Over four seasons since being a third-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2020, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike has made steady year-to-year progress. This season, he more than doubled his previous career-high for sacks with 13 as he earned a Pro Bowl selection and was named Second Team All-Pro.
Of course, now through four years of an initial four-year rookie deal as a Day 2 draft pick, that also means Madubuike is headed for free agency. And he will be paid handsomely, after turning down a contract extension last spring and betting on himself.
Edge rusher is a bigger need for them than defensive tackle, but Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football has tabbed Madubuike as a free agent the Detroit Lions should pursue this offseason.
"Vibes are high in Detroit right now and, while the Lions' 2023 success should be applauded, this is a team that can get even better in 2024. Edge defender Aidan Hutchinson is already in or near the top tier at his position, but adding an interior pass rusher like Madubuike could take the team's defense to another level. Madubuike is coming off a career year, boasting a 77.7 PFF pass-rushing grade and 64 total pressures — including 31 combined sacks and quarterback hits — on 512 pass-rushing snaps."
Madubuike had an 11-game streak with at least 0.5 sacks, which tied for the longest such streak by a defensive tackle since sacks became an official NFL stat in 1982.
Justin Madubuike opens the door to leaving the Ravens in free agency
The Ravens had 23 pending free agents right now, and they won't be able to keep everyone. It feels like Madubuike will be something of a priority though, and of course they have the franchise tag in their pocket to retain him if a longer-term deal can't be reached over the next five weeks or so.
At the Pro Bowl Games in Orlando this weekend, Madubuike talked about his upcoming free agency.
"In terms of Baltimore, man, that's home," the defensive tackle told NFL.com Friday at Pro Bowl Games practice. "But, you know, business is business, and that side is going to take care of itself."
Madubuike, as expected, added that he'll let his agent handle negotiations. He is expected to become one of the highest-paid defensive tackles in the league, with projections in the $20-$23 million range per year over four years.
That price might be too rich for the Lions to sign one player on the defensive side of the ball, and if they do a defensive tackle is down the list of positions they'd invest in that way. And while the Ravens are easily expected to use its franchise tag on Madubuike, it's hardly a lock they do so with so many looming free agents.
But as expected, for his part Madubuike is not ruling anything out as he eyes a life-changing pay day in a little over a month.