Lamar Jackson is being wasted in a “really chaotic” and “ridiculous” Baltimore Ravens offense. That’s the verdict of former Cleveland Browns executive and New England Patriots assistant Michael Lombardi.
He believes Jackson “would be unbelievable” if he swapped Ravens’ offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s scheme for life with the San Francisco 49ers. Playing “under center” for Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan would transform Jackson’s game.
The temptation could be too much to resist for pending free agent Jackson, who still needs to sign a new long-term contract or else accept the franchise tag from the Ravens.
Lamar Jackson Would Find San Francisco 49ers Tough to Reject
Lombardi, speaking before the Ravens lost 24-17 to the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Playoffs, told the Ross Tucker Football Podcast how the Ravens’ offense “has no passing game attached to it.”
He believes “Lamar would be unbelievable if he played with the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Fake bootleg, outside zone, move him around the pocket.”
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Lombardi believes the Ravens’ offense “isn’t built for Lamar.” That’s an unusual view since most observers think Roman’s run-first system brings out the best in Jackson and his dual-threat skills.
It’s not about the run for Lombardi, who says Shanahan and the 49ers would “create a situation where he’s (Jackson) got a lot more easier throws. Lamar is really accurate between the numbers.”
In-breaking throws are a staple of the Shanahan passing game. It’s one reason why Shanahan has consistently coaxed success from different quarterbacks during his time in the Bay Area.
This season it’s the turn of seventh-round pick Brock Purdy, the last player selected in the 2022 NFL draft. He’s thriving thanks to the simple crossers that help free playmakers like wide receiver Deebo Samuel for his 74-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card Playoffs, per Next Gen Stats:
Before Purdy, Jimmy Garoppolo became an above-average starter in a system Shanahan’s assistant Mike McDaniel successfully transplanted to the Miami Dolphins this season:
Targeting the middle of the field is supposed to be Jackson’s go-to move. It’s a big reason why All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews is his favorite target.
Things don’t work as well for the Ravens because of issues beyond personnel. Roman doesn’t have wideouts as good as Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, but his play designs also lack the window dressing Shanahan adds to the playbook.
The Ravens don’t have enough rollouts, moving pockets and play-action concepts to consistently get the best from Jackson. It’s something likely to weigh on the 26-year-old’s mind during contract talks.
Ravens Need to Convince Lamar to Stay
If Jackson’s looking for incentives to stay a Raven for the long haul, he may not find it from guaranteed money. The QB1 wants a deal that rubber stamps terms similar to the $230 million the Browns guaranteed Deshaun Watson last offseason.
Jackson’s problem is he “does not possess that kind of leverage because Baltimore owns his rights through the franchise tag,” according to Mike Sando of The Athletic. Yet, the situation isn’t as comfortable for the Ravens as it appears.
General manager Eric DeCosta can use the tag, but it could cost as much as $32445,000, per Over The Cap. That would be a cumbersome investment for a team projected to have $34,671,209 worth of room under this year’s salary cap.
The dilemma about whether to pay up or not has been complicated by the PCL injury that kept Jackson out of the final five games of the regular season and the playoff trip to Cincinnati. Some have questioned how Jackson’s handled his recovery, but NFL.com’s Jim Trotter insists it’s not “about contract. I believe this is truly about his health and him wanting to be right, so he can perform for his teammates:
Speaking of teammates, Jackson still has the support of many of them, including three All-Pros, led by Pro-Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey. Players defended Jackson after he no-showed for the defeat to the Bengals, but the quarterback’s own messaging is raising further doubts about his future in Baltimore.
Jackson took to Instagram (h/t Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio) with the following message following the Ravens’ swift exit from the postseason: “When you have something good you don’t play with it. You don’t take chances losing it. You don’t neglect it. When you have something good, you pour into it. You appreciate it. Because when you take care of something good, that good thing takes care of you too.”
One way to make Jackson feel taken care of would be to design an offense capable of enhancing his core gifts. If the Ravens won’t, a 49ers team likely to seek alternatives to inexperienced Purdy and Trey Lance and free agent Garoppolo, certainly would.