Outside Linebackers: Old and New Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens

Street Talk Outside Linebackers: Old and New

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Matt Judon joked about waiting patiently to reach a new deal with the Ravens to avoid the long-term uncertainty of playing the season under the franchise tag. 

The moment passed without a new contract, which leaves a murky future for Judon in Baltimore.

Judon will make a hefty $16.8 million this season playing under the franchise tag. 

He could put himself in position for another huge payday if he can amass a double-digit sack season, much like former Ravens linebacker Za’Darius Smith, who signed a four-year, $66 million deal with the Green Bay Packers as a free agent in 2019.

The Ravens likely won’t place a franchise tag on Judon for a second straight year because they’ll have other pressing needs on the roster in 2021.

Judon will have a chip on his shoulder this season. He embraces the adversity. 

“I’m pleased to be tagged. I feel like only a few players get to go through this in their lifetime,” Judon said. “As much as I want stability in the future, that I’m proud of where I’m at and where I came from … A fifth-round draft pick out of Grand – or how you all pronounced it, ‘Garden Valley State’ – but out of Grand Valley State. I’m pleased with how my career has been going.”

Judon is not the only linebacker facing a critical year.

Tyus Bowser, a  second-round pick (47th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft, is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Bowser is having an uneven career for the Ravens but is coming off his best season. 

He was second on the team with five sacks (-35 yards) and finished with 20 tackles, two passes defended, one forced fumble, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Overall, the Ravens were ranked No. 3 in points (17.6) and No. 4 in yards (300.6) allowed per game. 

Bowser knows he needs to take the next step in his development this season. He was drafted to be a force in the pass rush after finishing his final season at the University of Houston tied for the team lead with 8.5 sacks and tied for second with 12  tackles for a loss.

Bowser also wants to finish with double-digit sacks this season, which would secure a new deal – with the Ravens or elsewhere. 

“I definitely want to get into the 10-sack club this year,” Bowser said. “I want to be a Pro Bowler this year and ultimately win a championship. Those are the main three goals I want to accomplish.”

However, the one player to watch his Jaylon Ferguson, who finished last season strongly as a rookie. Ferguson was able to secure more playing time when Pernell McPhee went down with a season-ending triceps injury Oct.20 against Seattle.

Ferguson recorded 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks, one pass defended, and one fumble recovery over14 games. He has the size (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) and pedigree to make an even bigger impact his second year. 

Ferguson was drafted to be the heir apparent to Terrell Suggs, but he wants to create his own legacy. 

“It’s flattering to be compared to the great Terrell Suggs, but at the same time, he left his legacy, he left his mark,” Ferguson said. “That’s some big shoes to fill, and I’m not really trying to step in his place. I’m just coming in and getting my start on the field, doing whatever I can to help the team win.”

If Judon and Bowser are playing their final seasons in Baltimore, Ferguson represents a new era of young playmakers for the franchise.

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich
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