Matthew Judon denies Ravens offered contract worth $16.5M a year

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The Baltimore Ravens have a large list of pending free agents this offseason. At the top of the list are both pass rushers, Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon. While the Ravens have some options with both players, including using the franchise tag or looking elsewhere in free agency, both Judon and Ngakoue were big pieces of Baltimore’s defense last year and the team would likely want to retain both if possible.

According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, the Ravens offered Judon a similar deal this summer to what Za’Darius Smith received from the Green Bay Packers last offseason. According to Over The Cap, Smith signed a four-year deal worth $66 million — an average of $16.5 million per year. Judon disputes that notion, pointing to the league’s rules that teams cannot negotiate with franchise-tagged players after the deadline.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has been vocal about wanting to bring back outside linebacker Matthew Judon this offseason. However, Harbaugh also understands money will play a major factor in getting a deal done.

“I want Matt Judon back, yes,” Harbaugh said at his season-ending press conference in January. “Whether that will be possible … Again, it’s such an unpredictable year with the salary cap. What is anybody going to get paid? And who has cap money?”

Baltimore was expected to have quite a bit of cap space this offseason. But with the coronavirus pandemic limiting fan attendance, the salary cap is expected to go down for the first time in over a decade, with a cap floor being set of $180 million. That severely limits the amount of money the Ravens have to re-sign players like Judon, likely making them far more careful and frugal with the cap space they do have.

Judon’s value is unclear even if there were no salary cap issues. He hasn’t been the most productive pass rusher in the league, failing to hit double-digit sacks in his five years with Baltimore. However, Judon’s versatility makes up for that in a big way, allowing Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale to line him up all over the field and have him perform a wide variety of duties depending on need. Unfortunately, in the NFL, contract value is often tied directly to sacks, which Judon simply doesn’t have enough of to warrant a top-dollar deal.

This isn’t the first time Judon has disputed a report about his contract value this offseason. He took to Instagram to deny that he was looking for a deal worth $20 million a year. While it’s worth taking all public discussions about a player’s contract status with a whole bag of salt, denying these reports don’t actually help Judon’s value. Other teams now have a far better gauge on what type of deal Judon is actually willing to accept, potentially leaving millions of dollars on the table. That’s what makes his denials so intriguing and worth taking a little more seriously.

Baltimore has often allowed players to hit free agency to actually set their market value. In some cases, the players return to the Ravens on an affordable deal while others price themselves out of Baltimore’s interest. As there seems to be some contention between the Ravens and Judon, we’ll likely see that scenario play out this offseason.

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