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Late for Work 2/22: Ravens Could Lose Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in Free Agency

Left: OLB Matthew Judon; Right: DE Yannick Ngakoue

Ravens Could Lose Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in Free Agency

One of the biggest offseason questions surrounding the Ravens is how they'll address the pass rush.

It starts with what they'll do with two of their best. Among the 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.

Derek Wolfe a Strong Candidate to Return

Speaking of impending free agents, among them is defensive end Derek Wolfe, who pundits believe is a strong candidate to return.

"Wolfe is a player that the Ravens should want to keep," Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler wrote. "Obviously, his price can always go outside of what the Ravens are going to be comfortable with. … Wolfe is a good blend of everything you want a defensive end to be in this type of defense. He's not Aaron Donald but he's going to push the pocket and get some sacks. He's not Brandon Williams, but he's going to stuff the run well.

"One thing you'll notice if you go back and watch the tape on this past season is that Wolfe didn't get pushed around. This is a man who wins the battle in the trenches regularly. Whether he makes a play or not, he doesn't make anything easy for the player(s) who are assigned with blocking him."

After a deal with defensive tackle Michael Brockers fell through, the Ravens pivoted and signed Wolfe to a one-year deal last offseason. It paid off, as Wolfe proved to be a key piece of Baltimore's defense. He finished with 51 tackles, two passes defensed and one sack.

KOA NewsRadio's Benjamin Albright reported in December that the Ravens were working on an extension for Wolfe, who said he'd love to remain in Baltimore.

"I feel like I have proven myself," Wolfe said soon after the season ended. "When things got tough and we lost some guys, I was playing 60 snaps a game and playing at a high level, I thought. I know the sack numbers aren't there, but that's not what this defense requires me to do – is to get sacks. This defense requires me to stop the run and create opportunities for other people to get sacks. So, I feel like I've done that, and it's in their hands."

More Logo Feelings From Both Sides

It's been almost two months since the Ravens faced the Tennessee Titans in the AFC divisional round, but both sides still have thoughts on what happened.

If you remember, Head Coach John Harbaugh took exception to the Titans gathering at midfield on the Ravens logo during the regular-season matchup in November. The Titans did the same thing a year ago before the teams' divisional playoff meeting.

A year later, the Ravens celebrated on the Titans logo after a Marcus Peters interception sealed the playoff win.

Peters appeared on "The Pat McAfee Show" last week and said the Ravens felt disrespected from what happened.

"We all felt that they was being disrespectful to us the first time around," Peters said. "We took that personal, and knew what type of game it was going to be going into it.

"It just so happened to have to be me to do it. I feel like my dogs was ready to ride with me. … When you do it us, you've got to get it done to you."

Titans running back Derrick Henry added some fuel to the fire with an appearance on the "Bussin' With The Boys" Podcast, hosted by teammates Taylor Lewan and Will Compton. While Henry didn't specifically mention the Ravens, it's clear he's anticipating a rematch.

"[We] might not play you next year, but when we play you again, just know we didn't forget," Henry said.

"Who are you talking about?" Lewan asked Henry.

"Hey, we all know who he's talking about," Compton laughed.

Would a Rick Wagner Reunion Make Sense?

Salary cap casualties are one way the Ravens could target the free-agent market, and Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed thinks a reunion with tackle Rick Wagner makes sense.

Wagner came into the league as a fifth-round pick with the Ravens and started 47 games in Baltimore over four seasons. He left in 2017 to sign a big deal with the Detroit Lions, then went to another NFC North team in Green Bay. After just one season with the Packers, Wagner was released in an effort to clear salary cap space.

"His open market value has been reduced to that of a mid-tier veteran which will make him relatively inexpensive in a COVID cap year if he intends to continue his playing career," Reed wrote. "According to ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky, the eight-year veteran is contemplating retirement but perhaps DeCosta could coax him into returning to Baltimore for one more year to serve as a stop-gap starter at right tackle if Brown Jr. is traded or an upgrade at swing tackle if he is not. Wagner could contend for a championship in Baltimore and retire as a Raven."

"If he has plans on playing another year, he wouldn't be a bad one-year stopgap for the Ravens if they trade Brown or even in their quest to fill the swing tackle candidate," Zrebiec added.

D.J. Fluker, who served as the Ravens' swing tackle last season, is set to become a free agent. As evidenced by last season, you can never have too much depth on the offense line.

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