Baltimore Ravens' 2020 NFL free-agent signings: Matthew Judon gets franchise tag

NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2020 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from Bill Barnwell. The new league year begins March 18 at 4 p.m. ET, which means free-agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2020 NFL draft begins April 23.

Here's a breakdown of every 2020 NFL free-agent signing by the Baltimore Ravens, and how each will impact the upcoming season:

Matthew Judon, OLB

Franchise tag salary: $16.3 million

Seasons: Four

Career highlights: Judon is one of four NFL defenders to record at least 150 tackles, 70 quarterback hits, 40 tackles for loss and 20 sacks since 2017. He reached his first Pro Bowl last season after leading Baltimore with 9.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss.

Why he was tagged: The Ravens’ top priority this offseason is upgrading their pass rush, and the team couldn’t let another edge rusher in his prime walk away in free agency like Za'Darius Smith did a year ago. Baltimore ranked 21st in the NFL last season with 37 sacks, their fewest since 2015. The tag was long expected for Judon, but now the real drama begins. Will the Ravens sign Judon to a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline? Will they tag-and-trade him (perhaps a swap for Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue)? Or will the Ravens just use this as a one-year rental? Baltimore has a history of striking big-money extensions with franchise players (the last five tagged landed long-term deals), but there’s no such certainty with Judon.

What he brings: Judon was the only consistent pass-rusher on the Ravens last season. His 33 quarterback hits were 23 more than any other Ravens player in 2019. He is also considered a more all-around player than the likes of Ngakoue, just not as explosive. There are questions, however, on whether Judon is an elite pass-rusher. He’s never recorded double-digit sacks in a single season. He didn’t make a sack last season when part of a four-man rush (all came on blitzes). But there’s no denying Judon’s production. He’s one of three defenders last season to total 50 tackles, 9 sacks, 30 quarterback hits and 4 forced fumbles. The others were Shaquil Barrett and T.J. Watt.

Derek Wolfe, DE

The Ravens reached a one-year, $3 million deal with the former Broncos DE.

What it means: The Ravens find their starter on the interior of the defensive line a day after they were unable to finalize a deal with Michael Brockers. Wolfe doesn't have Brockers' size or run-stopping reputation. Where Wolfe elevates Baltimore is getting to the quarterback. Last season, he recorded a career-best seven sacks in 12 games. That's more than what the entire Ravens defensive linemen produced last season (a league-worst four combined sacks). Wolfe also comes at a bigger bargain. His $3 million in guaranteed money is $18 million less than what Brockers was originally set to receive.

What's the risk: Durability. The reason why Wolfe didn't get a big deal after a career year is his history of injuries. Wolfe has missed 15 games over the past five seasons. He's only had one full 16-game season since 2015. But this is the type of gamble a team has to take after parting ways with Brockers (there was concern over his injured left ankle) and losing top free-agent defensive lineman Michael Pierce to the Minnesota Vikings. When healthy, Wolfe has the high motor that the Ravens love in their defenders.

Justin Ellis, DT

The Ravens agreed to terms with Ellis on a one-year deal.

What it means: The defensive line continues to be the theme of the Ravens' offseason. Baltimore brings back the 6-foot-2, 350-pound Ellis to stick him into the rotation along with the defense's two newest linemen in Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers, both of whom joined the Ravens this week. Ellis made six tackles in four games with Baltimore after being signed around midseason. He was a 2014 fourth-round pick of the Raiders.

What's the risk: Not much. This is expected to be an inexpensive signing to provide more depth along the defensive front. There are no guarantees that he'll be active for every game. Ellis will suit up when the Ravens need a run-stopping, space-eater.

Jihad Ward, DE

The Ravens agreed to terms with Ward on a one-year deal.

What it means: The Ravens continue to address defensive line this offseason by keeping the underrated Ward. Coaches repeatedly called Ward "a great fit" in 2019. He's athletic, versatile and has great size (6-foot-5, 287 pounds). What Baltimore really loves about Ward is his motor. A key in-season addition last year, Ward came in primarily in pass-rushing situations and provided a push on the interior. He had one sack and four quarterback hits in 11 games with Baltimore.

What's the risk: Really none. The Ravens likely signed Ward to a little over the minimum, which is a great value for an experienced player who provides depth. Baltimore liked him in the 2016 draft, when he was picked in the second round by the Raiders. After he was cut by the Colts last October, Baltimore jumped on the chance to bring him in. The Ravens don't have much cap room, so it says a lot that they used some of that valuable space on Ward.

Jimmy Smith, CB

The Ravens agreed to terms with Smith on a one-year, $3.5 million deal.

What it means: The Ravens are again loaded in the secondary. Smith, 31, held quarterbacks to an impressive 62.8 passer rating on throws in his direction. He will rotate on the outside with Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, both of whom are former first-round picks like Smith. Last season, Baltimore held teams to a 58.5 completion rate and 15 touchdown passes -- both of which ranked as the second-best in the league. It will be tough for Ben Roethlisberger and Baker Mayfield to consistently complete passes to their wide receivers.

What's the risk: Smith's durability. Smith has been sidelined for 37 regular-season games during his nine-year career, including six games last season because of a sprained knee. His last full season was 2015. But Baltimore is getting Smith at a bargain rate for cornerbacks. Smith can make an additional $2.5 million based on playing time. So, the risk is minimal financially.

Anthony Levine, S

The Ravens agreed to terms with Levine on a one-year deal.

What it means: The Ravens keep much-needed experience on their special teams. Levine has totaled 48 special-teams tackles in his past seven seasons. He has contributed as a dime back on defense, but his role was reduced last year when safety Chuck Clark played more in the box.

What's the risk: Nothing at all. The Ravens have long been able to count on Levine. His streak of 112 straight games ranks third among active Ravens. Only punter Sam Koch and kicker Justin Tucker have longer streaks. Levine likely didn't receive much guaranteed money. Levine will likely have to beat out some younger players to return for his ninth season in Baltimore.

Chris Moore, wide receiver

The Ravens and Moore agreed to a one-year deal.

What it means: The Ravens retain a key special teams player. Moore is valued by Baltimore for his ability to play gunner. He has shown flashes as a wide receiver, but he finished with a career-low three catches last season. There were five games last season in which he only played special teams. Moore has performed well as a kickoff returner in the past, but the Ravens rarely used him in that role in 2019. A 2016 fourth-round pick, Moore adds experience on special teams along with Anthony Levine, Chris Board and L.J. Fort.

What's the risk: Not much. The Ravens likely structured this deal where there is little dead money if Moore is cut. This move provides veteran insurance but doesn't preclude a rookie from stepping up to take his roster spot. Moore is one of four players remaining from the Ravens' 2016 draft. The others are offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, nickelback Tavon Young and outside linebacker Matthew Judon.