According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Baltimore Ravens are heavily considering the non-exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Lamar Jackson.
This would be a curious gamble for the team, as it allows all 32 NFL clubs to negotiate directly with Jackson. If a team offers the contract Jackson wants, and the Ravens cannot or choose not to match, they receive ‘only’ two first-round picks. However, will any team offer Jackson the deal he wants, or are they going to offer similar contracts to the Ravens? Will there be a deal the Ravens won’t match? And if nobody ends up wanting Jackson for what appears to be a record-breaking, fully-guaranteed deal, the Ravens have Jackson for $32 million on the non-exclusive tag.
No doubt, it’s risky. but according to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, others around the NFL are endorsing such a move.
Would be too risky for my blood, but I've talked to quite a few people around the league not associated w/Ravens who endorsed it. It certainly would be an indication that the Ravens are skeptical that a fully guaranteed $240-plus million offer is out there for him.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) March 5, 2023
Jackson can quickly find a team willing to offer a fully-guaranteed deal. After all, he’s a youthful former league MVP who has done what teams want of their quarterback: win. Jackson has dominated and shown strides in developing into a full-fledged passer. Him joining any quarterback-needy team immediately gives them a shot at the playoffs and more.
Losing Jackson for only two first-round selections isn’t good enough regarding value. In 2020, the Miami Dolphins turned left tackle Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Kenny Stills, a fourth-round pick and a 2021 sixth-round pick into two first round picks, a second round pick, cornerback Johnson Bademosi and offensive lineman Julien Davenport. Jackson could command such a trade alone due to being one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
Take the Deshaun Watson trade as a measurement. The Houston Texans received three first-round picks, a third-round pick and two fourth-round selections all for Watson and a sixth-round selection. The Browns sent all that knowing Watson would want a new deal and them signing the record-breaking guaranteed deal that was manufactured in such a way that he’d avoid hefty fines from the NFL in Year 1 were he to be suspended for part or all of it. Watson is also not a league MVP-winning quarterback who helped lead one of the best NFL offenses of the past decade.
Losing Jackson for only two first-round picks is unsatisfactory. Even for a team needing draft picks and cheaper contracts.
Teams have shown they’re rather uncertain to sign players to fully guaranteed deals. Yes, the Minnesota Vikings and Browns have done so with Kirk Cousins and Watson, respectively, but buy and large, the risk is astronomical, especially for a quarterback who has not finished a season since 2020. For all the greatness and ability, is any team willing to give Jackson the deal he wants?
Teams will want to come close, but how close? Close enough that the Ravens can match? If so, that’s no issue for them, I’d surmise. The grass isn’t always greener and Jackson could find that teams want him, but not for more than what the Ravens are willing to pay.
Of course, that could be wrong, but that’s the gamble.