Lamar Jackson still doesn’t have a new contract, but Ozzie Newsome knows exactly how the Baltimore Ravens will play things with their franchise quarterback. Time is running out before the Ravens need to apply the franchise tag to Jackson, assuming the two sides can’t work out a long-term deal.
Speaking on the Bernie Kosar Show w/Hanford Dixon, Newsome told former Cleveland Browns’ stars Bernie Kosar and Hanford Dixon, “The biggest thing is we have a deadline tomorrow at 4 O’Clock to put the tag on, and I know today, and up until about 3:30 tomorrow, a lot of energy is going to be put, be utilized, in trying to get the deal done. And if not, we will put the franchise tag on him.”
In a sense, Newsome didn’t lay out a surprise or tell anybody observing Jackson’s contract saga anything they didn’t already know. Yet, it’s rare for such a definite declaration of intent as “we WILL put the franchise tag on him.”
Newsome knows these situations better than most, having spent 22 years in the Ravens’ front office, including 16 as general manager. His acumen helped build Super Bowl-winning rosters in 2000 and 2012, after Newsome had enjoyed a Hall of Fame playing career as a tight end with the Browns.
Eric DeCosta replaced Newsome in 2018 and now faces a decision about whether or not to tag Jackson before the deadline on Tuesday, March 7 at 4 p.m. ET. If that’s what happens, some believe the Ravens must use a specific tag to safeguard their options with arguably the most dynamic QB1 in the NFL.
Ravens Urged to Use Specific Tag for Lamar Jackson
The tag in question is of the exclusive variety. It prevents Jackson from talking to other teams, so the Ravens can keep negotiations ongoing with the 26-year-old without him entering free agency.
It’s a route Spotrac.com co-founder Michael Ginnitti believes is a “no-brainer” for the Ravens:
As Ginnitti pointed out, although the exclusive tag is costly, the number is likely to come down in the next month. The exclusive tag has a value set by the average annual salaries of the top five highest-earning quarterbacks in the NFL.
That number is currently within the $45 million-plus bracket, a problem for a Ravens team with $23,396,307 worth of space under the salary cap. It’s worth DeCosta finding a way to accommodate the exclusive tag for another reason, one based on the possibility of putting Jackson on the trade block.
Tagging and Trading Lamar Jackson Still a Viable Option
A trade is the unavoidable outcome if the Ravens are unable to come to terms with Jackson. Or if he doesn’t warm to the idea of sticking around to play on the tag.
If the Ravens are headed for a trade, they need to protect their ability to get maximum value for No. 8. The best way to do just that is to apply the exclusive tag.
A non-exclusive tag is the alternative, but it means the Ravens would only get two first-round draft picks if they chose not to match any offer Jackson was keen to pursue. A pair of first-rounders is a tidy haul, but as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport explained during a recent appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, “If I’m the Ravens, don’t I say ‘isn’t he worth more than two first-round picks?'”
Rapoport noted how a team like the Denver Broncos gave up much more to acquire Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks last offseason. The Broncos dealt two first-rounders, two second-round picks and a fifth-round choice, along with three players, to get a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
That’s surely the kind of haul the Ravens could expect for Jackson, a dual-threat playmaker with an NFL MVP award on his CV. Although, it’s important to point out Rapoport also revealed he’s “not found” a team committed enough to Jackson to offer a bumper trade package.
If there are no Wilson-sized deals in the pipeline, the non-exclusive tag is cheaper at $32,416,000, per Over The Cap. Whichever way the Ravens go, a savvy team-builder like Newsome knows the tag is just the first step toward an eventual resolution.