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.
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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