback Tavon Young to an extension a couple of days ago, and they might not be done handing out new deals just yet. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, outside linebacker Matt Judon, and kicker Justin Tucker are all “logical candidates” for extensions as they prepare to head into the last years of their contracts, writes Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link). Tucker remains the league’s best kicker, so the team will almost certainly prioritize a new deal for him that should break records.
  • In case you missed it, the Patriots’ McCourty twins have both announced they plan to continue playing in 2019.