Justin Madubuike Is ‘Hungry’ to Prove He’s Still Improving

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When Justin Madubuike was drafted by the Ravens in 2000, he sat on his family’s couch and crumpled into his mother’s shoulder with a flood of tears.

When he agreed to a life-changing four-year contract with the Ravens last Friday, Madubuike immediately called his father and shed tears once again.

The son of Nigerian immigrants, Madubuike attributes his tremendous work ethic to them. It’s that work ethic, combined with unreal athleticism and talent, that drove Madubuike to become the Ravens’ latest big-time investment.

And that work ethic isn’t changing after inking his four-year deal, reported to be worth $98 million.

“I’m hungry. I’m ready to get back to work again,” Madubuike said. “I’ve been working out as you all can see a little bit.”

Ravens DT Justin Madubuike joins team insiders Ryan Mink and Garrett Downing to talk about his four-year contract extension and what he plans to prove next.

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Madubuike said his breakout 2023 season took root last January. Immediately after the painful Wild-Card playoff loss in Cincinnati, Madubuike hugged now Ravens Defensive Coordinator Zach Orr and the coach told him he could envision an All-Pro fourth season.

“At that moment, I knew, ‘I’m going to take a month off, and I’m going to literally work my butt off to be one of the best in the league,'” Madubuike said. “With hard work and faith and consistency, your dreams can come true. I’m a living testimony of that.”

The Ravens not only signed Madubuike to such a big deal because of what he’s done, but because of what they envision he will ultimately become. Just 26 years old, Madubuike and the Ravens know he’s capable of more.

He already led all NFL defensive linemen with 13 sacks last year. The next step is to reach the heights of the only two defensive tackles with higher average annual salaries – the Chiefs’ Chris Jones and Rams’ Aaron Donald.

Donald registered 20.5 sacks in his fifth season and helped the Rams win the Super Bowl two years later. His long stretch of dominance will one day land him in the Hall of Fame. Jones has helped the Chiefs win three Super Bowls with critical plays in big games. Like Madubuike, Jones went to his first Pro Bowl in his fourth season and Jones has been back every year since.

It’s clear that the Ravens believe Madubuike is already capable of such heights.

“Justin is not only one of the best defensive tackles in the National Football League, but he’s one of the best football players overall,” Orr said. “He’s earned this, and the future’s bright with Justin Madubuike. We’re just getting started.”

The Ravens love Madubuike’s trajectory. He has improved every year, at least doubling his sack totals. Last year, he exploded, going from 5.5 sacks to 13 and nine quarterback hits to 33.

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Since signing his deal, however, Madubuike said he’s seen chatter about his breakout season being a bit of a fluke.

“They think I’m just a one-hit wonder. Nah, I’ve put in this work for years. I see that as a little disrespectful,” Madubuike said on The Lounge podcast. “It’s not for you to know, it’s for you to find out.

“It’s better to be the top dog. They’re going to be scheming and planning to stop me. If you don’t come with your best for four quarters, you’re going to be embarrassed. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to embarrass them.”

Part of Madubuike’s success last season was that he lined up all over the Ravens’ defensive front. Orr said Madubuike will get even better at that with more practice, which will enable Baltimore to keep moving him around so offenses can’t just key in on stopping him.

“They’re after me now. I take that as a challenge,” Madubuike said. “I love being challenged. I feel like it keeps me sharp.”

DeCosta told Madubuike during last season that the Ravens wanted to get a long-term extension done with him. Negotiations didn’t start until after the season ended, and DeCosta said the two sides were close before applying the franchise tag.

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Ultimately, they pushed it over the finish line just three days later and DeCosta said it was a “very easy deal to get done.” The Ravens were clear that they wanted to keep Madubuike and he wanted to stay. Madubuike said he plans on being in Baltimore for, hopefully, his entire career.

Considering the salary-cap constraints that Lamar Jackson’s deal will put on the Ravens for years to come, such mega-deals aren’t taken lightly. They must hit, and DeCosta feels confident that this one will.

“You all can get a sense for the feeling we have towards Justin that we were willing to commit to a contract like this,” DeCosta said. “I think it speaks the world for how we feel about him as a player and as a person.

“I just think he has a great work ethic. He’s gotten stronger. … His instincts for the game have improved every year. He’s a very, very coachable player. He’s just got a great combination of explosiveness, quickness, and he’s a worker. He’s highly disciplined, he’s highly motivated, he’s a great teammate. He does everything the right way.”

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