Everyone appears to feel strongly about Matt Judon staying in Baltimore, and I can definitely agree. However, at what price? He mentioned in an interview that it is up to the Ravens front office and that he already has the house picked out that he wants, once he signs. That sounds great, and all, but is his performance this year a middling, or top-tier performance? Is it among the top five players at his position?
What I am asking is, if a deal does not get done, is Judon really worth a franchise tag?
Hold That Tag!
In my opinion, no, he’s not worth a tag, and here’s why. The Baltimore Ravens have thrown more blitzes at opponents than anyone in the league, according to RSR’s Cole Jackson. Cole said this in a recent article after the Ravens/Steelers game:
The Ravens have blitzed on 50% of their plays over the duration of the season. In the first half yesterday, they blitzed on 62% of their snaps. Despite that, they were still only able to finish the game with three sacks and six QB hits, most of which came from Matthew Judon. There were several snaps where Devlin Hodges had all day, but the incompletions came from strong coverage.
It’s great that Judon led the charge as far as pressure, but…
Another Z. Smith Situation?
With that amount of pressure, the team’s leading sack artist should have more than 9.5 sacks. I get it. We don’t want another Za’Darius Smith situation where the Ravens don’t pay him, and he flourishes on another squad. However, Z’s case was different; there was plenty of depth at the position where he, timeless Terrell Suggs and Judon rotated and tallied anywhere from 54 to 76% of the snap-count per game. Smith still made the best out of his opportunities on the field.
Judon has been the guy this year, on the field for 81% of the snaps, according to pro-football-reference.com. The Ravens have challenged him to get pressure, and he has done well. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s been exceptional at hitting the QB.
Matthew Judon: only player in the NFL w/ 20+ QB hits in '19 🌮 pic.twitter.com/LbZWz7ngWA
— PFF (@PFF) December 20, 2019
Still, he is 18th in the league in sacks and not even ranked in the top 150 in tackles (43).
The former Grand Valley State player, however, is in the top-4 in forced-fumbles. “Body by Taco Bell” is asked to cover, but mostly shallow crossing or flat routes. While he registered no passes defensed this year, he has seemingly done well in forcing QBs look to the next option. What he is asked to do, he does well.
However, I have to ask, are those franchise tag-worthy numbers?
Let’s Make a Deal!
Let me be clear. I like the guy. I believe #99 is above average against the run and a leader on this defense. I would like to see him stay in Baltimore…at the right price. As a corollary, countless fans were going off on social media this past offseason about Jimmy Smith and how he should take a pay cut from the $15M cap number he held for 2019. I agreed, but with a player in the last year of a contract, what can you do as a GM? Jimmy is definitely worth keeping in Baltimore for the near future, but at the right price.
I feel the exact same way about my fellow Louisiana Native Judon.
Franchising Judon would mean his salary would be just $5M per year less than Khalil Mack. We’re talking $17.8M for the year. They’re not even paying Marcus Peters that much money, and he has produced more (yes, I’m aware it is a different position).
I imagine Eric DeCosta throwing an offer at the 28-year old in the area of three years, $43.5M. $14.5M per-year keeps him just inside of the top-5 OLB salaries for now and doesn’t break the bank. Hopefully, the fourth-year player doesn’t drag this out, forcing the use of the franchise tag.
EDC has done a magnificent job retaining players, and I believe he can lock in the former 5th-round-pick for the long haul, rather than tagging him.