The Baltimore Ravens lost quite a few players this past offseason, but perhaps none stung more than Matt Judon. A former fifth-round pick, Judon was a homegrown talent who had developed into one of the best players on the team’s defense.
A fan-favorite, Judon was asked to do a lot during his time in Baltimore. And even upon his trip to free agency this past offseason, Judon expressed a desire to remain with the Ravens.
However, when the New England Patriots came calling with a lucrative four-year, $54.5 million contract, it just wasn’t an offer he could turn down.
Just like that, one of the Ravens’ most successful late-round developmental stories in recent years had departed for greener (at least in terms of finances) pastures.
Since arriving in New England, Judon has broken out and taken his game to an even higher level. He now has 10.5 sacks in 11 games after picking up another in the Patriots’ Thursday night victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
With Judon shining in Foxborough, many have begun to wonder what could have been had the ravens re-signed Judon this offseason, which begs the question.
Did the Ravens make a mistake letting Judon walk?
Should the Ravens have made a stronger push to re-sign Matt Judon?
Now, such a question isn’t as black-and-white as it might seem. The Ravens wanted Judon back, and Judon wanted to come back.
But in a salary-cap-driven league, just because two sides want the same thing, doesn’t mean it actually gets done.
There are conflicting reports as to what the Ravens actually offered Judon, although what is known is that they opted not to place the franchise tag on him.
Ultimately, Judon’s contract with the Patriots was structured in a way that limited his cap hit to just over $6.3 million in 2021. The Ravens’ cap situation is tight, but that’s probably a salary they could have afforded.
Especially when you factor in the $5.075 they’re paying for Justin Houston and Tyus Bowser this season. But there’s more at play than just one year here.
Judon’s cap hit explodes to $16.5 million in 2022 and 2023 with no feasible out until 2023 or 2024. That’s a lot of money to be tied into a player who will turn 30-years-old next August.
With the Ravens looking ahead to extensions for players like Bradley Bozeman, DeShon Elliott, and, of course, Lamar Jackson in the near future, having Judon’s contract on the books would restrict them even more than they already are.
There’s also the notion that Judon’s production likely wouldn’t be the same if he was still in Baltimore. Sacks are rarely the best indication of a player’s pass-rush success, and the analytics would indicate that Judon’s pass-rush productivity hasn’t increased much since his departure.
Ultimately, in a perfect world, Matt Judon would still be a member of the Ravens.
But given the team’s lack of salary-cap flexibility, it’s likely for the best that the team didn’t re-sign him at the necessary price point.