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Should the Ravens extend one of their young defensive lineman?

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Minnesota Vikings v Baltimore Ravens

For most of this offseason, contract extension talk in Baltimore centered around franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson’s contract situation sucked up nearly all of the oxygen in the room of all things Ravens. Since the dust settled following Jackson officially inking a long-term extension, the spotlight has begun to shift to other players.

Patrick Queen’s contract status took a foothold after the Ravens drafted inside linebacker Trenton Simpson in the third round, followed by declining Queen’s fifth-year option. Queen’s immediate status in Baltimore seemed like it could be up in the air following these events and Queen seemingly not taking kindly to Simpson being drafted on Twitter.

Since then, however, Eric DeCosta indicated the team’s desire to keep Queen in Baltimore, and Queen reciprocated by saying its “where he wants to be.” A potential contract extension prior to the start of the regular season, however, isn’t necessarily likely.

More recently, fellow 2020 draftee J.K. Dobbins’ contract status has also moved into the limelight. Dobbins, who hasn’t participated in the Ravens’ voluntary offseason workouts to-date, took to Twitter last week to indicate his desire to play in Baltimore long-term — while also expressing some doubt as to whether that could happen.

It’s always dicey to read too much into social media posts from players these days. The Ravens are no stranger to having players tweet or post cryptic or vague messages over the past few seasons, too. Still, given he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract, its possible Dobbins is seeking also seeking a long-term extension at the moment.

Queen and Dobbins, the team’s first two selections in the 2020 draft, have unsurprisingly been the most-talked about in terms of potential contract extensions. However, there’s two other players from the same draft class in-line for potential extensions who aren’t being discussed as much, despite maybe being more practical or likely.

That is the team’s young defensive lineman pair of Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington.

Madubuike was a third-round pick in 2020 and Washington was drafted later in the fifth round. Both players have quietly ascended over the past two seasons and are looking at larger roles this coming season following the departure of Calais Campbell in free agency.

2022 was a peak season thus far for each of them. Madubuike started 16 games and posted career-best numbers in sacks (5.5), pressures (13), quarterback hits (9), and tackles for loss (8). His game-to-game consistency still leaves room for improvement, but Madubuike was far more disruptive overall than his first two campaigns.

Meanwhile Washington’s defensive snap count jumped from 293 in 2022 to 483 in 2023. He played all 17 games and started nine. In an expanded workload, he recorded 49 combined tackles, 6 pass breakups and a sack. Washington’s PFF grade of 69.5 was also the highest mark of his career thus far.

It’s reasonable to expect continued improvement from them this coming season. Another step forward from either player would likely increase their eventual free agent price tag. Right now, their market value may be reasonable enough for the Ravens to pursue a team-friendly contract extension.

They may be forced to choose between the two, but locking in either for the long term would be beneficial. The Ravens have shown a tendency to extend players before they hit the open market in recent years. The results have been mixed, but in principle its still a good strategy.

Beyond this season, Travis Jones is the team’s only front-seven player under contract. Brent Urban and Michael Pierce round out the depth chart as the veterans of the group, but can’t be factored in to the long-term picture. Having either Madubuike or Washington locked in post-2023 would lessen the offseason need to address the defensive line next year, as at least one other starter would still be in-place.

What do you think of the prospects of a potential contract extension for Madubuike or Washington? Who should the Ravens prioritize between the two? Share your thoughts below.