Now that the 2023 NFL offseason is underway in the aftermath of the Kansas City Chiefs winning Super Bowl 57, it’s time to prepare for the flurry of action coming our way. Feb. 21 opens the window for free agents to be franchise or transition tagged until March 7. March 15 marks the start of the new league year and the start of free agency.
One player who could find himself at the center of a massive trade market is Lamar Jackson. The Baltimore Ravens‘ former MVP and All-Pro quarterback is set to be an unrestricted free agent this spring and will surely be franchise tagged if the two parties can’t come to a long-term agreement. Considering it’s taken so long for the Ravens to make a deal with Jackson happen, it’s certainly possible they simply don’t value him enough to explore the trade market.
Jackson understandably desires a guaranteed deal like Deshaun Watson’s $230 million pact with the Browns, but Baltimore offered almost $100 million less guaranteed last year. It was recently reported the team could be “tempted” by a windfall of draft picks in exchange for Jackson — setting the stage for a potential trade.
Who Could Trade for Lamar Jackson?
Let’s dive into the franchises that not only have the need to add Jackson — who is a top-10 NFL QB — but also the draft pick ammunition to rival what the Texans got for Watson, the Lions got for Matthew Stafford, and what the Seahawks got for Russell Wilson.
It would be stunning to see Jackson traded for less than the equivalent of three first-round draft picks based on past QB deals. That eliminates teams without a 2023 first-round pick, including Miami and San Francisco.
The Texans are in the midst of a rebranding effort that included bringing in DeMeco Ryans and changing their uniforms. The organization needs it as they’ve grown stale in recent years. Ryans was a great coaching candidate, but he won’t succeed if the QB position isn’t figured out.
Houston could easily sit tight with the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to get their next franchise quarterback. Or they could really juice their rebuilding process by simply moving their assets gained from the Watson trade to Baltimore for Jackson. Houston also has the No. 12 overall pick this year and two first-rounders in 2024, giving them a potentially unbeatable draft package to offer Baltimore.
The Texans have some decent pieces to surround Jackson with on offense. Running back Dameon Pierce and wide receiver Brandin Cooks would star with Jackson, and tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard are an excellent duo.
Houston’s challenge would be further beefing up the playmaking depth and revamping the front seven of the defense. But Jackson’s young enough, and the Texans have the assets to accomplish that in coming years.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are losing Derek Carr this offseason, which lowers their floor in the event they’re unable to replace him, but Jackson is one of only two obvious veteran upgrades who could be on the market. If the Raiders aren’t able to land Jackson or Aaron Rodgers, they’ll have to settle for Jimmy Garoppolo or draft a rookie to go with a stopgap like Baker Mayfield.
Adding Jackson to an offense with explosive talents like Davante Adams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow would be tremendous. The Raiders could also retain star back Josh Jacobs and go all-in around this corps. Sure, they need help on defense, but Las Vegas has enough financial flexibility to continue adding in future years.
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The Raiders’ biggest trade asset is the seventh overall pick in this year’s class. They have all of their own early-round picks through 2026, giving them a traditional offer haul.
Vegas head coach Josh McDaniels has shown a willingness to aggressively chase stars and overpay if needed, making the Raiders an intriguing potential fit as they look to compete with the Chiefs and Chargers.
At face value, the Falcons are a somewhat unassuming team when it comes to what they can sell Jackson and the Ravens. Atlanta overachieved last year, going 7-10 with their run-dominant offense, but have the receiving talent that would quickly give Jackson an impressive supporting cast.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith would be able to give Jackson what the Ravens failed at, an advantageous run game balanced with star pass catchers in Kyle Pitts and Drake London.
Atlanta’s flush with cap space, meaning acquiring Jackson would be the start of a spending spree to push them to the top of the weak NFC South. Their defense needs massive improvement before becoming a Super Bowl contender, but the offense would be devastatingly effective. That’s probably enough to make the playoffs in 2023.
Baltimore should be attracted to the opportunity to deal Jackson to the NFC. The AFC is loaded with star quarterbacks, while the NFC has seen a significant drop in talent over the last few years.
Atlanta can offer the eighth overall pick this season and has their full array of picks in future years. They may also get a 2024 second-round pick from the Jaguars for Calvin Ridley if he maximizes the terms of the trade, giving Atlanta a little extra ammunition.
New York Jets
I don’t think there’s a team that makes more sense for Jackson than the Jets. They have a win-now defense and a tremendously talented set of playmakers on offense. But they were submarined by an inept group of passers in 2022.
Injecting Jackson onto the Jets would make them a real Super Bowl contender so long as he can stay healthy. New York can easily carve the needed cap space to get a deal done, and their roster just needs minor upgrades along the offensive line. There’s not a better on-field fit for Jackson.
The Jets have been telegraphing that Jackson isn’t the QB they hope comes available, though. They hired former Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett for the same position, creating a more welcoming situation for Rodgers to be attracted to. Landing Rodgers would be good, but Jackson has to be the priority if given the chance.
New York has their full cabinet of early-round picks to offer Baltimore, but it would be hard to imagine the Ravens want to see Jackson flourish immediately within the conference.
Could the Lions be willing to cash in on Jared Goff’s big bounce-back year and upgrade the position with Jackson? Goff was solid last year, but the idea of giving OC Ben Johnson a dynamic dual-threat in Jackson and a ton of speed and playmaking is tantalizing.
The Lions would immediately have a championship-caliber offense. Acquiring Jackson significantly raises the ceiling of an already very good unit. The problem with Goff is his ability to perform outside of a structure and deal with pressure. The Rams felt they couldn’t win a Super Bowl with him and immediately won after upgrading to the more-dynamic Stafford.
Though the Lions could draft an eventual replacement for Goff with their sixth overall pick, they could package picks 6 and 18 in this class, plus any number of other picks to land Jackson. They could either send Goff to the Ravens or reroute him elsewhere for additional draft ammunition. In return, the Lions would become a must-watch team with deep playoff aspirations.
Detroit still needs to revamp its defense before reaching the big game, but landing Jackson would significantly bolster its ability to compete with the NFL’s elite.
The Seahawks check a lot of boxes to give the Ravens a tremendous trade offer. They have two first-round and second-round picks this year, including a top-five selection. It’s also possible Seattle could offer a QB swap with Geno Smith also likely to receive the franchise tag.
Smith played extremely well in 2022 and would give the Ravens an above-average passer to help them compete right away. And unless Baltimore drafts Florida’s Anthony Richardson, the offense would need to be retooled after losing Jackson.
Why not fast-track the process by paying Smith considerably less than Jackson and use the draft haul to revamp the offense? Plus, the Ravens would like to send Jackson to the NFC and as far as they possibly could geographically.
Seattle should also be attractive for Jackson as well. They have a great offensive line, Kenneth Walker III, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett to help support him. Head coach Pete Carroll is also a beloved player-friendly coach.