Ravens Can Trade Lamar Jackson for ‘Natural Leader’ & 4 Draft Picks: Analyst

Lamar Jackson

Getty Lamar Jackson can fetch the Baltimore Ravens a "natural leader" and multiple first-round draft picks in trade.

Lamar Jackson’s a franchise quarterback the Baltimore Ravens want to keep. That would only change with the right trade offer, particularly one offering a young passer already dubbed “a natural leader” after just four starts in the NFL.

Desmond Ridder has garnered impressive praise during a short time with the Atlanta Falcons, but he wouldn’t be worthy trade bait by himself. The Falcons can sweeten the pot with as many as three first-round draft picks.

That’s the bumper trade package Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine believes the Ravens could earn for Jackson. He has No. 8 going to Atlanta, along with a 2025 sixth-round pick, in exchange for Ridder, first-rounders in 2023, 2024 and 2025, as well as this year’s fourth-round selection.

It’s a haul big enough to make any team stop and think. Especially when Jackson still doesn’t have a new long-term contract, while buzz has steadily been building around Ridder since last year’s draft.

Second-Year Passer Generating Buzz

Ridder went 2-2 after taking the reins from Mariota against the New Orleans Saints in Week 15, but did enough to convince team owner Arthur Blank. Speaking with Ashton Edmunds of Falcons.com, Blank dubbed Ridder “a natural leader. He created a good bond with all the rookies, and he’s learned a lot from Marcus [Mariota] during that period of time. He was a good student of the game, a student of what Marcus did well.”

Blank felt like Ridder did enough to showcase his potential for the future: “I love our young quarterback. I know he only played four games but the trend line during those four games was all good.”

While Blank is impressed, Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith has “stopped short of naming Ridder his starter or a potential presumptive starter for the 2023 season,” according to ESPN’s Michael Rothstein.

Ridder wasn’t picked off while throwing for 708 yards and posting an 86.4 Qb rating. The 23-year-old threw his first two touchdown passes to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-17 in Week 18, including this one to tight end MyCole Pruitt:

Throwing on the move showed the mobility Ridder displayed by rushing for 64 yards on 16 attempts. He would keep QB runs a part of the Ravens’ playbook even if Jackson is traded.

Aside from his physical traits, Ridder stood out during the 2022 draft process because of his smarts. He was compared to 2005 No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith by former Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who named Ridder the “best pre-snap to post-snap operator in this class.”

Orlovksy wasn’t alone in making this comparison, with NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein also likening Ridder to Smith. The latter led the San Francisco 49ers to an NFC Championship Game, before going to three Pro Bowls as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Ravens would surely welcome this level of achievement from any Jackson successor.

Lamar Jackson Exit Could Reward Player & Team in the Long Term

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk told NBC Sports EDGE Football’s Matthew Berry the Ravens will likely use the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson. The idea is to “call his bluff” over Jackson’s belief he can get a “five-year, fully guaranteed contract.”

Florio doesn’t believe Jackson will earn those terms on the market, but if he does, the Ravens would happily take at least two first-round picks in return:

Losing a player of Jackson’s dual-threat talents would surely sting, but the Ravens would be equipped to add to an already strong nucleus thanks to a trade. Meanwhile, Jackson might land in a perfect spot to reach the next level in his game.

As Ballentine pointed out, Smith directed the Falcons’ offense to finish “15th in scoring and second in rushing” this season. Jackson has thrived operating a run-heavy attack in Baltimore since entering the league in 2018.

The notion of Jackson flourishing with the Falcons has also been expressed by Marcus Mosher of Pro Football Focus. Like Ballentine, Mosher also thinks the Ravens would fetch Atlanta’s eighth-overall pick this year, along with other first-rounders, for Jackson.

Signing Mariota as Jackson’s backup or potential successor has also been mooted as a scenario, but trading for Ridder would have more upside.

He’s capable of developing alongside whoever the Ravens get to replace Greg Roman as offensive coordinator. Acquiring those first-rounders would also allow general manager Eric DeCosta to build a roster loaded enough not to be utterly reliant on Ridder.

The Ravens already have playmakers on both sides of the ball. They include safeties Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen. The offense features tight ends Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely, and running back J.K. Dobbins.

Adding first-round talent at wide receiver, along the defensive line and at offensive tackle would complete the picture. The Ravens will struggle to do that if their resources are stretched by making Jackson the highest-paid quarterback in the game.

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