In his first mock draft of the 2023 pre-draft cycle, NFL Network draft analyst and former Baltimore Ravens scout, Daniel Jeremiah, has the team selecting a potential replacement or successor for Lamar Jackson in the first round at No. 22 overall.
While he prefaced the writeup of his prediction for his former employers by proclaiming “I’m throwing a dart with this selection”, slotting the University of Florida dual-threat standout, Anthony Richardson, to them it’s still a bold projection nonetheless.
“The Ravens have yet to ink Lamar Jackson to an extension, and Richardson would be a high-upside, developmental project for the organization,” Jeremiah wrote. “Baltimore’s brass was steadfast this week in its desire to build around Jackson for the future. But if contract talks don’t progress in a positive direction in the coming months, they could apply the franchise tag on the former MVP, buying time for Richardson to eventually be ready to play.”
His NFL Network colleague, a fellow former scout, and ‘Move the Sticks’ podcast/broadcast partner, Bucky Brooks, also had the Ravens spending their first-round pick to replace Jackson with Richardson in his Mock Draft 1.0, citing similar concerns about his impending contract situation.
“Head coach John Harbaugh said last week that the Ravens are committed to keeping Lamar Jackson in Baltimore. But if the two sides can’t reach a long-term deal and the Ravens decide to start preparing for an alternate future at the position, the Florida standout could be an option despite his shortcomings as a passer,” Brooks wrote.
The former Gator decided to come out after his redshirt sophomore season in which he threw for 2549 yards, 17 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, and added for 654 yards and 9 scores rushing in 12 games according to Sports Reference.
Jackson is slated to be an unrestricted free agent this March but the team will most certainly franchise tag him if that can’t work out a long-term extension before the new league year begins.
Replacing a former unanimous league MVP, First-Team All-Pro, and two-time Pro Bowler with a prospect who many scouts and evaluators believe is extremely athletically gifted but is very raw at the same time wouldn’t bode well for a team that prides itself on being able to contend each year.
With so many already elite or ascending young quarterbacks in the AFC alone, moving on from Jackson and replacing him with a rookie that has a high ceiling but needs a lot of refinement would be taking a step back for a team that has all the pieces outside of wide receiver to make a championship run in 2023.
Ravens Remain Committed to Jackson Long-Term
At the organization’s end-of-the-season press conference on January 19, general manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh were on one accord when it came to the future of their current franchise signal caller in Baltimore. They unequivocally still believe that he is their long-term answer at the most important position in all of sports “200 percent” and that “there’s no question about it”.
“Lamar Jackson is our quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “Everything we’ve done in terms of building our offense and building our team, how we think in terms of putting pieces around him, is based on this incredible young man and his ability. He’s an incredible competitor. All he wants to do is win at everything he does. That’s the kind of guys you want to build this team around. That hasn’t changed, it will never change.”
According to DeCosta, he and Jackson “communicate quite often” and both parties look forward to the day when this matter is in their rearview.
“It certainly takes two to tango, but I think Lamar and I have a great relationship,” DeCosta said. “I told Lamar, ‘This thing has been a burden for both of us.’ But when it’s over, we’re all going to feel like a million bucks.”
If they can’t come to terms on a new deal that locks Jackson up for the long term, a short-term solution that they can and likely will explore is the franchise tag. Applying the exclusive tag would mean that he’d only be able to negotiate with them but the non-exclusive would allow him to talk to other teams and give the Ravens a chance to match any offer or receive a pair of first-round picks in return if they don’t.
“You don’t have to make that decision for two months, six weeks?” DeCosta said. “We’re going to be going down to Florida at some point with Steve. We talk about a lot of different things. That will probably be something we talk about. I would love to be able to go down there and not have to talk about Lamar Jackson, because we got a deal done.”
Ravens Refute Injury Prone Narrative, Shootdown Trade Scenarios
Jackson missed the final stretch of games in the regular season for the second straight year and missed the first playoff game of his career due to injury. Some in the media and outside the organization have begun to question whether he lacks the best ability which is availability. However, the Ravens brass isn’t concerned about his durability going forward and essentially views his injuries as unfortunate isolated incidents.
“I don’t anticipate this being any kind of a trend,” Harbaugh said. “Lamar, I don’t believe, is a guy that’s going to have those issues going forward. Lamar is a very durable player. I know that people make take issue with that, I get it. But I don’t believe there’s going to a problem going forward, because I know how hard he’s going to work.
Even though the playoffs are still raging on and the Superbowl is mere weeks away, it seems almost every sports talk show saying that the two sides won’t come to a deal, the relationship is fractured, and are taking turns predicting which team he’ll get traded to this offseason. The possibility of moving on from Jackson and dealing him elsewhere is a ridiculous notion that the team isn’t even entertaining or considering right now.
“That’s something that we’re not going to talk about at this point,” DeCosta said. “Our focus right now is to get a long-term deal done. It’s going to take some time, it’s going to take some effort, some great communication, give-and-take. But I’m confident that we’ll be on the right path to get that done.”