Grade The Move: Ravens pay Justin Madubuike elite DT money before free agency

Madubuike will be a Raven for a long time

Washington Commanders v Baltimore Ravens
Washington Commanders v Baltimore Ravens / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Baltimore Ravens fans would have been rightly angry with the idea of watching Justin Madubuike leave the team in free agency, as he may have had as big an impact on a defense many considered to be the best in the league as anyone. Eric DeCosta hit Madubuike with the franchise tag, but didn't waste any time getting a deal done.

The Ravens got their 2024 offseason started off with a bang, taking arguably the top non-Chris Jones defensive player off the market by signing Madubuike to a four-year contract extension worth $98 million. Madubuike's career year helped him cash in during free agency.

Only future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald makes more per year as a defensive tackle than Madubuike, who barely beat out Jets stud Quinnen Williams. After three fairly pedestrian seasons as a rotational lineman, Madubuike turned into a star under defensive coordinator and new Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald.

The Ravens are taking a big risk, banking on his breakout 2023 season as evidence of the player he will be under new DC Zach Orr. If Madubuike plays up to what his contract states he should be, Baltimore should be prepared for yet another season of All-Pro-level dominance from the interior.

Grade the Move: Baltimore Ravens sign Justin Madubuike to four-year contract

Paying your best internal development stories is never a bad idea, especially when they tied an NFL record for consecutive games with at least one-half sack. In the modern NFL, interior defensive line pressure that lets you drop most of your defenders into coverage is worth its weight in gold.

Madubuike is just 26 years old, so the ceiling is still quite high for the second-team All-Pro. While he's a bit undersized, he remains a quality run-stuffer. Madubuike is a true do-it-all tackle who knows the scheme and is an absolute handful for even elite linemen to block. Rewarding that helps keep the nucleus of the league's top defense together.

The concerns around the Madubuike deal stem from the fact he has only one year of genuinely high-end production and three seasons of fairly routine numbers. Ravens fans may want to look at Williams once again, as the former No. 3 pick went from a regular starter to a superstar in one year, becoming a cornerstone of the Jets' defense.

Madubuike signing now also removes the franchise tag hold and only gives him an $11 million cap hit for this upcoming season, making it more likely that Baltimore will be able to sign free agents elsewhere. Even if he doesn't get 13 sacks every year, Madubuike's rise to the top was paved through genuine improvements in all areas, giving Baltimore confidence in him going forward.

Grade: B+