There’s been a ton of speculation on if the Ravens will re-sign quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Last week following their wild-card loss to the Bengals, Ravens coach John Harbaugh attempted to end all rumors of Jackson possibly moving on at his end-of-season press conference.
“100 percent, 200 percent,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no question about it. Lamar Jackson is our quarterback; he’s been our quarterback.
“Everything we’ve done in terms of building our offense and building our team, how we think in terms of [bringing in] people and putting people around him is based on this incredible young man, his talent, his ability and his competitiveness. He and I were talking today too, and the thing about Lamar that to me stands out — he’s an incredible competitor. Lamar Jackson, all he wants to do is win at everything he does.
“Yes, he has a lot of talent, he’s a very bright guy, he has a big heart, but he’s just a massive competitor. That’s the kind of guys we want to build this team around; guys that love football and guys that love to compete.”
The door hasn’t completely closed on the Jets acquiring Jackson, but it’s a complicated situation as they need to see if the Ravens will apply the franchise tag on him prior to the March 7 deadline.
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, the Ravens tried to negotiate a new long-term deal with Jackson before the beginning of the 2022 season. However, they couldn’t come to an agreement before Jackson’s self-imposed deadline before the start of the regular season. Reportedly, Jackson turned down a $250 million contract because he was looking for a fully guaranteed deal similar to the one Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson received last year.
Now it’s unlikely the Ravens would just let Jackson walk despite the apparent hurt feelings between the two sides. Jackson missed 18 consecutive practices to end the year after suffering a knee injury in early December, an injury that was originally thought to keep him out a few weeks.
If Baltimore doesn’t sign Jackson to a long-term deal, the team could place the franchise tag on him until March 7, a week before the start of free agency (March 15). The Ravens have two different franchise tags they could put on Jackson, the exclusive franchise tag and the non-exclusive tag.
The two most significant differences between an exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tag are the incorporation of salary versus cap hit and who holds negotiating power.
An exclusive tag gives the Ravens sole negotiating rights. Should Jackson reject the Ravens’ offer, he cannot sign with another NFL team for the entire 2023 season.
However, for non-exclusive tags, Jackson will have the option to negotiate with other teams. If he receives an offer, the Ravens will have an opportunity to match. If Baltimore opts not to match the offer, it’s entitled to receive two first-round draft picks in exchange for Jackson.
One of the other differences between the exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tag is how the team incorporates the salary versus team cap hit and who holds power when negotiating.
Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta didn’t exactly shoot down the idea when asked if the Ravens would consider a trade offer for Jackson if they couldn’t agree on terms.
“That’s something that we’re not going to talk about at this point,” DeCosta said. “I talked to Lamar [Jackson] today, as I said, and our focus right now is really to get a long-term deal done, that’s our singular focus at this point.
“It’s going to take some time, it’s going to take some effort, it’s going to take great communication — give and take — but I’m confident that we’ll be on the right path to get that done.”
Jets owner Woody Johnson said he would be willing to do whatever it takes to acquire a veteran quarterback this offseason. Why not go for it and do what it takes to bring Jackson to Gotham?
At just 26 years old, Jackson is already one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. He is a former MVP, a two-time Pro Bowler, and a former first-team All-Pro.
Many know Jackson for his special running abilities, but he led the league in touchdown passes in 2019 (36) and was third in passing rating (113.3). Not only has Jackson put up huge numbers, but he has also been the engine for the Ravens’ offense for the last five seasons.
Baltimore made the playoffs four out of the five seasons Jackson has been with the organization. He has also led them to a 45-16 record during that time. Meanwhile, the Jets have a 24-58 during that same span.
In 2022, the Jets’ defense finished fourth in yards allowed (311.1) and points allowed (18.6). With Jackson, along with Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson offensively, the Jets could compete with the Bills in the AFC East for years to come.
Injuries are the only primary concern for Jackson, as he has missed 10 games in the last two years. In 2021, an ankle injury derailed the Ravens’ season as Jackson missed the rest of the season and the team missed the playoffs. This season, the Ravens went from possibly winning the AFC North to a wild-card team and losing in the first round after Jackson’s season-ending PCL injury.
Because he didn’t return late in the season when the Ravens needed him, Jackson’s toughness has been questioned. Baltimore was 2-3 during the last five weeks of the regular season without Jackson as it averaged 12.5 points per game. Because of his contract situation, it’s hard to blame Jackson for protecting his health for the future.
Jackson’s relationship with the Ravens is fractured in some way as free agency looms. The Jets have been looking for a true franchise quarterback since the days of Joe Namath in the 1960s and 70s. If the Ravens make Jackson available through trade, the Jets need to get their man, as two first-round picks is a small price to pay for a player who will have you contending in the AFC for the next 12-15 years.