The Baltimore Ravens are in the same position this offseason with their top pass rusher as are the Pittsburgh Steelers with their top free agent (and number two rusher). Both Bud Dupree for the Steelers and Matthew Judon for the Ravens are coming off of career years just in time to become unrestricted free agents.
In both cases, the teams’ general managers have acknowledged that using the franchise tag is basically something, in the Ravens’ Eric DeCosta’s words something “we’ll probably have to do”, should they fail to reach terms on a long-term extension by the time that the franchise tag deadline expires.
This season, teams will have until March 12 beginning yesterday to place the franchise tag on one of their players. The previous deadline was March 10, but it was pushed back by two days as the NFL and the NFLPA finalized some details on the proposal for the Collective Bargaining Agreement that has been submitted for vote to the union body.
Judon was a former fifth-round draft pick in 2016 out of Grand Valley St. the 2019 season was the first year in his career in which he was a full-time starter from the beginning of the year to the end, after the Ravens lost both Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith in free agency.
Playing and starting 16 games, he put up career numbers, with nine and a half sacks, plus 33 quarterback hits. He forced four fumbles and posted 54 tackles, with 14 tackles for loss. While this was his first full season of starting work, however, he had 20 prior starts and had been a part of a rotation.
Over the course of his four-year career, Judon over roughly 2500 snaps has compiled 186 tackles with 28.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, two recoveries, 45 tackles for loss, and 82 quarterback hits. He has been a more consistent performer than Dupree.
In comparison, over five seasons, with 55 starts to Judon’s 36, Dupree has accumulated 200 tackles with 46 for loss, 31.5 sacks, 50 quarterback hits, six forced fumbles, three recoveries, one interception returned for a touchdown, and six passes defensed.
There will be some big names at 3-4 outside linebacker on the open market this year unless they are taken off first. Among those who, as we currently speak, are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents are Jadeveon Clowney, Dante Fowler, Mario Addison, Shaquil Barrett, Bruce Irvin, and Markus Goldon.