It’s the biggest question any NFL general manager must make: “Do I pay top-dollar and also spend valuable cap space on keeping this guy around in whom we’ve invested years of development dollars anyway? Or do I let him walk?”
Right now, it looks like the Ravens have that classic question to answer.
It starts with what they’ll do with two of their best. Among the Ravens pass rushers set to become unrestricted free agents are Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue.
The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec believes there’s a growing possibility the Ravens could be without both next season.
“I’ve yet to hear much optimism in Ravens circles that they’ll be able to retain either one of the pass rushers,” Zrebiec said. “With Judon, there seems to be an acknowledgment that another team is going to be much more willing to meet his asking price than the Ravens will be. That, of course, could change if Judon’s market doesn’t materialize in the manner that’s expected. Ngakoue seems more of a question of fit. He’s going to do pretty well on the market and I’m skeptical that the Ravens will decide that he’s the best use of a chunk of the limited cap space that they have.”
Zrebiec noted that Judon and Ngakoue are candidates to receive the franchise tag, but said neither seems tenable for the Ravens given the cost. General Manager Eric DeCosta said he would welcome both pass rushers back, but would the salary cap allow it?
With the cap expected to have a floor of 180.5 million, Russell Street Report’s Brian McFarland estimates the Ravens will have around $13.8 million in cap space once restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents are signed.
That’s not a ton of room to sign premier pass rushers who Spotrac projects to receive $15.5 million or more annually.
Judon and Ngakoue accounted for almost 25 percent of the defense’s sack total in 2020. If both were to leave, Zrebiec sees the Ravens re-signing Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee, Jihad Ward, and addressing the need in the draft.