When asked at the NFL scouting combine Tuesday whether Baltimore would put the franchise tag on Madubuike if the sides can't reach a deal by the March 5 deadline, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said, "I probably will, yes."
The franchise tag for defensive tackles is $22.102 million. The only other time the Ravens tagged a defensive tackle was 2011, when they did so with Haloti Ngata.
If Baltimore uses the tag on Madubuike, the Ravens will need to make moves to get under the salary cap by March 13. Baltimore, which is currently projected to have $11 million in cap space, will likely need to either release players, restructure contracts or get players to take a salary reduction.
"We're trying to get a deal done," DeCosta said. "We've had discussions with Justin. He's the guy that obviously has put himself in a fortuitous position this year, by the way that he played. Had a great season for us. He's a valued player on the team, and we're hopeful that we can get a long-term deal done."
Madubuike, 26, is coming off a breakout season in which he produced a career-high 13 sacks for a Ravens defense that led the NFL with 60 sacks. It was a remarkable season for Madubuike, who totaled more sacks last season than he did in his first three seasons combined (8.5 sacks).
Madubuike's 13 sacks last year are the fifth most in a single season by a Baltimore player and are tied for the most by a Ravens defensive tackle. He became the first Ravens player to record double-digit sacks since Terrell Suggs had 11 in 2017.
Madubuike has drawn comparisons to Aaron Donald, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, for his consistent pressure on the interior. His streak of 11 straight games with at least a half-sack is tied for the longest in NFL single-season history.
Last season, Madubuike was named second-team All-Pro and was invited to his first Pro Bowl after shattering his career highs with 56 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 33 quarterback hits. Coaches said Madubuike has added different ways to get to the quarterback, bringing down passers with spins, cross-chops and chop-drive moves.
A third-round pick in 2020, Madubuike has recorded 153 tackles, 21.5 sacks and 49 quarterback hits.