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Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon signs franchise tag tender

The Ravens moved another step closer to finalizing their 2020 roster when linebacker Matthew Judon signed his franchise tender Thursday, the team announced.

The Ravens now have until July 15 to work out a long-term extension with their top pass rusher, or he will play the 2020 season under the tag, set at $16.8 million for a player who falls between a linebacker and defender end, as reported by NFL Network.

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Judon, 27, made his first Pro Bowl in 2019, leading the Ravens with 9½ sacks and 33 quarterback hits. After the Ravens placed the tag on Judon in March, some reports suggested the team would listen to trade offers for the former fifth-round pick out of Grand Valley State.

But Ravens coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta always said they hoped to keep Judon, who has matured into one of the team’s most important players. On a recent conference call with season-ticket holders, DeCosta said he’s still working on an extension for the outside linebacker.

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The Ravens have generally signed players to long-term deals after tagging them, but several, including Judon’s mentor, Terrell Suggs, played full seasons under the franchise designation.

“I’d rather have a long-term deal for stability,” Judon told ESPN in March. “It is what it is. I feel like this is what many of us go through that are facing free agency. At the end of the day, I know I’m playing football next season.”

Judon’s final season on his rookie contract was not flawless. His 14.3% missed-tackle rate was the highest of any regular contributor to the Ravens’ front seven, according to Pro-Football-Reference. A review of 2019 film also found that the Ravens brought an average of 5.1 pass rushers on plays in which Judon registered a quarterback hit, raising questions about how much he’s benefited from a blitz-happy defensive scheme and a talented secondary.

But other data suggests his pass-rush success was no fluke. According to ESPN, Judon beat his block within 2.5 seconds on 20% of plays last season, the No. 18 rate in the NFL among edge rushers. And according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, in the Ravens’ 15 games against qualifying passers, just eight quarterbacks took longer to throw, on average, than their season-ending mark.

Judon, a former fifth-round pick who said at the end of the season, “I love it in Baltimore,” is the seventh Raven to be tagged in franchise history. Only offensive lineman Wally Williams and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs did not sign long-term deals the year they were tagged; Suggs, who was tagged in 2008 and again in 2009, agreed to an extension before the 2009 season.

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