Matthew Judon said his piece before he was asked to explain the end of the Ravens’ season. Willie Snead IV held his remarks until after he’d tried to make sense of an unprecedented year.
This was neither the time nor the place they desired for a thank-you — and possibly a goodbye. But the Buffalo Bills were moving on to the AFC championship game, and the Ravens were flying back to Baltimore, their playoff run over, their offseason clock ticking. So the two pending free agents spoke from the heart anyway.
“I would like to thank the Ravens organization,” Judon, a Pro Bowl outside linebacker, said after a 17-3 loss in the divisional round. “You all might ask me, but I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I don’t know what’s going to happen in my future. That’s all out in front of me.
“But the past five years, man, it’s been a hell of a ride. I wouldn’t ask for another organization, or coaches, or mentors, or players to play with, man. Some of these guys I’ve played with, they’re my real brothers, real-life brothers. So with that being said, I love the Ravens and the organization. I would just like to thank them.”
Judon and Snead had taken different paths to Baltimore, the former a homegrown veteran, the latter a free-agent wide receiver. But they both spoke with the same gratitude for the franchise, the same uncertainty of what lay beyond.
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“I just want to say one thing: I really appreciate this organization for the chance they gave me after New Orleans,” Snead said. “It’s been an incredible three years. I don’t know what my future is going to look like after tonight, but I’m very hopeful and thankful for everything Baltimore has given me. [There’s] a great group of people here; great coaches, great players, staff, support staff. You guys have been awesome.”
The Ravens aren’t pressed for salary cap space this offseason — not yet, anyway. According to salary cap tracker Spotrac, they would have $23.6 million to spend with a projected $175 million cap, eighth most in the NFL. But with quarterback Lamar Jackson eligible for a megadeal after this season and foundational pieces on offense approaching the end of their contracts, the Ravens will have touch choices to make.
At edge rusher, they could lose Judon, a team leader whom they designated with the franchise tag last offseason; Yannick Ngakoue, who had an uneven season in Baltimore after a late-October trade; Tyus Bowser, a useful chess piece and inconsistent pass rusher; and Pernell McPhee, one of the defense’s most consistent (and oldest) players.
There are question marks elsewhere. Pro Bowl long snapper Morgan Cox’s contract ends after this season. Defensive end Derek Wolfe, who had a strong finishing kick, is another pending free agent. Same goes for center Matt Skura, who lost his job in November after a rough patch, and right tackle D.J. Fluker, who never seized a starting job along an inconsistent line.
At wide receiver, Dez Bryant and Chris Moore could be headed elsewhere. Running back Gus Edwards is a restricted free agent. Special teams ace Anthony Levine Sr., quarterback Robert Griffin III and defensive end Jihad Ward highlight the other contributors with uncertain futures.
After three years in Baltimore, Snead knows the 2021 Ravens might not have him in their plans. He seemed at peace with the highs he’d enjoyed and the lows he’d endured. If this was a goodbye, it was a bittersweet farewell.
“We endured a lot this year, but I wouldn’t want to do it with any other team,” Snead said. “I love these guys in this locker room, and these last three years have been an incredible journey.”