If another team doesn’t come forward with either a trade offer or an offer sheet for Jackson, he’s going to be faced with an interesting decision: play the year under the $32.4 million franchise tag or sit out the season. That almost certainly is not a situation Jackson wants to confront.
As for the Ravens, one of the positives of using the non-exclusive tag on Jackson was that it had the potential to spur a quick resolution, especially if the quarterback had a cadre of suitors. It hasn’t worked out that way, and the Ravens have been in a virtual holding pattern as a result. They’ve mostly operated in the past couple of weeks like a team trying to preserve salary-cap space in case Jackson signs an offer sheet elsewhere and they have to match.
Where it will get interesting is if the Colts aren’t sold on either Richardson or Levis and are unable to draft the quarterback they want. There probably would be only one remaining play that would allow them to salvage their offseason, and that’s acquiring Jackson. But at that point, would the Ravens even entertain the idea? The timing certainly isn’t in their favor. Any offer sheet after the draft means the Ravens would get the signing team’s 2024 and 2025 first-round picks. That’s not going to help them secure a starting quarterback for the upcoming season.
What’s next for Lamar Jackson? We ask a panel to predict how the Ravens’ QB saga will unfold - Alejandro Danois
Leigh Steinberg, renowned sports agent, who has represented the NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick eight times.
“This is not a situation where it’s great for either side to use the franchise tag. One point I’ll make is that the minute these discussions become public and you get the outside world taking sides, it’s not a constructive situation. And in general, in my 49 years of representing elite quarterbacks in these situations, if a player wants to get traded, the last thing they should do is publicly demand to be traded.. Because then the rest of the league knows that the incumbent team has damaged goods on their hands and the trade offers they’ll make don’t give the team full value for the player. So it’s counterintuitive because by publicly asking for a trade, it becomes more difficult to make one.
“It’s not helpful to play a scenario like this out in public because the team gets defensive when they get challenged by the press and the public. Credit John Harbaugh with handling this perfectly in terms of his statements in support of Lamar, but there’s every chance of a blowup, misunderstanding or a meltdown of the relationship as this continues to play out publicly.
“The reality is that the quarterback market is going to keep expanding. There’s new television money coming in and this is the biggest single year that the salary cap has expanded. There’s plenty of money in the sport, so the challenge is how to create a contract that maximally compensates Jackson while still allowing the team to put a supporting crew around him that will get the team to the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.
Examining Every NFL Team’s Roster Needs Entering the Draft - Danny Heifetz
Wide receiver, edge, cornerback
Well, this is awkward. Even if we assume that the Ravens will solve the Lamar Jackson situation and he will play for Baltimore in 2023, the team still has a bunch of holes. New offensive coordinator Todd Monken will need better receivers behind Rashod Bateman than Nelson Agholor. Defensively, three of the Ravens’ top four edge defenders—Calais Campbell, Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Houston—are either free agents or have already signed elsewhere. Safety Chuck Clark, who led all Ravens defenders in snaps last year, was traded to the Jets. Top cornerback Marcus Peters has yet to re-sign. The Ravens have five picks this year to plug these holes.
Early: Florida’s Anthony Richardson
Richardson is a projected top-10 pick after putting up the best athletic testing numbers of any quarterback in the history of the NFL scouting combine, but the Ravens could find themselves with such a prime selection if they trade Jackson. The Indianapolis Colts, for example, would have to give Baltimore their No. 4 overall pick if they sign Jackson to an offer sheet before the draft and the Ravens decline to match it.
For the Ravens, it’s easy to see why Richardson would be a snug fit. Like Jackson, he’s a dynamic athlete who can spearhead a quarterback-based rushing attack and use his arm strength to attack downfield. At 6 feet 4 and 244 pounds, he’s also thicker than the 6-2, 212-pound Jackson and might be more advanced as a pocket passer than the former Heisman Trophy winner was when he entered the league in 2018.
The biggest question is, why didn’t the elite traits lead to better production? In his lone season as the Gators’ full-time starter, Richardson completed just 53% of his passes for 2,553 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions while rushing for 654 yards and nine scores. A poor group of receivers is partly to blame, but there were enough mistakes and erratic throws that might make teams think twice before deciding to make Richardson their franchise quarterback.
The Ravens would be betting on Richardson’s traits and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s ability to get the 21-year-old up to speed quickly over a unanimous league Most Valuable Player still in his prime, but it might be worth it for the cost savings alone. By adding another quarterback on a cheap rookie deal, the Ravens would have more money to spend to fill out the rest of their roster, a task made much more difficult with the type of contract Jackson reportedly seeks.
Three-round 2023 NFL mock draft for all 32 NFL teams - Gordon McGuinness
Round 1: Trade — Ravens trade Pick Nos. 22 and 199 to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for Nos. 44, 75, 110 and 113