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Ravens’ outside linebacker Matthew Judon ‘pleased’ to be playing under franchise tag

Ravens’ outside linebacker Matthew Judon ‘pleased’ to be playing under franchise tag

Matthew Judon, at least publicly, said he has no problems playing under the franchise tag. 

On a conference call with reporters Monday, the first time the outside linebacker had spoken to the media since signing the team’s tag, he said he had no concerns or even too much insight into the contract negotiations. Clearly, a player admitting he’s content to play on the franchise tag isn’t necessarily common.

Instead, the 27-year-old pass-rusher was relaxed about the entire process.

“I feel like only a few players get to go through this in their lifetime,” Judon said. “As much as I want stability in the future, I’m proud of where I’m at and where I came from...As far as the progress, we still have until the (July) 15th. I think we’ve got 30 more days to work out a long-term contract. We’re just going to see how it goes from there.”

If there was any doubt about Judon’s calm approach to the negotiations, he answered a question about where he was spending his offseason by announcing he was in “My Own Zone, USA.”

If Judon wants to guarantee his future in Maryland, USA, though, he’ll have to sign a long-term contract before July 15. If no long-term deal is reached before then, he’ll play the 2020 season under the franchise tag — which he signed for $16.8 million.

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Judon played aloof to the process of the long-term negotiations and light-heartedly pushed back on the notion that his next deal could be in flux, due to the salary cap constraints that could be presented by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Like I said, I really don’t know,” Judon said. “I really wish I had more insight into the contract talks, but it’s like I get third-hand information from my agents. I don’t know if that’s how everybody does it — if everybody sits on calls and stuff — but I trust my agents. So, I don’t really know.”

While his status beyond the 2020 season as a Raven remains unknown, Judon made it abundantly clear he’ll enjoy the season and play under the franchise tag if need be. 

After a 9.5 sack season last year, and with an improved defensive line due to the additions of Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and two rookies, the table is set for Judon to get more one-on-one matchups off the edge. If he does that, it’s reasonable, and perhaps likely, that Judon reaches the double-digit sack mark. That would essentially guarantee a significant long-term deal, whether or not it comes in Baltimore. 

Make no mistake, Judon will get a long-term deal in the future from the Ravens or another team. But the issue isn’t whether the Ravens want to, it’s if they are even able to. 

In the next two seasons, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, tight end Mark Andrews, right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and cornerback Marlon Humphrey will be due new contracts. That doesn’t include Lamar Jackson’s hefty payday coming, either.

“I want to stay here for as long as I play, but I understand that it’s a business and that they’ve kind of got a ‘bad-good’ problem to have,” Judon said. “We have a lot of young talent, and unfortunately, we can’t all stay on the rookie deal our whole careers. So, they have stuff that they have to address, and obviously, I have needs as well.”

The Ravens are faced with a decision as it relates to Judon, but it might be one they simply can’t afford to decide upon. 

For a Super Bowl contending team, having as many talented and Pro Bowl players — not to mention standouts in the locker room and community — like Judon on the roster is never a bad thing to have a surplus of. And at this point, whether Judon is elsewhere in 2021 or will be a Raven for the foreseeable future, that’s a decision that won’t be made easily.

In the meantime, Judon is content to spend his offseason in whatever zone he’s comfortable with.

“I’m blessed, regardless,” Judon said. “If I play under the franchise tag, or if we come to a long-term deal, I’m going to be happy regardless.”

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh: ‘I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now’

Ravens coach John Harbaugh: ‘I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now’

Ravens coach John Harbaugh hasn’t been shy on his feelings about the NFL’s coronavirus protocols. He said in June, and repeated Friday, they’re impossible to follow to a T. 

But he’s also very confident in the ability of NFL teams to create a safe and productive environment during a global pandemic. 

Harbaugh said that compared to the rest of the country, most players are safer at facilities with their teams than at their homes.

“I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now, an NBA basketball bubble,” Harbaugh said. “We’re pretty darn safe. If you want to rank them, we’re all in the top five across the country. We’re right up there with anybody. We get tested every day and we are wearing masks everywhere.”

The Ravens, by all accounts, have done well making sure their facility in Owings Mills is not only following protocols for players and coaches, but also making sure it’s as easy a transition as possible. 

Rookie linebacker Patrick Queen said last week that players are constantly being reminded to wear their masks, wash their hands and keep distance from one another.

“All you can do is the best you can do and mitigate it to a great extent,” Harbaugh said. “I think we’ve done a really good job of that so far, there are no guarantees going forward. We’ve got to stay vigilant like we’ve done.”

