Former NFL MVP ‘Willing’ to Back Up Ravens’ Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson

Getty Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson.

If the Baltimore Ravens need some insurance for Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton is ready to volunteer. The quarterback drafted first overall by the Carolina Panthers in 2011 took to YouTube to list the passers he’s “willing” to play behind in 2023, with Jackson’s name second on the list.

NFL reporter Dov Kleiman retweeted an abbreviated clip of Newton saying “My No. 2 person would be wherever Lamar Jackson decides to go.”

Newton’s reference to Jackson possibly playing his football somewhere other than Baltimore this season reflects the ongoing uncertainty surrounding No. 8’s future at M&T Bank Stadium. Jackson still doesn’t have a new, long-term contract, but he’s set to play on the non-exclusive franchise tag.

Rumors of a potential holdout have been prevalent, along with news Jackson actually requested a trade back in March. Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta has done his own part to add to the increasing palace intrigue by dropping not-so subtle hints he could target a quarterback early in the 2023 NFL draft.

It all adds up to the Ravens needing at least one alternative at football’s most important position, preferably a proven commodity. Newton still fits the bill even though the 2015 league MVP hasn’t played a down since 2021.

Dual-Threat Veteran a Natural Fit for Ravens

Newton last suited up for the Panthers two seasons ago. It was his second tour of the duty with the team, following an ill-fated attempt to replace Tom Brady for the New England Patriots.

While things didn’t work out at either stop, Newton did show he can still be an effective dual-threat weapon in the red zone. He followed 12 rushing touchdowns for the Pats in 2020 with five more scores on the ground for the Panthers.

Both teams smartly designed specific plays to make both phases of Newton’s game factors at the goal-line. The approach earned the Patriots this rushing touchdown against the Miami Dolphins:

Newton’s running threat from a similar look fooled the Arizona Cardinals a season later, leading to an easy scoring pass:

A shrewd play-caller can still use Newton’s core talents, but the Ravens would want more than a gadget QB acting as next man up for Jackson. Newton didn’t make the grade as a passer in either 2020 or ’21, although he was hardly helped by his receivers in New England, who dropped 15 of his passes, per Pro Football Reference.

The same source also details how Newton remains most effective as a passer when executing RPO and play-action plays. He tallied 863 yards through the air off of play-action for the Patriots.

Those qualities would have been welcomed by former Ravens’ offensive coordinator Greg Roman, but the run-first play-caller has been replaced by Todd Monken. The Ravens are moving toward a more expansive offense, but Newton starting multiple game might lead to the unit reverting to type.

That might be a risk DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh are unable to avoid if things with Jackson remain in limbo.

Ravens Need Contingency Plan at Quarterback

Jackson’s dual-threat skills have defined the Ravens’ offense for years, so Newton stepping in would mean little to no transition for most of the players involved. It might be the smartest, short-term solution if Harbaugh and DeCosta need a quick fix at quarterback.

There isn’t much hope they won’t need one, with Jackson already on record wanting a trade. The terms of the non-exclusive tag mean Jackson can leave if a team makes him the right offer and the Ravens decline to match and decide instead to pocket two first-round picks in exchange for their star signal-caller.

Offers haven’t been forthcoming, but Jackson has other options. Notably, sitting out for the season, something Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports believes is a possibility.

The Ravens search for leverage against this eventuality likely prompted DeCosta to admit he could draft a QB, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: “I would say there’s probably more than four guys that can be significant quarterbacks in this league in this draft class.”

While the Ravens are forthcoming about other quarterbacks, the team is becoming more an more testy about questions regarding Jackson, as this awkward exchange relayed by Kevin Oestreicher of Ravens Wire showed:

Tensions are hardly thawing between Jackson and the front office, so a one-year deal for 33-year-old Newton would at least give the Ravens some sense of security. Newton could even act as an experienced safeguard for any rookie passer DeCosta takes off the board, but that should only happen if the situation with Jackson reaches the point of no return.