‘Possible’ Ravens Draft a Quarterback in Round 1 Amid Lamar Jackson Uncertainty

Lamar Jackson

Getty The Baltimore Ravens have let it be known they could draft a quarterback in Round 1 amid uncertainty surrounding Lamar Jackson.

Eric DeCosta and the Baltimore Ravens are prepared to use the 2023 NFL draft to offset the continued uncertainty about the future of quarterback Lamar Jackson. The latter still doesn’t have a new long-term contract and there’s been speculation he may sit out rather than play on the non-exclusive franchise tag this season.

It’s a scenario DeCosta sounds prepared for, with the general manager telling reporters during his pre-draft presser, “it’s quite possible to get a good QB at any point in the draft.” DeCosta even added drafting a quarterback in the first round is “possible,” according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic:

Those same sentiments were also reported by ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, who quoted DeCosta emphasizing the decision “depends on the board.” Again, DeCosta noted the Ravens have quarterbacks “ranked among their top 31 players,” so taking a passer in Round 1 remains a “possibility.”

There’s nothing particularly subtle about these comments. DeCosta is letting Jackson, along with any teams interested in presenting No. 8 with an offer sheet, know the Ravens are prepared for every eventuality, including their star player downing tools for the season.

DeCosta’s readiness to move on from Jackson, either now or in the near future, has also been signalled by the public interest in Florida’s Anthony Richardson, a star signal-caller the Ravens have already met with this year.

Ravens Applying Pressure to Lamar Jackson

DeCosta managed to thread the needle, despite trying to shun direct questions about Jackson, per Hensley: “I think just out of respect for the process, this is a draft luncheon and we’re gonna try to keep as much of this discussion as we can to the draft.”

There was no irony in DeCosta’s draft-centric comments still creating a story about Jackson. Not when the Ravens are playing for leverage over a disgruntled star player.

The idea Jackson could choose to withdraw from the fray was put forward by Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports. He believes Jackson sitting out would give other quarterbacks, including Philadelphia Eagles’ star Jalen Hurts, time to sign new contracts and “normalize the stronger guarantees Jackson is reportedly seeking in contract talks.”

There’s also a better chance for Jackson to become “a true free agent” a year from now. Doing so would let the 26-year-old avoid the same drama experienced this offseason.

Jackson, for his own part, has rejected the notion he will sit out the season: “I don’t remember me sitting out on my guys week 1 vs jets To week 12 vs Broncos.”

Any kind of strike action from Jackson could be problematic if the Ravens drafted his would-be successor this year. Sitting out the season would do Jackson no favors with other general managers and owners around the league.

Some team would still surely scramble to acquire his services in next year’s free agency, such are his considerable natural talents, but questions about how Jackson handled his exit from the Ravens would persist.

Ideally, the Ravens want to keep Jackson at M&T Bank Stadium. It’s a question of getting one side to relent. Jackson might follow suit if he sees his current job under threat, particularly since he’s hardly been inundated with other offers from around the NFL.

He has until July 17 to field any offers and respond accordingly. Any proposals Jackson accepts would put the Ravens on the clock for five days deciding whether to match the terms or refuse and pocket two first-round picks for their starter.

As Zrebiec detailed, DeCosta would prefer such an offer be made to Jackson prior to this year’s draft, or else “the Ravens would get the signing team’s 2024 and 2025 first-round picks. That’s not going to help them secure a starting quarterback for the upcoming season.”

Avoiding that particular pitfall might encourage the Ravens to acquire a stop-gap starter from the veteran market, where one name continues to do the rounds.

Ravens Have Options in Free Agency and the Draft

Hensley named Teddy Bridgewater as “the best remaining option from a lacklustre free agent class.” It’s not the first time the former Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings passer has been named as possible insurance for the Ravens.

Bridgewater makes sense as a steady citizen who would be a calming influence after the drama created by Jackson’s contract situation. The 30-year-old is also efficient with the football and has ample experience as a starter.

What Bridgewater lacks is true star power. It’s something Richardson could provide after a spectacular season with the Gators and an even better performance at the Scouting Combine, per Pro Football Focus:

The Ravens have met with Richardson, according to CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson.  A previous meeting between the two took place in Indianapolis on March 2, per Jordan Schultz of The Score.

Putting themselves in a position to draft Richardson won’t be easy for the Ravens, who currently own the 22nd pick in the opening round. Yet, the meeting itself, coupled with DeCosta’s declaration, are sending a clear message to Jackson the onus is on him to end this contract stalemate one way or the other.