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The Ravens have had just two players opt out of the upcoming season — wide receiver/kick returner De’Anthony Thomas and tackle Andre Smith — but it was certainly a conversation for a lot of players in the locker room. 

Most notably, defensive lineman Calais Campbell.

“I definitely considered (opting out). You have to,” Campbell said. “You can’t play football with this going on and not think about the risk you’re going to put on yourself and your family. Going through that process, I realized talking to the doctors and just setting up the protocols and other things we have to do to keep each other safe, I felt like the risks were mitigated the best we can.”

Campbell, who was acquired from the Jaguars in a trade in March, is set to turn 34-years-old on Sept. 1 and has asthma. 

The five-time Pro Bowl selection would have been one of the most notable names in the league to voluntarily opt out of the 2020 season. But with the protocols in place, he felt safer about his participation. 

One topic of discussion for the Ravens and their protocols, too, has been the option of quarantining a specific group of players to prevent a spread. 

Likely, those players would be at positions of extreme value — like quarterback — or players where backups aren’t readily available — like kicker. It just so happens that the Ravens have two of the league’s best players at those positions in Lamar Jackson and Justin Tucker. 

But as Harbaugh said, each move comes with a consequence, and that includes the “safer” option of quarantining the entire league.

“For instance, if you were going to quarantine the NFL for six months, yeah, if you were a doctor, you’d say, ‘Yeah, we want the best chance to keep everyone safe and healthy,’” Harbaugh said. “That would be great, but I kind of want to see my wife at some point in time in the next six months, and she doesn’t have coronavirus. So you’ve got to live with a certain amount of risk in order to live your life. We don’t want to forfeit all these guys' lives and they’re not willing to do it.”

Which means, for now, the players at the facility have assumed a level of risk for the upcoming season.

With the Ravens’ protocols in place, however, it’s all about minimizing those risks as much as possible.

“I put a lot of thought into it on my own, too, with my own underlying issues,” Campbell said. “I’m pretty confident in my ability to follow the rules.”

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Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown was hardly himself in his rookie season.

Not only did he have a Lisfranc injury in his foot that hampered his health all season long, but he also played portions of the year at less than 160 pounds. 

On the surface, his numbers didn’t take a hit. He was second on the team in targets (71), receptions (46), yards (584) and touchdowns (seven), but he had more to offer than what he showed in 14 games last season. 

This offseason, he added 20 pounds of muscle and, as he said Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters, is up to 180 pounds. His foot is feeling better. And Marquise Brown is himself once again.

“I feel I got bright days ahead,” Brown said. “I feel 100 times better than I did last year. So, all I got to do now is focus on the plays, focus on the stuff that I’m supposed to focus on, instead of focusing on my feet and trying to stay healthy.”

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Brown’s added weight was the product of a mindset he had about trying to allow himself to undergo the rigors of an NFL season easier than he had a year ago. 

Whenever Brown would catch a pass, he would scurry out of bounds or dive forward to could avoid a hit. While that was certainly a product of the weight he played at and his desire to protect himself, it also had to do with his injured foot, too. 

He wasn’t able to run as fast as he did at Oklahoma, and he still isn’t quite at that speed, either. 

“Sometimes, I would try to make a cut that my foot wasn’t able to make, and I would go down,” Brown said. “Or sometimes, I just know that I’m not going to be able to make that move, so I’ll go down. It was more about getting the yards that I could get, get down, get ready for a next play. It was better for me to be in the game than to be out the game.”

Brown feels better now, and not only that, his teammates have taken notice, too.

“I could tell he put on a lot of weight,” Willie Snead said. “He’s put on a good amount of weight, and you can tell he’s solid now. I know the first thing he said coming into the building is, ‘I’m trying to block somebody. I’m trying to set the tone in the run game, man.’ I could just tell by his build that he took that part seriously.”

The Ravens sent him a GPS tracker while he trained in the offseason, so that while he added the weight, he didn’t lose any of his patented speed. Brown said he’s been able to keep his speed, despite the increased weight now on his 5-foot-9 frame. 

As the team’s top wide receiver, Brown will have an increased workload in his second season not only due to his progression with quarterback Lamar Jackson, but also the Ravens’ desire to pass the football more than they did a year ago.

It's for that reason the Ravens will put a lot more weight on his shoulders this year, as expectations for the organization are sky-high entering the upcoming season.

In that regard, it’s probably a good thing Brown will be a bit bigger in 2020.

“What people fail to realize, when I was at ‘OU’, I was 173-170, so I honestly just gained about 10 pounds,” Brown said. “I actually lost weight last year. To me, I feel back to normal, sort of to say. I feel like myself.”

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