Lamar Jackson joining the New England Patriots is a nightmare scenario for the Baltimore Ravens. Fortunately, a former player who won two Super Bowls with the Pats has offered Baltimore’s franchise quarterback some words of caution about upping sticks for Gillette Stadium to be coached by Bill Belichick.
Asante Samuel warned: “Lamar Jackson, my brother trust me you don’t want to play for Belichick.”
That’s quite the indictment of the second winningest head coach in NFL history. Especially from someone who won a pair of Super Bowls on Belichick’s watch.
Samuel became a four-time Pro-Bowl cornerback and an All-Pro after being drafted in the fourth round by the Patriots back in 2003. He was part of teams that regularly waged war with the Ravens in the thick of the AFC playoff picture, but Samuel’s recent words should give Jackson cause for pause as he contemplates his next move.
The Patriots have been mooted as a suitor for the 2019 NFL MVP, with even owner Robert Kraft fuelling the rumor mill. Jackson is still a member of the Ravens, but he’s set to play under the non-exclusive franchise tag, rather than sign a new, long-term contract.
It’s an unhappy situation that has arguably the most dynamic dual-threat playmaker in the game thinking about a trade. Being dealt to New England would put Belichick and the stale post-Tom Brady Patriots back in the mix to dominate the conference, but Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta surely won’t let that happen at the expense of his own team.
Ravens Can’t Let Lamar Jackson Join Bitter Rival
The Ravens and Patriots have waged quite the rivalry during Belichick’s lengthy tenure in charge of the latter. Most of the memorable games have been high profile, including back-to-back conference Championship Games following the 2011 and ’12 seasons.
Neither team is quite the power in the conference they once were, but this matchup remains a good measuring stick between the two. The Ravens bossed the last meeting, winning 37-26 on the road in Week 3 last season, on the strength of a prolific performance from Jackson, per Pro Football Focus:
A performance like that surely turned heads in New England. Consequently, there are no shortage of people hinting Jackson could wear a Patriots jersey this season.
Among them, Kraft told reporters at the annual NFL owners meeting rapper Meek Mill texted him Jackson wants to join the Patriots. Kraft also indicated he would ultimately leave the decision to Belichick, according to Chad Graff of The Athletic:
Graff’s colleague Jeff Howe reported the Pats won’t make a move for Jackson. He cites the likely cost in trade, as much as “three first-round picks,” as well as the need “to give him a contract worth far more money than they ever extended to Tom Brady.”
The Pats have had just one winning season since Brady left town in 2020. Successive attempts to reshape an offense around Cam Newton and Mac Jones haven’t panned out for Belichick.
Those struggles could sour Jackson on the move, since Belichick is a defensive-minded coach whose career either side of Brady has been defined by poor quarterback play. It’s a pattern Jackson would alter, one reason why other former Patriots believe it’s the right move.
They include former outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who told ESPN Get Up how acquiring Jackson would mean the Patriots “get right back into that Super Bowl hunt.”
That kind of transformative impact is exactly why the Ravens need to keep Jackson out of the clutches of their AFC rivals.
Ravens Should Still Be Working Toward Long-Term Compromise
If Jackson stays put to play on the tag, the Ravens have a year to convince him to eventually sign up for the long haul. It looks like a tall order after the quarterback tweeted he asked for a trade on March 2, but general manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh can still make it happen.
The sticking point remains how much of Jackson’s next contract will be guaranteed. He doesn’t want a fully guaranteed deal like the one the Cleveland Browns gave to Deshaun Watson, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
Instead, Jackson wants “the guaranteed portion of it be larger than Watson’s.” Specifically, Jackson wants the cash in his next contract rubber-stamped above the $230 million Watson got last offseason.
It’s a hefty demand for the Ravens to accommodate, but Jackson is one of the game’s elite quarterbacks. They are gold-dust in any era of the NFL. Sooner or later, the Ravens will have to accept they need to pay their QB1 accordingly.
In the meantime, Jackson has until June 17 to accept an offer sheet from another team. If the Ravens don’t match, they’ll get two first-rounders, although DeCosta and Harbaugh will want to avoid those prime draft picks coming from New England.