The Ravens have shown a knack for developing small-school, unheralded prospects throughout their history, and Matthew Judon is a prime example. Since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 draft out of Grand Valley State, a DII school, Judon has developed into a productive player and largely exceeded expectations.
Judon has emerged as a valuable member of the Ravens defense over the past two seasons, particularily as a pass-rusher. Next year, he’ll be expected to play an even bigger role and how he responds will be crucial to the team’s success.
Here are some goals for Judon ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. Be sure to leave your thoughts down below and join the conversation!
1) Embrace the challenge of being “the guy”
For the past several years, Judon has been a valuable piece in the Ravens outside linebacker corps and pass-rushing platoon. However, rather than serve a featured playmaker, Judon has served in more of a rotation with Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, and Elvis Dumervil, the latter of which only applies for 2017. Things will be different next season, though. Suggs and Smith are gone, leaving Judon as the only established pass-rusher returning from last year. The stage is set for Judon to have a career-best season, with offenses set to key in on him more so than ever before, it certainly won’t be easy. Judon must embrace the challenge of seeing more double teams and offensive game-planning towards him.
2) Surpass the double-digit sack threshold
For his career, Judon has an impressive sack total of 19, 15 of which he posted over the past two seasons combined. It feels as though he’s ready to take his game to the next level, however, and upping his sack numbers by a few sacks feels more than feasible. While the difference between ten sacks and say, seven or eight, isn’t much, it feels a lot more significant than it actually is. Judon will have a much easier time rushing the passer if the likes of Jaylon Ferguson, Tim Williams, and Shane Ray, among others, emerge as consistent contributors in the rotation of edge rushers. Nevertheless, posting double digit sacks should be a goal for Judon entering the season.
3) Secure the bag
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Ravens have a young pass-rusher entering a contract year. No? Keep going? Okay. We’ve seen this development play out several times in recent years, most recently with Za’Darius Smith. Like Smith, Judon has the chance to make himself a lot of money if he performs well this season. The Ravens will likely try to reach a contract extension with Judon before he can hit the open market following the 2019-20 season but as a unrestricted free agent, Judon could demand somewhere around $18-20 million. It sounds crazy, but that’s the market for pass-rushers in today’s NFL. Smith priced himself out of the Ravens range this offseason, but Baltimore may have to break bank to avoid seeing Judon leave too. At the end of the day, however, Judon’s market will be determined by his own play. You can bet he understands the stakes and is motivated to show out in a contract year.