NFL Insider Provides Lamar Jackson Update Ravens Will Love

Lamar Jackson

Getty Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson.

The Baltimore Ravens looked like they were taking a risk when they applied the non-exclusive franchise tag to quarterback Lamar Jackson, but the risk may not be as big as it first appeared.

Not when NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported he’s “yet to find the team” willing to make the Ravens an offer for Jackson:

The latter can talk with other teams from Wednesday, March 15, but any offer Jackson accepts and the Ravens don’t match, would require his new club to part with two first-round draft picks.

Rapoport also noted how the five-day period the Ravens get to match any offers harms Jackson’s chances of finding a new home this offseason: “The team that signs him would be in complete limbo. Basically missed out on free agency just for the chance at Lamar? It all seems a little unlikely.”

If the NFL’s most QB-needy teams are following the same logic Rapoport outlined, the Ravens will have guessed right with the non-exclusive tag. General manager Eric DeCosta will then be able to continue trying to encourage Jackson to sign a long-term deal to stay in Baltimore.

Ravens’ Strategy Becoming Clear

Giving Jackson the opportunity to field offers looked like a reckless move, but now the Ravens’ strategy is becoming clear. It’s essentially about DeCosta keeping his team in a win-win situation regarding the quarterback’s future.

If no team makes an offer, amid the concerns Rapoport outlined — not wanting to sit tight during the first wave of free agency when most of the best deals get done — the Ravens can keep the conversation going about Jackson’s next contract.

Alternatively, if teams do get in touch and offer Jackson terms, the Ravens can view those offers to gauge how high they’re willing to value the 26-year-old. Letting the market show Jackson what he can expect may lead to a re-evaluation from the player who is essentially representing himself in negotiations.

Any re-evaluation would be welcomed by the Ravens since Jackson wants his money fully guaranteed. That desire is the main sticking point for both the Ravens and any potential interested parties, according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan: “It’s all about the amount of guaranteed $$$$$ he reportedly wants for a QB that runs a lot + being used by Ravens to negotiate the contract for them.”

The benchmark for what Jackson’s ideal contract might look like is the deal handed to Deshaun Watson by the Cleveland Browns last offseason. They fully guaranteed all $230 million included in Watson’s terms.

It’s not a deal NFL owners welcomed, with those who sign the cheques naturally concerned about how much they might have to pay star passers in the future. Some “owners being eager to tamp down the QB market” is cooling interest in Jackson, per ESPN’s Jason Reid, but he also cited other reasons why there’s a shortage of suitors.

Those reasons include Jackson having “not fared well in the postseason,” as well as being “sidelined 11 games the past two years.”

Those reasons carry weight, particularly since the Ravens went 2-9 in games without Jackson the last two seasons. The dismal record exposed a worrying over-reliance on one player, something the Ravens would be wise to fix this offseason.

Ravens Need to Expand Jackson’s Offense

One reason the Ravens don’t win without Jackson is because the offense it tethered to what he does. Specifically, Jackson’s dual-threat skills demand a run-heavy system designed to maximize his mobility and limit mistakes through the air.

It’s worked fine at times, but this is also a small-ball offense. There’s a reason a former general manager told Heavy’s Senior NFL Reporter Matt Lombardo, “I would not want to run the offense that is required to bring out the best parts of Lamar’s skill set.”

What Jackson needs is a more expansive passing game to help show off the full extent of his arm talent. New offensive coordinator Todd Monken can take care of redefining the scheme, but the Ravens must also equip Jackson with better wide receivers.

It’s going to be tough to do that via free agency when the Ravens are $2,211,693 over the salary cap after tagging Jackson. Using their first-round pick to draft one of the many talented wideouts from a class loaded at the position, such as Zay Flowers or Jordan Addison, would send Jackson a clear message the Ravens are serious about helping him improve.