NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans had their 2020 season ended by the Baltimore Ravens. As GM Jon Robinson gears up for another bizarro free agency, there is no question that Baltimore outside linebacker Matt Judon must be atop his check list.
19 sacks in an NFL season just is not sustainable.
Judon represents the latest in the Ravens long track record of NFL draft success. Za’Darius Smith hit the market in 2019 after leaving Baltimore for a big pay day. Pernell McPhee took a similar path in 2015. ESPN reported that Judon’s price from whichever team decides to court him was around $20 million per year. The linebacker took to his Instagram story to refute that asking price soon thereafter.
Steep though it sounds, should Tennessee be interested in Judon at a figure anywhere close?
Judon is the Titans best option
It cannot be disputed. Judon is the best available option for the Titans defense.
He will not find many, if any takers at a price tag of $20 million annually. Even his 2020 franchise-tagged cost of $16.8 million seems a tad high. Robinson and Tennessee must not overthink things when it comes to addressing their pass rush in 2021.
Judon, like last year’s big acquisition Jadeveon Clowney, has never eclipsed double digit sacks in his career. Ending the 2020 regular season with six quarterback takedowns may not deem him worthy of a massive contract from the Titans for those dealing with pass rush PTSD. Projections for a salary cap reduced by COVID-19’s affect on the NFL also might stand in the way.
Do not overthink it.
Tennessee’s dying for pressure
Of all the available outside linebacker options, Judon is the most talented on all three downs. Coach Mike Vrabel takes pride in the multiplicity of his Tennessee defense. Judon fits that mold. Sneaky old at 28 and just getting his first crack at a big pay day, long-term attachment to Judon is not necessarily required. Spotrac.com currently projects his market value at $15.6 million per year.
That figure remains more than manageable for the Titans if the deal is structured the right way.
Football Outsiders has not yet tabulated their final 2020 season player stats, but Judon’s numbers stand out from his early first three years as a starter. Credited with 88 quarterback hurries and 52 quarterback hits from 2017-2019, Tennessee would gladly take those as a defensive assist. Disruptors like Judon not only create their own pressure but help generate opportunities for their teammates.
Harold Landry and Jeffery Simmons both benefited from having Clowney in that role early on in the Titans season. Even though Clowney lacked sacks, both Landry and Simmons’ production suffered as a result. Judon gives Tennessee a substantially healthier upgrade. Entertaining the risk of a Clowney knee re-injury or any after effects fellow free agent edge option Bud Dupree might suffer coming back from a torn ACL are ill-advised.
No one can accuse Robinson of not taking big time swings on players he thought would boost the Titans roster. $21.75 million paid to two failed (for different reasons) edge options still sends the message that Tennessee, in their own way, was all in on winning now. 2021 free agency represents a clean slate and substantial money off the books with 20 unrestricted players on the roster and both Vic Beasley and Clowney off the books.
Robinson needs to keep swinging. Judon’s as close as it gets this year to a home run.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.