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Deadline passes without a long-term deal for Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon

Deadline passes without a long-term deal for Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon

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. 

RELATED: JUDON JOKES BEFORE DEADLINE

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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Ravens' Matt Judon jokingly asks 'how's the real estate' in Kansas City after seeing Chris Jones' lucrative deal

Ravens' Matt Judon jokingly asks 'how's the real estate' in Kansas City after seeing Chris Jones' lucrative deal

Over the past two weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs have carved out two lucrative contracts. Last week, QB Patrick Mahomes signed a record $503 million deal, and on Tuesday, defensive end Chris Jones agreed to an extension with a maximum value of $85 million.

As Kansas City has taken care of its stars with nice paydays, Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon has taken notice. After seeing reports of Jones' deal, Judon sent Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu a tweet, jokingly asking "how's the real estate" in Kansas City.

Mathieu, who Kansas City signed to a three-year, $42 million deal last offseason, responded saying it's a "nice bang for ya buck."

The tweet, for all intents and purposes, was likely a joke, but there was some hidden meaning behind it. Judon, who will play the 2020 season for Baltimore under the franchise tag unless the two sides are able to agree to a long-term deal by Wednesday, has stated multiple times he believes he's earned a lucrative pay-day.

Additionally, Baltimore tagged Judon as an outside linebacker rather than a defensive end, despite him playing the majority of his snaps at DE. With this distinction, Judon was expected to earn nearly $2 million less in 2020 than had he been designated as a defensive end.

But, after hearing Judon's concerns, Baltimore decided to ante up and pay the 28-year-old a salary of $16.8 million, a number right in the middle of the two positions' franchise tender salaries.

In a Zoom conference in June, Judon said he's "blessed" to be playing under the tag.

“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."

RELATED: HOW EFFECTIVE OF A SEASON CAN JUDON HAVE?

Plus, Baltimore fans shouldn't worry. Even if Judon wanted to play in Kansas City, it's unlikely the team would be able to afford him.

In addition to Jones' lucrative deal, Kansas City just signed Frank Clark to a five-year, $104 million deal last offseason. Add in Mahomes' record deal, as well as likely future extensions for stars Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs likely don't have the money to pay Judon what he feels he deserves.

If Judon builds off his solid 2019 campaign, he'll have plenty of leverage with Baltimore come contract negotiations next spring.

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Ravens training camp preview: How effective of a season can Matthew Judon have?

Ravens training camp preview: How effective of a season can Matthew Judon have?

Rostered outside linebackers: Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser, Aaron Adoeye, Chauncey Rivers, Marcus Willoughby, John Daka.

If there was one position of “need” the Ravens didn’t address this offseason, it was outside linebacker.

The Ravens instead added to their interior defensive line and inside linebacking corps, but didn’t add a notable free agent or draft pick at outside linebacker. Instead, they’re set to run back the group from a year ago. 

The team ranked 21st in the NFL a year ago in sacks with 37, but second in quarterback knockdowns. Essentially, the team dialed up pressure more than anyone else in the league but didn’t get home enough. Now, they're hopeful they've fixed that problem.

And if there is a trickle-down benefit to the outside linebackers of those additions elsewhere, it’s that the Ravens’ outside linebackers should have more one-on-one matchups on the outside. Notably, that includes Matthew Judon. 

He finished the year with 9.5 sacks a season ago and had 33 quarterback hits — more than three times the second-place finisher on the roster. And now, he’ll play on the franchise tag in his fifth season in the league. As the team’s top pass-rusher, he’s got a lot of pressure on his back entering the 2020 season. 

RELATED: HOW MUCH WILL THE ROOKIE LB's MAKE AN IMPACT ON THE DEFENSE?

If Judon is able to become an upper-tier pass-rusher this season, he’ll not only boost the Ravens’ defense, he’ll cement his monster contract that appears on the horizon, whether that comes from the Ravens or another team. 

But while Judon is the headliner of the Ravens’ edge rushers, in terms of success of the team this season, he might not be the most important part of the front seven. It might end up being whoever lines up across from him. 

Judon has shown the ability to be a No. 1 pass-rusher in the NFL, and with the benefit of an improved defense around him, it’s reasonable to assume he can repeat his 9.5 sack performance — or better it — in 2020. That shouldn't be the worry.

Where the true test will come, however, is who lines up as the second outside linebacker on the depth chart. 

Pernell McPhee had three sacks last season, but missed a majority of the season with a torn triceps. The team used rookie Jaylon Ferguson, who had 2.5 sacks, and Tyus Bowser, who had five sacks, in his absence.

With Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe on the defensive line, it’s reasonable to assume that the Ravens’ outside linebackers will get more favorable matchups. 

And if Judon and the host of other outside linebackers are able to get more one-on-one matchups, the Ravens’ could wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks in 2020. 

So while the Ravens didn’t address their outside linebacker position this offseason, the additions elsewhere on the roster should provide the benefit that position group needed.

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