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Late for Work: Pundit Says Extending Justin Madubuike Should Be Priority, But Franchise Tag Might Be Inevitable

DT Justin Madubuike
DT Justin Madubuike

Pundit Says Extending Justin Madubuike Should Be Priority, But Franchise Tag Might Be Inevitable

There's been a lot of speculation about the Ravens placing the franchise tag on Justin Madubuike, but The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said it makes more sense for the Ravens to sign the All-Pro defensive tackle to a contract extension.

"The projected franchise tag cost for interior defensive linemen is $20.9 million. Having to fit that number into their salary cap would make it hard for the Ravens to make other meaningful roster additions this offseason without some notable subtractions," Zrebiec wrote. "That's the bind Baltimore finds itself in and why hammering out a long-term agreement, with a more team-friendly 2024 salary-cap number, should be General Manager Eric DeCosta's priority until March 5 (the deadline to use the tag)."

The Ravens and Madubuike, 26, engaged in talks about a contract extension last offseason but could not reach an agreement. After Madubuike's breakout 2023 season, Pro Football Focus projected his next contract to be worth an estimated $92 million ($23 million annually).

"That would be a difficult commitment for the Ravens to make, given the long-term deals they already have on the books for the likes of Lamar Jackson and Roquan Smith. However, the alternative is even more costly," Zrebiec wrote. "Let Madubuike hit the free-agent market and he'll likely depart, opening a significant hole in the middle of a defense that is already primed to lose several key players this offseason. Or have him play the season on the franchise tag, which probably wouldn't sit very well with Madubuike, and the approximate $21 million charge would also make it extremely tough for DeCosta and the team's other decision-makers to build a deep, Super Bowl-caliber roster.

"An extension is seemingly the preference for both sides, but unless DeCosta and company can work quickly and get things done within the next two weeks, the franchise tag might be inevitable."

Rashod Bateman's Future Is Biggest Question Regarding Ravens' Wide Receivers

Revamping the wide receivers room was a top priority last offseason for the Ravens, and the additions they made in the draft and free agency led to significant improvement in the passing game.

The goal for the position this offseason is to build on those gains.

"Lamar Jackson showed progress in a new offense with better weapons, winning his second MVP in the process. Baltimore must keep that going by ensuring there are enough playmakers in the passing game,"’s Kevin Patra wrote in his assessment of all 32 teams' wide receiver situations.

In addition to Zay Flowers, who set franchise rookie records with 77 catches and 858 yards this past season, the top receivers under contract are Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, and Tylan Wallace.

Bateman, who played a full season for the first time in his three-year career in 2023, is entering a crossroads season.

"The question milling around Owings Mills is whether Baltimore exercises Bateman's fifth-year option for 2025 at roughly $13.78 million," Patra wrote. "The former first-rounder finally showed signs of life late in the season, but that figure is rich for a wideout who has yet to eclipse 600 yards in any campaign. However, do the Ravens want to create a massive need at the position next offseason by declining? The decision could come down to how free agency goes."

Three-time Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. and Devin Duvernay are the Ravens' key free agents at wide receiver. Patra doesn't see Beckham returning to Baltimore.

"Beckham played well in spurts, but it isn't worth doubling down on a $15 million deal," Patra wrote.

Ravens Coaching Staff Earns Elite Ranking

CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani ranked every 2024 coaching staff (head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator), and the Ravens were among the five teams who received "cream of the crop" status.

"John Harbaugh is undoubtedly one of the best head coaches in the NFL, and the addition of Todd Monken on the offensive side helped Lamar Jackson win his second MVP," Dajani wrote. "Mike Macdonald was another great coach for Harbaugh as he fielded the best defense in the league this year. That led to him being one of the hottest head-coaching prospects, and he has now taken over for Pete Carroll in Seattle. Meanwhile, Orr, who is a former Raven linebacker, appears to be a solid replacement, having been with the organization for several seasons now.'

The other teams ranked in the top tier with the Ravens were the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and Houston Texans.

Pundits Make Case for Not Signing Derrick Henry

As noted in Late for Work earlier this week, the Ravens are the betting favorites to land Tennessee Titans star running back Derrick Henry in free agency. However, some pundits don't think the Ravens should pursue the four-time Pro Bowler.

"Barring a market that's much softer than expected for Derrick Henry, betting real money on a 30-year-old with such mileage continuing to defy logic isn't particularly high on my wish list," Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones wrote. "Draft a back."

Henry reportedly was close to being traded to the Ravens before the deadline last October, but Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi said that doesn't mean they should sign him now.

"Count me among those who think that there's very little chance that Henry comes to Baltimore," Lombardi wrote. "GM Eric DeCosta's alleged interest in the big tailback was likely inspired by injuries to the Ravens running back corps and the team's push to be the conference's top seed. Now that all teams sport a 0-0 record heading into 2024, I think the Ravens go younger at the position. After a career high of 5.4 yards per carry in 2020, Henry has averaged 4.3, 4.4 and 4.2 YPC during the succeeding three seasons."

Count the owners of Jimmy's Famous Seafood among those who would love to see Henry in purple and black. The Baltimore restaurant has offered Henry crabcakes for life if he signs with the Ravens.

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