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Marcus Peters' Contract Extension Is 'Just the Beginning.' Who's Next?

OLB Matthew Judon celebrates after a victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
OLB Matthew Judon celebrates after a victory at M&T Bank Stadium.

Marcus Peters' contract extension, announced Saturday night, shouldn't have come as a surprise.

He is now the fourth Raven to ink an extension since the season started, joining wide receiver Willie Snead IV, fullback/defensive lineman Patrick Ricard and linebacker L.J. Fort.

General Manager Eric DeCosta has said all along that he wants to prioritize getting players under contract before they hit the open market, and he's followed through. During a franchise-best 14-2 season, there are a lot of players the Ravens want to keep.

Head Coach John Harbaugh was "so pleased" about Peters' extension that when he got to the team meeting Saturday evening, just after it had been announced, Harbaugh gave Peters a hug and the whole team cheered.

"But that's just the beginning," Harbaugh said, saying it's something DeCosta and Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome continue to work on.

"There will be more guys we sign, too. We want our players, and our players want to be here. The business side of it has to be taken care of, and that's just one of a couple first steps we've already taken." 

So who's next?

A prime candidate is outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who is in his fourth and final year of his rookie contract and has put together his best season yet.

With a sack versus Pittsburgh, Judon finished the regular season with a team-leading 9.5 sacks (tied for 19th in the NFL). He also registered his fourth forced fumble, a game-changing play just before halftime.

A fifth-round pick out of Grand Valley State, Judon now has 28.5 sacks in his four seasons. This year was his first as a full-time starter, and everyone (including opposing offensive coordinators) knew Judon would be Baltimore's leading pass rusher after Terrell Suggs' departure.

Harbaugh called Judon one of the defense's "anchors" this season, just as important to the unit's success as anyone else.

"He's proven who he is as a football player," Harbaugh said. "He's established himself as one of the top outside linebacker, pass-rusher, edge-setters in the National Football League right now, which was his goal to do. He's done it, and I'm proud of him."

Judon is in line for a big payday somewhere. The question is whether it will be in Baltimore.

Za'Darius Smith signed a reported four-year, $66 million deal with the Green Bay Packers last offseason and he had 10 fewer sacks over his four seasons with the Ravens than Judon. Smith had 8.5 sacks in his contract year, and has followed it up with an even bigger season in Green Bay, rolling up 13.5 sacks (sixth-most in the NFL).

Judon has taken notice of the other Ravens who have been paid this offseason, but he's generally taken a wait-till-the-season-is-over approach.

"I just have to play, and when it's my time, it's my time," Judon said after Sunday's game. "I'm happy that the Ravens secured Marcus. He fits the mold, and he's a special player. He deserves every dime that he got."

With Peters under contract, the Ravens could use the franchise tag on Judon. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported last week that Baltimore would do so it if it can't reach an extension. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce and cornerback Jimmy Smith are two other key pending unrestricted free agents.

"We have to finish the season," Judon said. "I love this organization, it's the only organization I've played for. I'm comfortable here; I have family here; I already know the house I'm going to get if I sign [laughter]. But that's up to upstairs."

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