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Ravens News 3/9: Sparse Interest and more

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NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

2023 NFL Free Agency: Immediate analysis for all franchise-tag decisions - Brad Spielberger


Tag Value: $32,400,000 (quarterback non-exclusive tender)

2022 Player WAR/Rank: 1.41 (19th)

At other positions, the barrier of two first-round picks is enough of a deterrent to prevent a team from offering a contract, but odds are a handful of teams would be more than willing to depart with two firsts for Jackson.

Over the past five seasons, Jackson’s 2.9% turnover-worthy play rate is the 12th lowest of 51 qualifying quarterbacks despite his 9.5-yard average depth of target being the fifth highest. He’s one of the best runners in the NFL regardless of position, and a one-man offense that would be quite hard to replace.

One angle here could be that Baltimore didn’t want to be the team that shattered contractual precedents again with a fully guaranteed deal, but if they have to match someone else’s offer sheet, then it isn’t their fault.

No NFL teams want to acquire Lamar Jackson and the reason why seems painfully obvious - Will Brinson

The contract

This is the big one here. Jackson, by all accounts, wants a fully guaranteed deal. The Ravens chose to let the market tell him what his value was and the market magically dried up! We won’t ever know what he might be willing to take because teams aren’t even floating out offer sheets. A fully guaranteed deal would require matching every dollar in escrow (an antiquated rule from a time when not every NFL owner had hundreds of millions of dollars), which is something even the wealthiest NFL owner doesn’t want to deal with (again, more on that in a second). If we’re talking max guarantees, that’s a potential problem with the salary cap, even though the salary cap more and more appears to clearly be a myth.

The idea of Baltimore dangling Jackson to the entire league, and no one having ANY INTEREST WHATSOEVER, is just wild. A 26-year-old former MVP simply DOES NOT become available in the NFL with no interest from other teams.

And not just no interest but a very quick lack of interest from a host of teams who have been aggressively pursuing quarterback solutions for the past 3-5 years.

There’s a virtually zero percent chance of anything happening here. Good luck proving a bunch of NFL owners don’t want to acquire Lamar Jackson simply to suppress a rogue contract given to another player in a similar situation just a year ago. But that reality makes a lot more sense than the idea of no one even wanting to consider acquiring a 26-year-old former MVP.

NFL franchise tag deadline winners and losers: Lamar Jackson, bad news for RBs and more - Jeff Howe

1. Jackson signs an offer sheet, and the Ravens match: Jackson has been willing to bet on himself in testing free agency, so he’s been trying to maximize his value for two years under a cloud of uncertainty. Now that he’ll see his value on the open market, he can take the best deal on the table, and the Ravens can match it to keep him.

2. Jackson signs an offer sheet, and the Ravens don’t match: DeCosta surely has a dollar figure that he’s comfortable paying. In this scenario, Jackson can prove that he was smart to play this out, corrals a deal the Ravens wouldn’t meet and the Ravens can recoup the signing team’s next two first-round picks. (If a team without a first-round pick in the next two drafts is interested in Jackson, it’s also possible for the Ravens and Jackson to facilitate a trade.) The acquiring team would be surrendering less draft compensation than the Broncos did for Russell Wilson or the Browns did for Watson.

3. Jackson doesn’t sign an offer sheet, returns to the Ravens and plays out the franchise tag: The quarterback would continue to bet on himself and hope to increase his value over the next year. If the Ravens choose, they can franchise him again in 2024 for $38.9 million. It’s conceivable Jackson won’t be a true free agent until the 2025 offseason when he’s 28 years old. While he’d still be in the prime of his career, Jackson might not hit his most lucrative market value until then.

4. Jackson recognizes the deal he’s seeking isn’t out there, reduces his price point and signs an extension with the Ravens: If the second scenario would be a reward for Jackson’s patience, this would be a reward for Baltimore’s hard line.

5. Jackson signs the tag and orchestrates a hold-in to pressure the Ravens into an extension or trade: Holdouts have become too expensive with the $50,000 daily fines, and players appear to be more reluctant to go the Le’Veon Bell route in choosing not to sign the tag. So a hold-in could put pressure on the Ravens to resolve the situation in one way or another.

NFL free agency: Best, worst signings for every team since 2018 - Jamison Hensley

Baltimore Ravens

Best signing: Mark Ingram II, RB, 2019

There was a lot of fretting from the Ravens’ fan base in 2019 when Baltimore signed Ingram instead of Le’Veon Bell. But Ingram became an integral cog and leader for the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, setting the tone with his physical and explosive running. After signing a modest three-year, $15 million deal, he ran for 1,018 yards, tied a franchise single-season record with 15 total touchdowns and coined the team’s mantra “Big Truss.” Not bad for someone who wasn’t among the 10 highest-paid running backs that season.

Worst signing: Earl Thomas III, S, 2019

The Ravens knew they were getting a highly volatile defender when they signed Thomas to a four-year $55 million contract, which was the largest deal they had ever given a free agent defender. One year later, Baltimore abruptly cut Thomas three weeks before the start of the regular season because he punched a teammate at practice. He also missed or was late to several meetings during his 17 months in Baltimore.

Julius Brents Is Winning Pre-Draft Process - Jack McKessy

Standing at 6-foot-3 with 34-inch arms, he was hard to miss once everyone knew where to look. He has the build of a true CB1 with measurements comparable to one of this year’s rookies: Tariq Woolen of the Seattle Seahawks, who shined in his first year and received some votes for Defensive Player of the Year. Size and length are two huge reasons to buy in on Brents, but they’re just the start of what has made Brents such a special prospect in this process.

After a great end to Brents’ collegiate career at Kansas State, he went down to Mobile, Alabama to participate in the Senior Bowl, where he really shined. Brents finished the week as one of the biggest draft stock risers in attendance thanks to his ability to lock down anyone and everyone who lined up across from him. It didn’t matter if they were bigger guys on the outside or smaller, shiftier receivers in the slot. If they lined up across from Brents in one-on-ones and team drills, he was locking them down. Coming out of Senior Bowl week, the Kansas State product seemed to have firmly raised his draft stock—even as high as the second round.