Matthew Judon and Bud Dupree are in very similar situations with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens this offseason, though they’re not identical. Dupree is entering his sixth season, Judon his fifth. While both were franchise tagged, Dupree signed his at the linebacker price tag. The Ravens negotiated with Judon to pay him the difference between that and the defensive end tag, which is higher.
And while the Steelers have stated on a number of occasions that they want to complete a long-term deal with Dupree, the message hasn’t been as emphatic with Judon. In fact, the fifth-year edge defender has expressed a level of contentment for playing under the tag this year.
“I’m pleased to be tagged”, he told reporters yesterday, via the team’s website. “I feel like only a few players get to go through this in their lifetime. As much as I want stability in the future, I’m proud of where I’m at and where I came from, a fifth-round draft pick. I’m pleased with how my career’s been going”.
Both Dupree and Judon are coming off career years. Dupree’s tradional numbers may look slightly better, but when you consider Judon’s overall impact on the pass rush—he had among the highest number of total pressures last season—it’s fair to argue that he deserved the Pro Bowl alternate nod over Dupree.
While he said that he is fine with playing under the tag, he also wants to finish his career where he started—in Baltimore. “I’m happy to be a Raven”, he said. “I want to stay here as long as I play, but I understand that it’s a business”.
At this point, Judon is one of the ‘veterans’ of the Ravens’ defense, in terms of tenure. With names like Terrell Suggs, Michael Pierce, C.J. Mosley, and others leaving in free agency in recent years, there aren’t too many starters on that unit who have been here longer.
The Ravens have one of the best and most talented secondaries in the league, especially at the cornerback position with Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, among others, plus Earl Thomas at safety. But their pass rush has not been where they would like to have it in recent years.
Judon is their star pass rusher right now, and while he is good, you wouldn’t put him in the conversation for being among the best in the NFL. He is closer to Dupree than he is to T.J. Watt. That is just one of the reasons Baltimore would really like to keep him, because their ability to get after the passer would take a big hit, at least in the roster’s current makeup, by losing him.