Ravens’ franchise tag window opens with Justin Madubuike

OWINGS MILLS — NFL teams have until now through March 5th to officially place the franchise tag on players, and Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike remains a prime candidate for that designation.

Madubuike had a breakout season and would be one of the top free agents in this year’s market. He also would command a huge contract worth about $20 million per season.

The Ravens can buy themselves time to negotiate a long-term deal with Madubuike with the franchise tag, which could cost them about $19.7 million, according to overthecap.com.

General manager Eric DeCosta would not discuss whether the team would use the franchise tag on Madubuike.

“I learned a lesson this year and that was as hard as it – not to revisit the Lamar [Jackson] negotiations – but one of the great things about that negotiation was that I learned that it’s beneficial to just not talk about things,” DeCosta said. “There is a value sometimes to not really showing your cards or showing your hand. So, we’ll have all those decisions made at some point coming soon. We don’t have a lot of time.”

Madubuike, who was a third-round pick in 2020, led the Ravens and all defensive tackles in the NFL with 13 sacks. He also had 33 quarterback hits — ranked third in the league — and was named second-team All-Pro. His 11 straight games with at least a half-sack (Weeks 4-15) tied for the longest streak in NFL single-season history.

Madubuike earned a base salary of $2.74 million, so his next contract will be a significant pay raise. His preference is to stay in Baltimore, but he understands his value in the free-agent market.

“In terms of Baltimore, man, that’s home,” Madubuike said this offseason. “But, you know, business is business, and that side is going to take care of itself.”

The Ravens could also use the franchise tag on inside linebacker Patrick Queen, who is also headed for a big payday in the free-agent market. Queen would like to remain in Baltimore, but he understands the business side of the NFL and how the salary cap creates roster turnover.

In addition, the Ravens signed fellow inside linebacker Roquan Smith to a five-year, $100-million deal last year, so there is not a lot of money to pay Queen with 21 other unrestricted free agents this offseason.

“Patrick had an amazing season. I love Patrick,” DeCosta said. “He’s one of my favorite guys on the team. He’s put himself in a great position, potentially, to hit the market and see what his value is. You never know. If you pick up an option, that’s less money you can spend on somebody else, so how do those dominoes fall? [It’s] really hard to say.”

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