The Baltimore Ravens, since their inception, have not been an organization that has been afraid of allowing talent to walk away, knowing the impact that that has in accumulating compensatory draft picks. They have taken those calculated risks, figuring out whom they really need to pay and whom they can afford to allow somebody else to pay.
Lately, one position they have been willing to let go has been the edge defender, as they have created a line of solid, promising players walk in free agency, including Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee, and, this offseason, Za’Darius Smith. The first two never further expanded upon their potential, so the risks there in hindsight seem to have worked out, and, in fact, with Smith and Terrell Suggs leaving this offseason, they actually brought McPhee back this offseason.
The next potential departure would be Matthew Judon, who is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and is currently the top player on the depth chart at the position. “I have no clue what the future holds” with regards to his tenure with the Ravens, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley quoted him as saying recently.
“Hopefully, I’ll be here forever and ever. But, like this offseason, we never know”, he added. While Baltimore has a history of allowing other teams overpay for their free agents, they saw a legitimate defensive talent drain in 2019 with not just Smith and Suggs, but especially Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. They also released Eric Weddle, though they replaced him with Earl Thomas, so that’s a wash at worst.
Through his first three seasons, Judon has recorded 20 official starts in 46 games, registering a total of 19 sacks, including seven last year and eight in 2017. He is a solid run defender, but he has yet to contribute any turnovers, with no interceptions or forced fumbles, though he has recovered two.
Along with McPhee, Shane Ray, Tim Williams, and Tyus Bowser, Baltimore is really trying to piece together a new set of pass-rushers after losing two of their three key contributors this offseason. Judon is going to be perhaps the centerpiece of that.
Along with Jadeveon Clowney and Yannick Ngakoue, Judon is currently anticipated to be one of the biggest names on the pass-rushing market in free agency in 2020, and based on the way Smith was paid (four years for $66 million with $20 million guaranteed), there’s no reason to believe he’s going to settle. Smith, by the way had half a sack fewer than does Judon.