Judon “blessed” to play on franchise tag, taking contract talks in stride

June 15, 2020 | Luke Jones

Exactly a month before the deadline to reach a long-term agreement with the Ravens, outside linebacker Matthew Judon says he feels “blessed” to receive the franchise tag for the 2020 season.

And that apparently won’t change if the sides don’t strike a deal by July 15. Judon would be required to play under the franchise tag for the upcoming season without a long-term agreement by that date.

Having signed his guaranteed $16.808 million tender last month, the 2019 Pro Bowl selection still seeks long-term stability, but he offered little clarity on the status of contract discussions other than to say his representation continues to “go back and forth” with general manager Eric DeCosta and senior vice president of football operations Pat Moriarty. The 27-year-old currently carries the highest salary cap number on the team after registering a career-high 9 1/2 sacks last season.

“They’re kind of talking on my behalf, and hopefully we can work something out,” Judon said in a conference call with local reporters. “I don’t think you all understand how it goes. I really didn’t know how contracts go, but they don’t really — too much — talk to me. People are like, ‘Judon asked him for this amount [of] money.’ I’ll find out when you all find out because they aren’t talking to me that much.

“It is what it is though. I’m blessed, regardless. If I play under the franchise tag or if we come to a long-term deal, I’m going to be happy regardless.”

Though regarded by some as more of a product of Wink Martindale’s blitz-heavy schemes than a high-impact pass rusher, Judon ranked fourth in the NFL with 33 quarterback hits last season. He has never missed a game because of injury in his four-year career and has collected 28 1/2 sacks, seven forced fumbles, seven pass breakups, and 185 tackles in 62 games, 36 of those being starts.

Judon’s long-term status is just one of several major contract questions facing DeCosta and the Ravens in the not-too-distant future as league MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, Pro Bowl left tackle, and Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey are among the special talents who will command lucrative compensation over the next year or two. It’s a reality not lost on Judon, a 2016 fifth-round pick from Grand Valley State who made a total of $3.9 million over the course of his rookie contract.

“I want to stay here for as long as I play, but I understand that it’s a business and that they’ve kind of got a ‘bad-good’ problem to have,” Judon said. “We have a lot of young talent, and unfortunately, we can’t all stay on the rookie deal our whole careers. They have stuff that they have to address, and obviously, I have needs as well. If we can meet and work on that, I’m A-OK with it.”

Judon has emerged as one of the young leaders of the Baltimore locker room in recent years, especially with the departures of defensive veterans such as Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, and Eric Weddle. He’s also been outspoken about racism and social justice reform, topics very much in the news with the protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

According to Judon, the Ravens are discussing the best ways to combat and protest racism with no decisions yet being made, including whether to kneel during the national anthem.

“We are having very deep conversations about this because that’s real life for all of us,” Judon said. “It’s very present with all [of] our platforms. We want to get ahead of it. We want to put an end to racism, whether that will be on the football field or in classrooms or wherever it may be. There’s really no room for it in today’s world.”