Even with the salary cap situation remaining unclear, at least publicly, the NFL opted not to move the franchise tag deadline, which expired at the end of the business day yesterday, and unsurprisingly, with the vast majority of teams opting not to utilize it, given the strain on resources that could not realistically have been planned for.
The Baltimore Ravens were among the majority who opted not to use the franchise tag on any of their players, and they had a number of options, as well—including their two premiere pass rushers: Matt Judon, and Yannick Ngakoue, whom they acquired via trade last season.
While they have been among the better teams in the league over the past three years, with one of the better defenses, they have not exceled much far beyond the median in terms of the pass rush. Judon, for example, led their defense last season with a mere six sacks.
Between the Ravens and the Minnesota Vikings, however, Ngakoue did actually compile eight sacks during the 2020 season, though only three of them came during his nine games in Baltimore, along with eight quarterback hits.
Still, no doubt the team will endeavor to keep at least one of them around, both former Pro Bowlers and still very much on the young side of things, Ngakoue in particular, who is only set to turn 26 at the end of the month, while Judon is still 28.
According to Over the Cap, the Ravens have a little over $18 million in cap space, though of course that will be adjusted based on the final cap number, among other things. Regardless, a franchise tag for an edge defender would consume the majority of that amount, either way.
They are not the only team in the division who failed to tag one of their primary rushers, as the Cincinnati Bengals did the same with Carl Lawson, who just completed is fourth season in the league and will now hit the open market. And the Cleveland Browns are potentially looking for another bookend to Myles Garrett. Obviously, the Pittsburgh Steelers did not tag Bud Dupree in the least surprising news of all time.
The Ravens are not necessarily bursting at the seams with emerging pass rushers, either. Jaylon Ferguson is a potential up-and-comer, while Tyus Bowser is also reaching the prove-it point of his career.
Pernell McPhee is an aging veteran at this point, and they’re not going to get elite pass-rushing from Derek Wolfe, Jihad Ward, and a mid-30s Calais Campbell, who had just 10.5 sacks over his past two seasons, including four in 12 games for the Ravens in 2020.