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Report: Ravens plan to franchise tag OLB Matthew Judon

A long-term deal has not been reached, yet

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

According to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, the Baltimore Ravens are planning to franchise tag OLB Matthew Judon.

How the Ravens will handle Judon has been the biggest question surrounding the team as free agency nears. Judon has been a productive player since being drafted in the fifth round out of Grand Valley State in 2016. In four years, Judon has accumulated 28.5 sacks with a season-high of 9.5 sacks in 2019.

With the departure of both Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith in free agency in 2019, Judon was suddenly the veteran of the outside linebacker group. Judon met expectations and then some in a contract year as the only consistent pass rusher for Baltimore. His ability to also drop into coverage makes Judon an extremely valuable asset to defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s defense.

Franchise tagging Judon does not necessarily mean he will play for the Ravens in 2020, however. General manager Eric DeCosta, who has already proven to be a savvy businessman, could trade Judon instead and receive immediate and possibly massive compensation instead of only receiving a compensatory pick for him next year if he signed elsewhere this year. It’s unknown what Judon’s value would be in a trade scenario, but it would certainly be better than a compensatory pick. Judon would have a cap hit of over $16 million this season if he plays under the franchise tag.

With or without Judon, the Ravens biggest need remains edge rusher. Letting Judon walk would only make Baltimore’s biggest weakness into an absolutely dire need. The Ravens can’t expect to land a top edge rusher with the 28th pick in this years draft, so they would have to replace Judon with another expensive edge rusher in free agency, although many of the best options are seemingly going to be franchise tagged as well.