Lamar Jackson’s contract standoff with the Baltimore Ravens is beginning to turn ugly, but the team can protect itself by signing a former first-round draft pick in 2023 NFL free agency.
Teddy Bridgewater is still on the market, and ESPN’s Bill Barnwell believes the Ravens should offer the 30-year-old a “one year, $5 million deal.” The well-travelled passer who has played for the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins among others, “would be a solid fill-in starter if Jackson holds out or leaves the organization and a much better backup than (Tyler) Huntley if Jackson returns and misses time with an injury for the third consecutive year,” according to Barnwell.
A Jackson holdout remains a prospect, even though the Ravens have already used the non-exclusive franchise tag. No. 8 can still leave M&T Bank Stadium if another team makes an offer the Ravens don’t want to match and is willing to forego two first-round picks.
Negotiations must take place directly with Jackson only, since he has no agent. Yet there have been troubling and conflicting reports an associate by the name of Ken Francis has been approaching teams on Jackson’s behalf, prompting NFL action, despite Jackson and Francis both denying the reports.
Journeyman Passer Can Be Vital Stop-Gap for Ravens
Bridgewater is never going to wow anybody, but he can be counted on to deliver solid performances and protect the football. He was steady in relief of Tua Tagovailoa for the Miami Dolphins last season, throwing for 683 yards and four touchdowns in five games, including this one to tight end Mike Gesicki against former team the Vikings in Week 6, highlighted by Josh Houtz of SB Nation’s The Phinsider:
Short, accurate throws into tight windows have been Bridewater’s calling card since he entered the league as the 32nd player drafted in 2014. While his short game is excellent, it’s also counted against Bridgewater, whose critics often believe he’s not capable of attacking defenses vertically.
The criticism isn’t exactly a fair one. Not when Bridgewater can make throws like the one he launched to Tim Patrick for the Broncos against the Dallas Cowboys in 2021:
There’s a reason Barnwell noted “there are a few teams not pursuing Bridgewater right now that will wish they had when their starter goes down in December.” Bridgewater is a steady, starting-caliber signal-caller, but he’s “not going to do much more than the occasional scramble as a runner, so he’s obviously not a fit for the same offense the Ravens run with Lamar Jackson,” per Barnwell.
Bridgewater wouldn’t replicate Jackson’s dual-threat brilliance, but there are still things the veteran could do to be an asset for the Ravens. Notably, Bridgewater threw for 151 yards on RPO plays and 208 off of play action, according to Pro Football Reference.
The Ravens aren’t going to completely junk their run-first, play-action game under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. So Bridgewater would be effective in this scheme.
He also has useful experience leading a team to the playoffs while directing a run-heavy attack. The Vikings reached the postseason in 2015 behind Bridgewater handing off to workhorse Adrian Peterson.
Returning to the playoffs with the minimum amount of fuss is the Ravens’ priority for 2023, but drama appears impossible to avoid amid the ongoing saga regarding Jackson’s future.
Ravens’ Lamar Jackson Dilemma Taking a Strange Turn
Trying to keep straight what is happening between Jackson, the Ravens and any teams interested in the marquee QB1 is becoming quite the task. Recent events only added to the confusion when the NFL management council sent a memo to teams warning against negotiating with Francis, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:
Pelissero’s statement Francis is negotiating on Jackson’s behalf prompted an emphatic putdown from the player:
Francis added his own rebuttal to the back and forth, telling ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (h/t Fowler’s colleague Jamison Hensley): “I don’t speak for Lamar.”
Jackson subsequently revealed he and Francis are business partners working on a separate, fitness-based project known as The Entire Gym:
Whatever is happening, the Ravens can no longer take it for granted Jackson will stick around to play on the tag. If things continue to turn sour between both parties, general manager Eric DeCosta would be wise to acquire some insurance.
Last season’s backup Tyler Huntley has already been given the low restricted free-agent tender, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. It allows Ravens to match any offer made for Jackson’s familiar deputy, but Huntley has only eight career starts to his credit.
Signing a proven commodity like Bridgewater would give the Ravens stronger short-term security if the worst happens with Jackson.