The Baltimore Ravens are heading towards a busy offseason as they prepare for intense negotiations with star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson, who missed the final five regular-season games and the Ravens’ Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a knee injury, is slated to hit free agency in March.
The Ravens were able to extend linebacker Roquan Smith to a five-year, $100 million deal prior to the end of the regular season. The cap space this deal opens makes it extremely unlikely Jackson will hit the open market in 2023 since they have the ability to franchise tag him. However, if Jackson is discontent enough with how the Ravens have avoided investing in him long term, he could potentially force a trade to a team he’d want to sign with.
Considering that Jackson already turned down a six-year deal with $133 million in guaranteed money, it’s like he’s pushing for a fully guaranteed deal similar to Deshaun Watson’s $230 million pact. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was upset with Watson’s deal, but the movement toward guaranteed deals was just a matter of time. This may be a nasty stand-off.
Where Could Lamar Jackson Be Traded To?
If Jackson is franchise tagged and allowed to seek a trade, or the Ravens opt to shop him to the highest bidder, these five teams make the most sense as they have the financial ability to acquire and extend Jackson. Of course, each has its own set of draft capital that could affect its offer. Let’s dive in.
Life in the NFL changes fast. Not long ago, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa appeared to be set as the franchise icon the team has so desperately yearned for. Tagovailoa played well, leading the NFL in touchdown percentage, yards per attempt, and quarterback rating, but he missed four regular-season games and Miami’s playoff contest due to concussions.
The Dolphins have to consider whether he’ll ever stay healthy after they’ve seen him deal with injuries to his hip, back, fingers, ribs, and head. That doesn’t mean Miami should chase just anyone, but they’re in a position similar to what the Cleveland Browns were in last offseason with Baker Mayfield. Tagovailoa is a better player than Mayfield, but you have to explore star-level upgrades if they come available.
There’s no question Jackson fits the bill. The 26-year-old Jackson is from Pompano Beach, Florida, making this a potential hometown fit. Jackson could also easily sell himself on playing in Mike McDaniel’s excellent passing system alongside Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. It’d be the first time he’s played in a favorable passing game with star receivers.
Miami would need to be creative with a deal that satisfies Baltimore since they don’t have their own first-round pick this season. But they can make the money for Jackson’s work by restructuring some deals, and Tagovailoa likely has value if they were to trade him.
This is a stars-must-align situation, but one that fits Jackson the best.
New York Jets
There’s no question the Jets have to do something at quarterback this offseason. Zach Wilson is one of the biggest busts in NFL draft history, and the Jets just cleaned out their offensive staff in hopes of revamping the unit. It makes sense for New York to go for broke with a star and then whittle their options down.
Jackson appears to be the only potential star in his prime who could be available. He’d finally be the long-term solution for New York, unlike veterans Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, and Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s actually too bad the Jets panicked and fired offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur since his attack would’ve fit Jackson well.
Assuming the Jets make a decent offensive coordinator hiring, Jackson would thrive alongside one of the youngest supporting casts in the NFL. Receivers Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore would thrive with the strong-armed passer, and running back Breece Hall would have wider running lanes than he’s ever seen. The Jets just need their offensive line to stay healthy, and this roster would be ready for a quality playoff run.
Knowing they’d land Jackson would make it easier for the Jets to move some money around by extending veterans who fit their immediate window. They have their full array of Day 1 and Day 2 picks over the next three years, making them a solid trade partner for Baltimore as well.
The Commanders have to stop chasing fliers and washed-up quarterbacks at some point. The problem is they’ve been unwilling or unable to trade up in the draft to get a young star, and their franchise wasn’t attractive enough for veterans to green-light a trade there. New ownership might change that.
Washington has an interesting set of playmakers to sell Jackson on. Running backs Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson are a solid duo, and Terry McLaurin headlines an impressive group of receivers. The Commanders’ defense is one of the better ones in the NFL, and it’s easy to make the case that adding Jackson makes them a major playoff threat.
We don’t know what Washington’s offensive scheme will look like yet after firing Scott Turner from his offensive coordinator position. While someone had to take the fall, Turner was a good tactician who had limited QB play throughout his tenure. Jackson would’ve fit well with him.
The Commanders are only lacking their third-round pick this season, so they have a solid cupboard of picks to entice the Ravens. It’s hard to imagine Baltimore would have an interest in shipping Jackson to their regional counterpart, or that Jackson would push hard to go to a mediocre franchise because he has no ties to it. But unlike the other teams that have the money, at least Washington is in the NFC.
New Orleans Saints
I know what you’re thinking already. How on Earth can the Saints trade for Jackson and give him a huge contract?
As usual, the Saints have built themselves serious cap flexibility with the structuring of their veteran deals. But make no mistake, New Orleans has to go all in on their aging corps to afford Jackson, and this team would have some truly horrifying cap numbers to deal with in 2025.
Nevertheless, the Saints should explore it. Could they lure Sean Payton back if he knew landing Jackson was a possibility? It seems plausible, as the other teams he’s considering aren’t overly enticing.
New Orleans has an impressive offensive cast to offer Jackson, and he’d get to play in the weak NFC South. Building an offense with star receiver Chris Olave and running back Alvin Kamara while being behind one of the best sets of blockers in the NFL is attractive. They also boast an excellent defensive unit.
Las Vegas Raiders
I opted to put the Raiders over the Tennessee Titans for a few reasons. The first is that playing in Vegas is likely more attractive than Tennessee for players. The other part is Vegas has some serious star power on offense, including Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs (if re-signed or franchise-tagged), and Darren Waller. Tennessee only has Derrick Henry.
The Raiders are rightfully looking to trade Derek Carr after nine years of good but not great play. The way head coach Josh McDaniels can bring this franchise back to prominence is to inject them with a superstar QB. McDaniels almost had the chance to coach Jackson in New England, but the Patriots passed on the Louisville product before he fell to Baltimore.
I would think McDaniels acts with aggression in filling his quarterback void this offseason after chasing veterans like Chandler Jones and Adams last year. Vegas has all of their early-round picks and enough cap space to land Jackson and continue filling out their roster. They were oversold as a bad team that lost nine one-score games in 2022.
They’ll bounce back in a strong way in 2023 if they have Jackson. I’d argue they’d be the second-best team in the AFC West, even. It’d be more than worthwhile for the Raiders to make as strong of a play as they can for Jackson.