Ravens must re-sign Matt Judon in 2021 despite lower salary cap

Matt Judon #99 of the Baltimore Ravens (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Matt Judon #99 of the Baltimore Ravens (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

A lowered salary cap in 2021 doesn’t help anyone, even the Ravens. Yet re-signing EDGE Matt Judon should be a top priority next year.

In some ways, it’s good the Baltimore Ravens missed out on the deadline to negotiate a new contract extension with their top pass-rusher, Matt Judon, entering 2020. At the time the July 15 deadline hit for teams to negotiate new contracts with players on the franchise tag, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta and Co. had no true inclination the 2021 salary cap could drop as far down as $175 million.

Currently, for 2020, it’s at $198.2 million.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the cap aren’t going to be fully known for a while. But at least DeCosta has some understanding of what Baltimore’s cap situation is going to be next year. According to Over the Cap, the Ravens have $158,396,969 in total liabilities for 2021, roughly $16.6 million underneath the projected cap.

That’s not a terrible situation to be in, especially considering the team is likely to let players like wide receiver Willie Snead and cornerback Jimmy Smith walk. Having quarterback Lamar Jackson on his rookie contract helps a lot, too.

There might be a need to engineer some cap casualties or contract restructures next offseason, especially if Judon winds up being on the priority re-sign list. For now, he’ll play on a fully guaranteed $16.8 million tag and can’t negotiate a new deal until next year.

Right around the projected amount of space the Ravens have, currently.

As such, Baltimore needs to make every attempt possible to keep him around for the long term.

Why Ravens need to re-sign Matt Judon in 2021

Spotrac.com’s market-value tool projects the soon-to-be 28-year-old Judon’s contract value to be four years at $65.3 million with an average annual value of $16.3 million. It’s not hard to figure out that would eat up essentially all of Baltimore’s 2021 cap space without leaving any room for even small-ticket free-agent signings or next year’s rookie NFL Draft class.

Yet Judon’s value comes by why he offers on the field. As a pass-rusher, Judon’s seven-plus sacks in each of the last three seasons has provided exceptional value to head coach John Harbaugh’s defense. Elite pass-rushers are hard to find. And while Judon might not necessarily be considered at the upper echelon here, not quite in the realm of the Minnesota Vikings’ Danielle Hunter or Los Angeles Chargers’ Joey Bosa, Judon’s own efforts are still highly valuable.

Especially considering Baltimore’s lack of depth for an outside pass rush.

No team blitzed more than the Ravens last year, coming in first in this category with a blitz rate of 54.9 percent — more than 10 points higher than the No. 2 team on this list, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

One could argue this tendency actually favors the argument of letting Judon walk. Perhaps, although it doesn’t explain why Baltimore then added up on the defensive line with defenders like Calais Campbell, Jihad Ward and Derek Wolfe, although the latter two are both on one-year deals.

Not having Judon on the field next year would free up a lot of money, potentially pushing for the idea an elite pass-rusher could be had in the draft. But with the uncertainty about the defensive line’s long-term future, keeping Judon around on a longer deal only adds to the stability.

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Baltimore needs that. And it needs Judon back in 2021, too.