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Roundtable Reactions: Ravens apply non-exclusive franchise tag on QB Lamar Jackson

The Beatdown gang give their thoughts on the Ravens using the Non-exclusive franchise tag on QB Lamar Jackson

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens have reportedly applied the non-exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Lamar Jackson. Below, you’ll find the reactions to the news from contributors of Baltimore Beatdown.

It is the job of General Manager Eric DeCosta and those in the front office to know what others around the NFL are thinking in regard to quarterback Lamar Jackson’s value. It appears they’re confident in what his market is and have officially placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on him to wager nobody will take Jackson up on a fully-guaranteed deal.

It certainly comes with risk, but now they have washed their hands from the negotiations. If Jackson wants to negotiate a contract with any NFL club, he must do so and deliver a deal to the Ravens to match or let him walk for two first-round picks.

The Ravens could be confident in matching what others want, or they could be happy to rid themselves of the 25-month stress this contract has placed on them. Either way, they now have a far smaller deficit to deal with in terms of cap space by using the non-exclusive tag. Had they used the exclusive, I’d have expected a deal pending. This shows me there wasn’t a heavy market that was worth tagging and trading within eight days before the new league year. — Kyle Barber

The riskier of the two franchise tag options also gives the Ravens more flexibility. It’s unfortunate they still can’t come to an agreement with Lamar Jackson, but now that Jackson can negotiate with other teams, his market value can be assessed. If another organization offers him the fully guaranteed contract he’s apparently seeking, the Ravens could still match — with the caveat that they weren’t the team to shell out that deal. Or, they could match the contract and trade him. The worst-case scenario is they opt to not match an offer sheet and simply lose Lamar in exchange for two first-round picks, which is well below what he’s worth. My assumption is Eric DeCosta went with the non-exclusive tag thinking it was the best way to keep Jackson in Baltimore given his value around the league. Regardless, this situation has run its course for too long, so here’s hoping the looming cloud will finally absolve and a conclusion will be met soon. — Frank Platko

Opting for the non-exclusive tag aligns with Ozzie Newsome’s methodology of allowing homegrown players to explore their value on the market.

In the best case scenario, the Ravens will be able to match a palatable offer sheet that is near or even below their most recent offer to Jackson.

Worst case, they are unable to match a hypothetical offer sheet and are forced to accept less compensation for Lamar than they could have received if they chose the exclusive franchise tag.

The non-exclusive tag prevents the unenviable situation of being stuck with the salary cap burden and corresponding player releases of the exclusive tag if no team is willing to meet both Lamar’s contract demands and the Ravens trade demands.

Essentially, the Ravens are making a wager that the Deshaun Watson contract was indeed an outlier and other owners will be reluctant to continue the march towards guaranteed contracts. Yet Baltimore retains some protection with the right of first refusal if their gamble proves unwise, while retaining the salary cap flexibility of the less costly tag.

Overall, this is a calculated risk worth taking. Lamar’s true market value will be reveled to all in the near future and the Ravens can make the best decision about their future roster construction at that point. Until then, the saga continues. — Vasilis Lericos

The usage of the non-exclusive tag is unprecedented with a quarterback of Jackson’s caliber. Baltimore will allow other teams to negotiate with Jackson. The Ravens brass has to feel strongly that they won’t get better compensation than the two first round picks in return if there is an offer that they can’t match. Baltimore draws a line in the sand and now will retain the right to match any offer sheet another team sends in.

With four first round quarterback prospects being considered top-10 options, Baltimore likely feels that teams such as the Panthers, Falcons, Colts, Texans and Raiders won’t be as willing to give Jackson a fully guaranteed five year deal in addition to giving up a top-10 pick.

Baltimore will save $13m by using the non-exclusive tag which will prevent them from having to make drastic roster changes ahead of the April 21st deadline that would’ve seen the cap hit jump from $32m to $45m. The Ravens will still have to clear cap space over the next week before the new league year to be cap compliant.

The ball is now in Lamar Jackson’s court to find the deal he wants before the Ravens will have the opportunity to match. — Spencer Schultz

The Ravens opt for the riskier but cheaper approach to tagging Lamar Jackson. This indicates to me that the Ravens must feel that they can match any offer thrown at Jackson. If they are unable to, only getting two first-round picks for a former unanimous MVP quarterback would be quite the blunder. It’s hard to fault them too much for going this route, however, as the exclusive tag would have required a lot of work on the rest of the roster in order to fit the $45m hit under the cap. Hopefully, this situation will finally come to a head soon now that Jackson can assess his value on the market. — Dustin Cox

As much as this sucks, it’s not surprising. For weeks and months and more than a year at this point, practically zero headway was made on this deal. What’s holding it back at this point? Who knows. Eric DeCosta has been to visit Lamar in Florida twice and has offered Lamar at least the second most guaranteed money. Lamar on his own, deserves every penny he’s asking for.

While the Non-Exclusive tag seems to be the beginning of the end to most people, for me it makes clear sense. It’s the best way to fairly judge Lamar’s market value. The only real risk is the possibility of a team offering a contract with 2023 cap hit that can’t be matched ($60M or more), which would be unprecedented since the largest single year cap hit in the NFL in Patrick Mahomes with $59.9M…coming in 2027. Anything north of a $55M cap hit in 2023 would blow the market up.

Hopefully the Ravens are using this as a way to gauge the market and have full intentions to match whatever gets thrown their way. Otherwise, getting a return of only two first-round picks if another team signs him should be seen as a failure. — Zach Canter