Perhaps no storyline will dominate NFL headlines in the coming months more than the ongoing contract negotiations between the Baltimore Ravens and star quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have until March 7 to reach a long-term deal with the former unanimous MVP before they will have to use the franchise tag to prevent Jackson from hitting the open market once free agency begins.
Whether it will be the exclusive or non-exclusive tag remains to be seen, but either way, Jackson will not be a free agent. The exclusive tag will carry a 2023 cap hit of $45 million while the non-exclusive will cost a much more palatable $32.4 million. If Baltimore does choose to go with the cheaper tag option, then other teams will have the chance to present an offer to Jackson that the Ravens could then match or instead be rewarded with two first-round picks in exchange for the 26-year-old superstar.
The two parties agreed to put negotiations on hold during the 2022 NFL season, but new information has come to light regarding where each side stood before the pause. According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and Jeremy Fowler, Jackson’s counteroffers to the Ravens last offseason exceeded that of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract. Baltimore appears entrenched in their stance of not giving out a fully guaranteed deal, as does Jackson with his desire of receiving one.
Jackson has been the ultimate game-changer since taking over for longtime quarterback Joe Flacco in 2018 — leading the team to a 14-2 record in 2019 as the centerpiece of one of the best offensive attacks in NFL history, resulting in a unanimous MVP award. The Ravens have since failed to reach the same highs of the 2019 season due to a multitude of reasons and Jackson has now been knocked out for the final stretch of the past two seasons with injuries. Whether or not Jackson could have played through his knee injury in a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals was a point of contention this past season with many believing that Jackson may have opted to play if he was already under a long-term contract.
The two sides will continue to negotiate, but as things stand, the franchise tag appears to be the route things are headed with an eventual trade looking like a realistic possibility.