The Baltimore Ravens were so close to making a trade last month by dealing for Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry but ultimately didn't complete any transaction at the end of October. The most probable reason lies in the pressing in-house matters awaiting attention from General Manager Eric DeCosta in the upcoming offseason.
Three key Ravens players, all of them belonging to the defensive unit, are set to hit free agency next spring including DL Justin Madubuike, LB Patrick Queen, and S Geno Stone.
Garrett Downing, a Ravens beat reporter, addressed these concerns in his weekly mailbag a few weeks ago coming up with the conclusion that at least two of the three players will most probably be hitting the open market in the next offseason, with Baltimore expected to retain just one of those.
On Thanksgiving, Adam La Rose of Pro Football Rumors, highlighted Justin Madubuike as the no. 1 priority for the Ravens to re-sign once the season is over next February, at least among those three top-tier, upcoming FAs.
Truth be told, that might be the best possible choice for the Ravens to make. Madubuike has been more than impressive, he's already surpassed his previous career-high in sacks with 9.5 in just 11 games, and he's notched at least 0.5 sacks in the last eight consecutive matchups.
La Rose reported in mid-October that Madubuike was "in line for a significant contract," which is definitely not unreasonable considering his production and his meager current rookie-scale salary of $1.2 million per year.
Financially, La Rose thinks Madubuike could follow in the footsteps of other superstars in a defensive line, mentioning the likes of Ed Oliver, Quinnen Williams, Jeffery Simmons, Daron Payne, and Dexter Lawrence as possible comparables (with yearly salaries ranging from $17 to $24 million).
Specific figures for Madubuike's asking price have not been reported yet, but that seven-million range from the lower figure to the higher seems like a fair one for the Ravens to project in their future books if they want to start planning their next offseason ahead of time.
Going against Baltimore is the fact that the franchise already resigned another defensive lineman earlier this year by inking Broderick Washington to a three-year, $15.75 million extension during the summer. The problem? Washington was a healthy scratch last week, which is something Madubuike and his agents could use to gain leverage in demanding a heftier deal considering his production compared to Washington's.
Going in Baltimore's favor, the Ravens could use the franchise tag on Madubuike at a cost of around $21 million for one year, although it's unclear how that'd sit with the player or if there would be a holdout because of it.
All of the above, of course, assumes Baltimore would indeed side with re-signing Madubuike on top of Stone and/or Queen, who have also been magnificent during this season and can still end up convincing GM DeCosta to sign them instead.