The widespread belief around the NFL as it pertains to the Baltimore Ravens’ ongoing contract negotiations with franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson is that if a long-term deal is not struck by the time the franchise tag deadline comes on March 7, they will use it on the former league MVP.
Ravens general Eric DeCosta told reporters at the season-ending press conference that the possibility of trading Jackson elsewhere was not something they were “going to talk about at this point”.
However, per sources from NFL Network insiders Tom Pelisseo, Ian Rapoport, and Mike Garafolo, the team’s stance on the matter might have changed as negotiations have still not led to a new deal and they could be tempted to “trade the former NFL MVP for a windfall of draft picks”.
“Jackson’s desire for more fully guaranteed money — in line with Deshaun Watson’s five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract with the (Cleveland) Browns — has kept the sides from striking a deal, despite Baltimore making multiple offers near the top of the QB market in key metrics,” Pelissero wrote.
While the likelihood of Jackson being back under center for the Ravens in 2023 and beyond if they go the Kirk Cousins route and apply the franchise tag tender to him more than once, the trio of well-informed reporters stated that “there are multiple ways Jackson could end up playing elsewhere in 2023”.
“The Ravens could tag Jackson and explore options for a trade, with surely no shortage of suitors for one of the NFL’s most dynamic talents,” Pelissero wrote. “Jackson would effectively have veto power over his destination since he’d need to sign the franchise tender to complete the deal, and any team giving up the level of compensation would want to work out a contract.”
Cousins was tagged twice by the then-Washington Redskins before departing in free agency and signing a three-year fully-guaranteed deal with the Minnesota Vikings worth $84 million. Hopefully, the Ravens and Jackson don’t go down the same path to an eventual parting of ways but it will remain a possibility until a resolution comes to pass.
Ravens Could Let Other Teams Further Negotiate for Them
If the team applies the exclusive franchise tag on Jackson, it would prohibit him from being able to speak with other teams while buying them more time to try to get a deal done as well as retaining his services for the 2023 season.
It would also mean he’d have a cap hit north of $45 million whereas using the non-exclusive franchise tag would lower his 2023 cap hit to $32.416 million and let other teams do the rest of negotiating process for them.
“The non-exclusive tag also could potentially allow the Ravens to keep Jackson for the long haul by letting another team negotiate the long-term deal, which Baltimore then could match,” Pelissero wrote.
The risk of taking that gamble would be that they could potentially get outbid by a desperate team that is willing to give Jackson a record-setting fully-guaranteed long-term deal and part the two first-round picks that come with signing a player from another team assigned that specific tender.
3 Potential Trade Partners That Could Make Appealing Offers
There are several teams with a need at the quarterback position and even more that would swap their current starter or developmental signal caller for the established elite playmaker that Jackson has proven to be since he entered the league.
However, just because arguably three-fourths of the teams around the NFL would love to have the former league MVP, only a select few are actually equipped with the requisite draft capital to ‘tempt’ the Ravens or cap space to accommodate Jackson’s contract demands.
The Ravens would almost certainly avoid sending him to another AFC team for fear of having to play him regularly for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, here is a trio of NFC teams that could put together a robust trade package and afford to sign Jackson to a lucrative long-term deal:
Not only are they projected to have the second-most cap space in the league at $56,408,608 million according to spotrac.com, but they are also fully equipped with the requisite draft capital to put together quite the enticing haul. The Falcons currently hold the No. 8 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft ironically and No. 45 overall in the second round. They have a glaring need at quarterback and could miss out on the top three prospects in this year’s crop if they don’t trade up. An alluring offer would include their top two picks this year at minimum and potentially require multiple future early-round picks.
While they currently don’t have a glaring need at quarterback depending on whether they decide to tag Daniel Jones or not, they also are projected to have the third-most cap space in the league in 2023 with $44,419,480 million and likely be open to upgrading at the most important position in all of sports.
Coming off their first playoff appearance since 2016 and first postseason win since winning Superbowl 46, they are currently slated to pick No. 26 overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft which is behind the Ravens who sit at No. 22 overall and means that they will be picking in the back half of the top three rounds this year. Any trade package would likely have to include multiple first and second-round picks and potentially a player to sweeten the deal.
Aside from the Seattle Seahawks who are expected to retain Geno Smith following his Pro Bowl season, the Lions are the only other NFC team among the top 10 projected to have the most cap space in 2023 with $15,854,119 million. While that isn’t a huge figure but one that could be massaged by signing Jackson to a long-term deal and trading away former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff to some other quarterback-needy team.
The most appealing part of potential trade with Detroit is the fact that they currently hold a pair of picks inside the top 20 in the first round of this year’s draft at No. 6 overall from the Los Angeles Rams and No. 18 overall as well as a third in the top 50 with No. 49 overall in the second round.