Lamar Jackson’s ongoing contract saga with the Baltimore Ravens has created a vacuum filled by speculation, rumors and the odd practical joke. ESPN’s Adam Schefter engaged in the latter during a recent appearance on the Pardon My Take podcast for Barstool Sports, when he had his hosts believing the Washington Commanders were trading for the Ravens’ franchise quarterback (some language NSFW):
Although Schefter had hosts, the ‘Big Cat’ Dan Katz and PFT Commenter Eric Sollenberger, going, JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington soon poured cold water on the impromptu mock exchange:
Ironically, although Schefter was having some fun, there are those who believe Jackson being dealt to the Commanders is not an outlandish scenario.
Some Believe in Lamar Jackson to Commanders
One of the main believers in a Jackson to the Commanders deal is Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. He recently offered a theory, during an episode of his podcast, about how the Commanders could be lulling the Ravens and the rest of the league into thinking they’re not in the market for an elite QB1 this offseason.
Specifically, Florio doesn’t quite buy the Commanders’ going all in on second-year man Sam Howell as their starter. Instead, Florio thinks “maybe they’re waiting to see in Washington whether the nearby Ravens ultimately apply the non-exclusive franchise tag to Lamar Jackson.”
Using the franchise tag is one of the options facing the Ravens regarding Jackson’s future. If, as Florio anticipates, they opt for the non-exclusive tag, the Ravens will allow Jackson to consider offers from other teams.
Any offer Jackson accepts and the Ravens don’t match will earn them two first-round draft picks. It’s a high price, but one any quarterback-needy team would happily pay for arguably the most dynamic dual-threat playmaker at his position in the league.
The Commanders don’t appear to be in that bracket, having been pretty vocal about anointing Howell as their first-choice signal-caller. He only started one game as a rookie last season, Week 18’s 26-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys, so Howell is still raw at the pro level, but that didn’t deter the Commanders from releasing Carson Wentz after just one season, per ESPN’s John Keim.
Howell has prominent supporters within the Commanders’ hierarchy, with Nicki Jhabvala of The Washington Post reporting comments from general manager Martin Mayhew, saying the second-year passer “has what it takes.”
Mayhew’s words echo the endorsements for Washington’s fifth-round pick in 2022 expressed by head coach Ron Rivera. He told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine Howell is “not our starter. He’s coming in as a QB1. He’ll get a great opportunity to be our starter, but we want to find a veteran quarterback,” per The Athletic’s Ben Standig.
Any team looking for veteran help at football’s most important position won’t find a better option this offseason than Jackson. It’s the main reason the Ravens need to ramp up their efforts to keep the 26-year-old off the free-agent market.
Ravens Still Facing Tough Decisions With Lamar Jackson
Using the tag or putting together a lucrative, multi-year deal. That’s the choice facing general manager Eric DeCosta, who is so far keeping his cards close to his chest.
DeCosta spoke at the Combine, but only to admit the Ravens don’t yet know which tag they might apply. The GM did at least make it clear “we want Lamar here. We want him back,” per Ari Meirov of The 33rd Team:
DeCosta’s note of optimism is slightly encouraging, but he only has until Tuesday, March 7 to opt for the tag and choose which one best fits Jackson. If things remain open beyond that date, observers of this brewing saga can expect a few more false alarms, good-natured or otherwise, until Jackson’s future is officially resolved.