Welcome to “stay or go?” Baltimore Beatdown’s prediction series that take a look at upcoming Ravens free agents and provides a verdict on whether they’ll remain in the picture with the team, and dishes out some predictions on how things will shake out one way or the other.
In this exercise, we’ll be sticking with the unrestricted free agents, and in one case, a club option controlled player. We’re trying to stick with players who have a market value on Spotrac’s 2020 NFL Free Agents tracker, with a few exceptions being made – anyone left off of that is someone we’re assuming could be brought back relatively easily.
We hope you guys enjoy and sound off in the comments about what you think is going to happen in free agency!
ENTERING: FIFTH SEASON
AGE: WILL BE 28 ENTERING WEEK 1
CONTRACT STATUS: UFA
Baltimore’s big ticket name this offseason is a similar one to last year – a pass rusher who was once a mid-round pick that’s leveraged success in recent years into a high-profile deal. Last year it was Za’Darius Smith, and this year Matt Judon’s time has come.
Judon is a very interesting case when it comes to the all-important question of “stay or go?” A 2016 fifth round pick out of Grand Valley State, he’s steadily improved throughout his four years in the league, capping things off with a very successful 2019 contract season. He started all 16 games for the first time in his career, logging 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and showcasing a unique versatility in the way he was used that we hadn’t seen early in his career.
The advanced metrics seem to back up the leap that he’s made. PFF has him at a 70.5 overall grade with a heavy tilt (78.2 points) towards pass rushing strength. He also finished fourth in the NFL with 33 quarterback hits this season; whether that’s an indictment of his finishing, or an endorsement of his disruption, you be the judge - just realize it’s something that definitely works in his favor leverage wise.
At this point, we’re reaching the eleventh hour of negotiations between both parties, and based upon some of Judon’s vagaries surrounding the situation on social media- HYPERLINK[https://twitter.com/man_dammn/status/1228425343981236224?s=20]-, they’ve seemed content to allow the clock to continue to run. There have been several scenarios thrown out in regards to his situation, including the franchise tag coming into play (either for furthering negotiations, or for a tag and trade), signing him long term to the deal Smith would’ve gotten last year, or just letting him walk altogether.
Much of the “stay or go” conversation here, does depend on how much he commands on the open market. Spotrac seems to have his market value listed as pretty much exactly with Smith made in his departure to Green Bay last year – a 4-year $65.2M contract with an average annual salary of $16.3M. Per Over The Cap, the linebacker franchise tag number is going to be right around that average ($16.2M), so the ball is truly in the Ravens court to make a short or long term decision regarding their star pass rusher at some point in the coming weeks.
Given the Ravens current cap situation (around $31.4M in total cap space as of now), and the fact that a deal hasn’t gotten done at this point, the idea of Judon being in the picture for the long term feels like less and less of a likely scenario. This is especially evident when you consider how cap prudent Eric DeCosta seems to be, and the fact that the estimated numbers for a guy like Judon would take up around half of the current space they have to work with.
While it would be a great feeling to see a homegrown guy hang in the picture and be rewarded for his great efforts to develop his game, the closer we get to the turn of the league year without it happening feels like a tacit acknowledgement that it’s ultimately not going to. As a result, this verdict is going to fairly easy to come to, but not easy to type.
THE VERDICT: GO
PREDICTION: TAG-AND-TRADE TO TAKE PLACE IN THE COMING FEW WEEKS
COMPENSATION: A SUPER BOWL CONTENDER PARTS WITH A SECOND ROUNDER TO ACQUIRE JUDON’S SERVICES
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