The Baltimore Ravens shocked the NFL world when they applied the non-exclusive franchise tag to star quarterback Lamar Jackson on Tuesday. With the Ravens and Jackson unable to agree to a long-term deal, the team opted for the bold move of risking losing Jackson to an offer sheet from a rival team in exchange for two first-round picks.
Jackson, who is our No. 1 overall free agent this offseason, has received a surprising response to his sudden availability thus far. We’ll dive into the reaction to the 26-year-old’s situation, including why the 2019 MVP winner has lost significant negotiating leverage.
We’re breaking down the latest free agency rumors regarding Jackson, so be sure to bookmark this page for updates.
Latest Lamar Jackson Free Agency Rumors
Ravens Earn Praise for Refusing Fully Guaranteed Contract for Jackson
There’s no question the Ravens wanted no part of the fully guaranteed contract quarterback market. Shortly after the Cleveland Browns handed Deshaun Watson $230 million guaranteed after acquiring him from the Houston Texans in 2022, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged the “ripple effects” he’d have to deal with during Jackson’s negotiations.
The best offer Baltimore made to Jackson before the 2022 season featured $133 million in guarantees on a six-year deal despite him looking for as close to the $230 million mark as possible. The relationship came to a head at the tag deadline when the Ravens applied the non-exclusive tag. The value on the non-exclusive tag guarantees Jackson $32.4 million compared to the $45 million exclusive tag value.
Thus far, rival teams have been “impressed” with Baltimore’s willingness to strong-arm their franchise QB and not give into a fully guaranteed deal.
NFLPA May Need To Look Into Collusion on Jackson’s Contract
With a handful of teams declaring themselves not interested in Jackson’s services despite being potentially available for two first-round picks, the immediate reaction on social media was to point toward collusion. Considering the heavy prices paid in trades and contract extensions for Watson, Russell Wilson, and Matthew Stafford in recent offseasons, the idea that no team would pay Jackson and surrender only two first-round picks is surprising.
Jackson’s a proven star in his prime, and Baltimore seems unlikely to match Jackson’s contract demands.
PFN Senior Analyst Trey Wingo reported there are already rumors of concern of “collusion” amongst NFL teams by the NFL Player’s Association regarding Jackson’s contract. While the idea that team representatives were on a zoom call to discuss how they’d limit Jackson’s pay is insane, it’s at least worthwhile to ask why some teams like Atlanta and Carolina would opt out of chasing Jackson after being interested in Watson a year ago.
These things are tough to prove, and Jackson is a unique player who requires more schematic tailoring than Watson did. Carolina’s continued to be hesitant to guarantee a lot of money to any one player, though, and several other contenders have high draft picks they might prefer to address the QB position with since they’re cost-controlled.
5 Teams Bow Out of Jackson’s Free Agency
A flurry of reports came out after Jackson was made available on the non-exclusive franchise tag but likely not the type of reports most expected. The Falcons, Panthers, Dolphins, Raiders, and Commanders aren’t expected to be involved in negotiating a long-term deal with Jackson despite their need and ability to acquire him.
A few of these teams’ disinterest in adding Jackson is shocking from a football standpoint but not a financial one. Remember, the guaranteed money of any contract is immediately placed into escrow, so that makes it difficult for teams without deep-pocketed owners to be as aggressive with cash.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter said teams may also feel as though negotiating with Jackson is a waste of time since the Ravens can simply match any deal sent to them. We’ll see if these teams end up getting involved after they can speak to Jackson directly following the start of free agency next week.
Lamar Jackson Landing Spots
The possibility of pairing Jackson with Titans star rusher Derrick Henry is tantalizing. Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel has had success facing Jackson in the past but has consistently lauded him for being “an unbelievably dynamic player.”
With veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill being an average placeholder, the Titans could easily move on and revamp their offense in one move for Jackson.
The AFC South continues to be wide open until a consistent force develops. That could be Jacksonville in 2023, but a Jackson-led Titans team would immediately become a strong contender.
New England Patriots
The Patriots seemed to be Jackson’s initial destination in the 2018 NFL Draft, as the team had Tom Brady in his waning years and the need for a successor. However, New England passed on taking Jackson twice in the first round, including when they used the 31st overall pick on running back Sony Michel. Brady left the Patriots in 2020, and Michel was traded the following year.
Would head coach Bill Belichick take the chance to unite with Jackson considering 2021 first-round pick Mac Jones appears to be a bust? Belichick has praised Jackson effusively in the past, saying “he’s more than answered” concerns about his ability as a pocket passer.
Baltimore may be unwilling to hand their star to New England, but Jackson is the type of playmaker the Patriots could use to revitalize their franchise without Brady.
The Lions have been steadfast in stating their confidence in quarterback Jared Goff, but head coach Dan Campbell did admit they haven’t ruled out adding another player to the mix if it’s best for the franchise. This is the proper way to attack the QB position. Goff is good within a scheme but lacks playmaker traits and upside.
Making a move for Jackson would be a massive signal to the rest of the NFC that the Lions are serious about winning now. He’d give an already successful rushing game a significant jolt, and his fit within Ben Johnson’s impressive scheme would maximize vertical passing concepts that Goff struggles with.
Detroit also has some appeal as a trade partner for the Ravens since Jackson would no longer be in the AFC.
Armed with the fourth overall pick and an aggressive owner, the Colts would make for an explosive landing spot for Jackson. New Colts head coach Shane Steichen just created a balanced offense around Jalen Hurts, who is a less gifted athlete than Jackson. It’s easy to project similar success for a pairing of Steichen and Jackson in Indianapolis.
The question for Indianapolis is whether they want to part with the fourth pick and a ton of money for Jackson. I think they should, as they’d vault to Super Bowl contender status. Considering how strong the Colts’ roster is in general, losing two picks wouldn’t be quite as damaging as it would be for others.