With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under the salary cap, the team could take a big swing at former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.
That’s the way Bucs insider Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report sees it. He said the Bucs “should” pursue the Baltimore Ravens star signal caller and keep the Bucs in contention after the Tom Brady era.
The Bucs got under the salary cap recently with a series of restructured contracts according to FOX Sports’ Greg Auman. That makes acquiring Jackson plausible after the Ravens gave him a non-exclusive franchise tag last week. The non-exclusive designation means the Ravens could get two first-round picks if Jackson signs elsewhere, Reynolds wrote.
The two-time Pro Bowler has a 45-16 career record with 12,209 passing yards for 101 touchdowns versus 38 interceptions. He also has 4,437 career rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.
“Not pursuing Jackson increases the chances of the Bucs having the fourth-best quarterback in the division this year and perhaps in years to come,” Reynolds wrote.
The New Orleans Saints recently landed Derek Carr, the Carolina Panthers traded for the No. 1 pick in the draft, and the Atlanta Falcons could see Desmond Ridder make strides in year two. Reynolds noted that the Bucs look more poised to roll with third-year quarterback Kyle Trask or sign Baker Mayfield in free agency. Mayfield actually went higher in the draft than Jackson, but Mayfield’s career hasn’t matched Jackson’s prowess. Mayfield has a 31-38 record with 16,288 yards passing for 102 touchdowns versus 64 interceptions, and he doesn’t possess Jackson-like mobility with just 660 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
“And if Kyle Trask underwhelms and Baker Mayfield, the QB the Bucs appear to be targeting in free agency, doesn’t pan out, Tampa Bay will be drafting another quarterback in 2024,” Reynolds wrote. “So, why not invest in a proven QB this year — one with dynamic play-making ability and a 45-16 record as a starter in the regular season?”
“Since entering the league as the Ravens’ first-round pick in 2018, Jackson has never had a losing season, and he’s helped Baltimore make the playoffs in four out of the last five years,” Reynolds added. “With Jackson, the Ravens are always a threat to make the playoffs. It’s logical to assume the same thing would happen with Jackson in red and pewter.”
Reynolds also noted that Jackson is a Pompano Beach, Florida, native, which could make the Bucs a draw for him.
Bucs Can Get Deal Done With Jackson
Despite Jackson wanting a massive contract, the Bucs could find a way to land a second-straight franchise quarterback.
Reynolds suggested “a six-year, $240 million contract with $200 guaranteed or something similar” for Jackson. The 2019 MVP could command $40.7 million annually according to Spotrac.
“It would take some sacrificing to absorb Jackson’s cap hit,” Reynolds wrote. “Lavonte David surely wouldn’t be able to return, and the team would likely have to part ways with Shaq Barrett, Russell Gage and other Bucs next year to make it work for the long term. But these are necessary sacrifices to make as Tampa Bay would have found its star quarterback for years to come.”
“Cap wizard Mike Greenberg could structure the contract so that Jackson’s base salary could be around $5 million or so the first year and then prorate $35 million over the next five seasons,” Reynolds added. “That would average around $47 million per year, and with the projected salary cap increases in the coming years, [and] that would help Tampa Bay’s cap for the long haul.”
Jackson’s Injury History Not too Risky
Trask would likely see the field at some point with Jackson as the starter. Jackson hasn’t ever played a full season as Reynolds noted.
Fortunately for a potential suitor such as the Bucs, Jackson has played in at least 12 games every year his career. That means the Bucs would likely need Trask, or another backup, to fill in for up to five games potentially.
“Jackson comes with some risks with his injury history and postseason track record. But certainly no more risk than the Bucs would have with Trask, Mayfield or [Jacoby] Brissett under center,” Reynolds wrote.
While Jackson doesn’t have a great postseason record, 1-3 overall, he would be joining a team with a core of playoff-seasoned veterans who won a Super Bowl two years ago.