The Baltimore Ravens have a slew of free agents set to hit the market, but could we see the team use the franchise tag? If so, who’s a candidate for it?
The franchise tag should always be a team’s last resort when it comes to negotiating with players. It’s meant to be a bandaid to keep contract talks going when a long-term deal can’t be reached and that team doesn’t want to lose that player. The franchise tag is typically reserved for great players or guys coming off great years who need to prove themselves to be more than a one-year wonder. It’s not meant to be a long-term solution; it’s a crutch.
The Baltimore Ravens will have a franchise tag dilemma ahead of them in deciding whether or not to use it for 2021 and more importantly who would get the tender. Honestly, it’s not a good year to need to use its franchise tag and it’s highly unlikely we see the team exercise it. Nonetheless, there are a couple of players worth considering using it on.
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Judon is coming off a Pro Bowl season despite notching just six sacks in 2020. Judon was definitely better than his stat sheet indicates, but he certainly wasn’t worth the nearly $17 million he cost in 2020.
Ngakoue on the other hand was far more productive for the entirety of the 2020 season with eight total sacks between playing with the Ravens and the Minnesota Vikings prior to a midseason trade. Ngakoue only had three sacks with Baltimore in nine games, but he was a terrific presence off the edge. While his season didn’t earn him a Pro Bowl vote like it did his teammate, Ngakoue definitely had the better season of the two.
These two guys are prime candidates for the franchise tag, as their 2020 seasons prove that they are worth a good deal of money but perhaps not worth breaking the bank over. To test this, tagging one of the two gives the Ravens another season to assess whether or not a long-term deal is in the folds for one of these two. This is especially true for Ngakoue, who looked good in a limited amount of time in Baltimore.
There is one little snag with franchise tagging one of these two guys: both of them played the 2020 season on the franchise tag. What does this mean? It means that tagging them again in 2021 would make them even more expensive than they were a year ago when they cost north of $15 million and they’d still only be on a one-year deal. The Ravens are also a bit tight on cap space, so this wouldn’t exactly be the team’s first choice in decision making.
It’s a painful thought that two Pro Bowl-caliber players will likely hit the market and move on to new teams in 2021, but it is a very likely scenario for the team. If one of these two guys wasn’t franchise tagged a year ago then this is a completely different conversation. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality that we live in.
It’s incredibly unlikely that we see the Baltimore Ravens use its franchise tag this offseason, but not entirely impossible. Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue would be the only likely candidates for it and it stands to reason that the Ravens would ideally not like to see either of them go. If they weren’t tagged last offseason we would very likely see them tagged this offseason, but that’s not the case. In an extreme situation where Baltimore does use the tag, however, expect it to be on one of these two guys.