Matthew Judon, Michael Pierce Prepare for Free Agency Uncertainty


It doesn't take long after a crushing playoff defeat to start thinking about who won't be back to avenge it.

Two of the Ravens' biggest unrestricted free agents this offseason are outside linebacker Matthew Judon and defensive tackle Michael Pierce.

While Baltimore locked up several pieces early during its magical regular season – cornerback Marcus Peters, linebacker L.J. Fort, fullback Patrick Ricard and wide receiver Willie Snead IV – Judon and Pierce have likely large paydays coming still.

Judon admitted after Saturday's 28-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans that the possibility that he had just played his final game as a Raven had crossed his mind.

"I don't know, man, really, honestly," Judon said. "I love it in Baltimore. I told y'all this every time y'all ask."

Judon talked about his appreciation for General Manager Eric DeCosta, Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh for giving him – a fifth-round pick out of Grand Valley State – the opportunity to be a starter the past three years and an even bigger role this season after the departures of outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith.

Judon stepped up to the plate this year, notching a career-high 9.5 sacks and leading the Ravens' pass rush. He is a big voice in Baltimore's defense.

"I'm forever grateful to them," Judon said. "But ultimately, that's a decision that comes from them and me. We have to sit down and talk about some things and my agency. We have to see, but for the last four years and this whole year, I couldn't ask for anything else."

Pierce is in a similar position. Undrafted in 2016, he's been a major cog in the Ravens' defensive line the past three years and 14-game starter this season. Pierce and Brandon Williams have given Baltimore one of the NFL's best run-stopping tandems.

But Williams is still under contract for two more years while Pierce's rookie deal is up. At 27 years old and with plenty of dominant game tape, Pierce could get a big payday elsewhere.

"This is the only family I've known. I would love for it to continue that way, but the NFL offseason is a beast in itself," Pierce said. "So, you have to kind of take it how it goes. It's out of my hands at this point, but yes, I would always love, love to stay and be a part of this amazing group."

Pierce said he'll first and foremost look for a good scheme fit in free agency, if going elsewhere. He said he'll talk to Williams and Suggs about the process.

"You never know what you're walking into just because different families and different organizations run differently," Pierce said. "So, if you're not blessed enough to stay around something you're familiar with, you're walking into a new situation, new people and new relationships. So, I wouldn't say it's exciting. For me, it'll probably be more nerve-racking."

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