OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ biggest offseason decision likely is Matthew Judon’s expired contract and what to make of his imminent pay raise.
The choice the Ravens are faced with is to let the team’s best pass-rusher walk in free agency, or to extend him to a long-term deal. Free agency opens on March 18, at which point the Ravens will have to have made a decision on Judon’s future with the organization.
Coach John Harbaugh, while he admitted the challenge of extending one of the team’s best defenders, said the team certainly wants to.
“We’re going to try,” he said. “Haven’t we signed eight of our guys already this year, if we do the count? So there’s no question that’s a priority for us. That’s something that’s really important to us. So we’re going to try and get as many of these guys re-signed as we can and Matt is probably right at the top of the list, for sure.”
Judon finished the season with 9.5 sacks, a career best for the 27-year-old fourth-year pro. In the three years prior, he had seven, eight and four sacks, respectively. He also had a career-high 33 quarterback hits.
Last season, the Ravens lost pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith in free agency to the Packers after he signed a four-year, 66 million dollar contract with 20 million dollars guaranteed. In a bit of a surprise, the Ravens appear to have gotten the short end of the stick on a free agency deal as it relates to Smith.
Smith had a career-high 13.5 sacks and 37 quarterback hits in Green Bay in a breakout year, and if the Ravens want to avoid a repeat of that, they’ll have to shell out for Judon.
But if the team wants to wait, with younger edge rushers Jaylon Ferguson and Tyus Bowser on the roster, the possibility of putting the franchise tag on Judon still exists.
The move would cost the Ravens nearly 20 million dollars for one season, but would ensure they’ve got a No. 1 pass rusher on the roster.
With an estimated nine picks in the NFL Draft there’s room to add talent in the front seven, but the Ravens would likely have to trade up to acquire a blue-chip edge talent.
The decision with Judon will affect the rest of the organization’s offseason plans, as a long-term contract restricts what else the Ravens can do across the roster in free agency and into the draft.
Whether or not the team decides to let him walk, extend him long-term or slap the franchise tag on him, the decision will have ripple effects throughout the team for the 2020 season.
“There’s a lot of things that can go into that, as we all know, the business part of it that agents and general managers deal with back and forth,” Harbaugh continued. “I’ll stay out of that, probably Matt will stay out of that too. We’ll let everybody do their jobs. Our goal will be to have Matt back, that’s what we try to do.”
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