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Report: Matthew Judon could be franchise tagged and traded

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NFL: Pro Bowl-AFC Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For the past several weeks and, quite frankly, since before the 2019-20 season even began, uncertainty regarding OLB Matthew Judon’s future with the Ravens loomed in the background. Now, with the offseason set to kick off in full swing, the question of whether or not the Ravens will re-sign Judon has been pushed to the forefront.

Judon, 27, is set to his the unrestricted free agent market after a career-best season in which he recorded 9.5 sacks, 43 solo tackles, 33 quarterback hits, 14 TFL and forced four fumbles. He was rewarded with a Pro Bowl selection for the first time in his career.

Judon is far and away the team’s biggest marquee free agent this year and given his performance in 2019, combined with the demand for pass-rushers and edge-setters in today’s NFL, he’s almost certain to warrant a high price tag on the open market. Everyone involved has known this for quite some time.

HC John Harbaugh stated in his end-of-the-year press conference that retaining Judon is at the top of the list as far as the team’s offseason priorities. However, he also acknowledged that it would be a difficult task. In an ideal world, the Ravens would be able to re-sign Judon to a reasonable, team-friendly contract.

However, ideal results are rare when it comes to NFL free agency - and it appears the Ravens have begun preparing for the possibility of losing Judon this offseason.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported over a week ago (although the story didn’t gain much traction until now, oddly enough) that Judon is expected to garner trade interest from other teams, which therefore would permit Eric DeCosta to use the franchise tag on him. It’s an interesting and potentially realistic scenario, albeit one that many Ravens fans likely didn’t place much thought into until now.

The market for pass-rushers has become more and more fruitful over the years, with marquee names like Frank Clark and Dee Ford having been traded recently. Whether or not Judon is on the same level as other top-tier outside linebackers is up for debate but there’s no denying his production in 2019 and body of work over the past several seasons.

Judon has been an important and key cog in the Ravens defensive success, particularly this past year. With Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith leaving in free agency, Judon was thrust into a near every-down spot after playing more of a rotational role in his first few seasons. Despite not having much established talent opposite him, Judon managed to be productive and supply a majority of the team’s pass-rushing production.

Now, the Ravens face a dilemma that they’re all too familiar with. Judon is the latest Baltimore pass-rusher to hit the free agent market after a career-best season, following in the footsteps of Pernell McPhee, Courtney Upshaw and most recently Za’Darius Smith. The Ravens evidently chose to let these past players sign with other teams rather than go above their price range to retain them.

The Packer signed Smith to a four-year, $66 million contract last offseason and Judon posted superior numbers in 2019 to that of Smith in his final season with the Ravens. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that some team will be willing to pay Judon similar money, if not more.

The Ravens have more cap space under their belt than they have in quite some time, but will DeCosta be willing to shell out a large chunk of it to keep Judon in Baltimore? If not, using the franchise tag and shipping him elsewhere would ensure that the Ravens at least retain some value for losing him - as opposed to Judon walking out of the door for nothing.

Exactly what sort of haul the Ravens could get for the Taco Bell enthusiast is unclear but it’s far to presume that any sort of trade for Judon would include a capable starter and/or multiple draft picks. For the time being, we’ll have to keep an eye on this situation to see how it unfolds.

Which scenario do you think will happen and what outcome are you hoping for?

Poll

Which do you envision happening with Judon?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Re-signed to a new contract
    (91 votes)
  • 17%
    Franchise tagged
    (70 votes)
  • 50%
    Franchise tagged and traded
    (202 votes)
  • 9%
    Leaves in free agency
    (39 votes)
402 votes total Vote Now