Wednesday’s deadline for a long-term deal came and went, and Matthew Judon ended the day just as he began it: Without a contract extension.
Judon and the Ravens had until 4 p.m. to reach an agreement, but now that option is no longer possible as he’ll play the 2020 season under the franchise tag — which is worth $16.8 million.
The case for extending Judon was a clear one. He’s the team’s best pass-rusher, has missed just two games in his four NFL seasons and registered a career-best 9.5 sacks and 33 quarterback hits a season ago.
With Judon, who will turn 28 next month, on a one-year deal, the options to replace him elsewhere on the depth chart are sparse. The closest anyone came to nearing his sack total was Tyus Bowser, who had five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Next was two players (Patrick Onwuasor and Pernell McPhee) who had three sacks each.
But the reality of the situation is much more complex for the Ravens and Judon.
While Judon has gotten better progressively throughout his career, he’s never entered the elite category of pass-rushers in the NFL. His 9.5 sacks a year ago tied him for 19th in the league, tied with Mario Addison, now of the Bills, and Jordan Phillips, now of the Cardinals. Both players, coincidentally, changed teams after the 2019 season.
Additionally, the Ravens’ salary cap situation is going to get a lot more complex in the coming months and years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the league’s financial situation into flux, as there are questions about the salary cap increasing for the 2021 season — in fact, there are rumors it might even decrease.
With that in mind, the Ravens aren’t in a strong spot, cap-wise, to spend freely.
They’ve got left tackle Ronnie Stanley up for an extension after this season, a contract that could eclipse Laremy Tunsil’s whopping $22 million per year deal.
In 2022, cornerback Marlon Humphrey will be up for a contract extension. That same year, tight end Mark Andrews and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. will hit the free agent market as well. All three players were Pro Bowlers in the 2019 season.
Finally, there’s the looming storm of quarterback Lamar Jackson’s eventual contract extension. He’s due to become a free agent in 2023 after his fifth-year option.
The Ravens, however, are eligible to begin negotiations with Jackson after the 2020 season concludes. If that’s the case, and they follow the same trajectory as the Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes, money is going to get a lot tighter in Baltimore in the coming seasons.
Which brings the team back to Judon, and where he fits in their long-term plans.
“They’ve kind of got a ‘bad-good’ problem to have,” Judon said a month ago. “We have a lot of young talent, and unfortunately, we can’t all stay on the rookie deal our whole careers.”
If the Ravens and Judon are able to find a dollar figure that works for both sides after the season ends, it’s conceivable to think he’ll have a home for the next few seasons. As for how much money the Ravens can allot, however, remains to be seen.
But now, any deal will now have to come after the 2020 season has concluded. And at the moment, it looks like this will be Judon’s last season as a Raven.
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