Lamar Jackson has his new contract, but not because he demanded the Baltimore Ravens sign trade for DeAndre Hopkins. Jackson needed better wide receivers, and the Ravens eventually got them for him, but that didn’t stop the franchise quarterback asking about Hopkins.
The latter has been a trade candidate for most of this offseason, but Jackson told reporters he never tried to force the Ravens into making a deal with the Arizona Cardinals. Speaking after officially signing his new five-year contract worth $260 million on Thursday, May 4, Jackson revealed “It was a question. It was, ‘can we?,'” per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.
Ultimately, Jackson didn’t need to be content with only seeing Odell Beckham Jr. walk through the doors at M&T Bank Stadium. Not after Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta selected Boston College wideout Zay Flowers 22nd overall in the 2023 NFL draft.
Flowers joining Beckham and former New England Patriots’ burner Nelson Agholor means Jackson has enough weapons to make strides as a passer this year. It also means DeCosta can focus on accommodating his franchise quarterback’s new deal and keeping enough room to retain other key players and continue building a roster strong and deep enough to compete every year.
The Ravens Gave Lamar Jackson Enough
The Ravens did enough to improve Jackson’s supporting cast, even without adding Hopkins. Improve may not be a strong enough word after Baltimore’s QB1 saw his supporting cast completely transformed by the arrivals of Flowers and OBJ.
Flowers will give Jackson a speedster capable of making big plays at multiple levels of the field. The rookie also proved himself a touchdown machine during his career at Boston College, per Pro Football Reference.
Beckham is also somebody who can do his best work the closer he gets to reaching paydirt, while the 30-year-old hasn’t lost his knack for spectacular catches. Putting Beckham and Flowers together with All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews should leave Jackson spoilt for choice against overwhelmed pass defenses.
Hopkins would have helped, but trading for the three-time first-team All-Pro might have been too much of a good thing. Instead, the Ravens stood quiet in a market that never quite marterialized for D-Hop, even before he appeared to declare he’s staying put with the Cards, per The 33rd Team’s Ari Meirov.
Staying out of any sweepstakes for Hopkins has left the Ravens with the means to keep the rest of the roster around Jackson strong.
Ravens Have Other Players to Consider
DeCosta declined to pick up Patrick Queen’s fifth-year option, so the Ravens will have a decision to make about the inside linebacker in 2024. Queen’s struggled for consistency, but he finally seemed to get it following the trade to bring Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears midway through last season.
The decision to draft Clemson’s Trenton Simpson in the third round makes it look like the Ravens are planning for life without Queen. Yet, DeCosta still talked up the latter’s ability following the pick, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.
Queen isn’t the only player the Ravens will need to decide what to do with after this season. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards are slated to become free agents, while guard Kevin Zeitler will also be eligible to test the market.
The year 2024 will also mark the moment when DeCosta has to choose whether to exercise the options of 2021 draftees like wide receiver Rashod Bateman, edge-rusher Odafe Oweh and guard Ben Cleveland.
Those considerations, along with the inevitable need to recruit their own new talent, via both free agency and the draft, mean the Ravens need cash on hand. A trade for Hopkins would’ve put a sizeable dent in any spare funds because it would have required taking on at least part of the 30-year-old’s $19.45 million base salary for 2023 and beyond.
Ultimately, the Ravens opted to choose between Hopkins and Beckham and supplement one big-name veteran with a top draft pick. It looks like the right decision based on how quickly things worked out with Jackson’s contract.