Justin Madubuike Photo credit: AP Photo/Terrance Williams

Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Justin Madubuike has spent the last four seasons playing home games at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens selected Madubuike with the 71st pick in the 2020 draft out of Texas A&M. As a rookie, Madubuike played in 10 games and started three. The starts have gradually increased to the point where Madubuike started 16 out of 17 games last season and has started all seven games so far this year.

This is the final year of Madubuike’s rookie contract, meaning he can become a free agent after this season. In 2023, Madubuike will earn a base salary of $2,743,000, while carrying a cap hit of $3,015,420.  So far, Madubuike has put himself in position to warrant consideration for a long-term second contract.

Madubuike hasn’t quite reached the elite status of some recent interior defensive lineman like New Jets Quinnen Williams and Tennessee Titans Jeffery Simmons who signed new contracts before the season. However, Madubuike can expect a significant pay raise if he continues to dominate this season. 

Madubuike’s 5.5 sacks ties his previous career high. There are 10 more games left in the season so he’s likely to increase that total. If he can push that number to double-digit sacks, Madubuike will have a husky payday waiting for him next year. 

Madubuike credits two of the Ravens veteran defenders for his early success. 

“Just the little details like in practice – ‘J.D.’ [Jadeveon Clowney] and Kyle Van Noy kept reiterating to me,” Madubuike said. “They were kind of bullying me throughout the week like, ‘Pick the hip, pick the hip’ on those technique games. When I do it, it gets me free; those little things just keep stacking. [We] just keep believing in each other.”

Ravens defensive coordinator Mike McDonald said it’s just a matter of Madubuike getting opportunities this season. McDonald is excited about the way Madubuike is showcasing his talent. 

“Justin, he’s extremely explosive; he plays incredibly hard; he’s incredibly physical; he’s a violent tackler; and he has a relentless motor,” McDonald said. “So, if he’s not going to win right now in his one-on-one, there’s a good chance he’s going to win on a second and third effort, and I think that’s what makes him a great player.” 

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh agreed and added that Madubuike always had tremendous upside. 

“You would see the dominant plays here and there. He’s just made more of those,” Harbaugh said.” He’s more consistent in making more dominant-type plays, whether it’s run or pass. [He’s] more explosive [and] more consistent with his technique – all those kind of things that you would expect as a player would grow and get better who works as hard as he does consistently. You’d expect his play to be more consistent, and I think that’s what’s happened.”  

The growth and maturation process has been gradual. Now the Ravens find themselves with a homegrown defensive playmaker. Madubuike’s success comes down to the patience paying off for both the player and the organization.

Tyler Hamilton
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