The Baltimore Ravens have a plethora of free agents to attend to this offseason, including Matt Judon. Could Judon be a tag-and-trade candidate?
The Baltimore Ravens have one of the best rosters in the NFL; you don’t go 14-2 without one. The team is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and there’s plenty of guys waiting to get paid for their performances. The most prominent name of Baltimore’s free agents is edge rusher Matt Judon.
The 27-year old had his best season to date in 2019, recording a career-high 9.5 sacks on his way to his first career Pro Bowl nod. Judon has recorded 28.5 sacks over his first four years in the league and is ready to get paid like the top-tier pass rusher that he is.
With that in mind, the Ravens would like to retain Matt Judon’s services into the 2020 season and beyond. Baltimore currently has ~$29.3 million in cap space according to spotrac.com, giving them some wiggle room to bring him back. Like we already mentioned however, the Ravens have a lot of other players who need new contracts. Guys like Patrick Onwuasor, Michael Pierce, and Jimmy Smith are also free agents and Baltimore would like to retain at least one of those three.
The franchise tag is an option for the Ravens right now, as they can slap Matt Judon with that to prolong negotiations and bring back other key contributors. The tag would be pretty close to $20 million given the inflation of the salary cap each year and guys getting record deals at a rapid pace.
With all that in mind it’s difficult to imagine Baltimore getting Judon on a long-term deal this offseason. Tagging him seems inevitable, but could the Ravens opt to tag-and-trade him altogether? ESPN’s Jamison Hensley believes this could happen:
Ravens fans may be opposed to the idea, but it seems like a realistic possibility. It’s not something that I would be cheering for, as we saw how much the pass rush was hurt this year after losing both Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs last offseason. To now potentially lose Matt Judon would be a blow to the gut.
The NFL is a business, however, and the move makes sense. Trading Judon could get Baltimore a high draft pick in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, perhaps even an additional first-round draft choice. Judon will be 28-years old at the start of the 2020 season, so the team could be interested in getting younger and cheaper at the position. The Ravens could use a pass-rushing committee of three or four guys for cheaper contracts compared to relying on one guy with a heavy cap-hit.
This move would also open up the possibility for Baltimore to sign a high-profile pass rusher like Yannick Ngakoue or Jadeveon Clowney. While it seems like moving one good edge rusher only to get another may not make a ton of sense, the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Seattle Seahawks made moves for edge rushers this offseason via trade. All three made the playoffs and the first two teams are playing in Super Bowl LIV.
At the end of the day, this move doesn’t seem like one that would be popular with the fan base, but the Baltimore Ravens are looking to win championships and moving Matt Judon could help that cause. Getting younger and cheaper at edge rusher is a priority for the Ravens, and a tag-and-trade of Judon would hammer that point home.