Lamar Jackson Contract: Ravens ‘Strongly’ Considering Giving QB Away for Less Than Market Value
The 2023 NFL franchise tag deadline is coming up on Tuesday, March 7, which means there is about to be a big decision in the Lamar Jackson contract saga. Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are reportedly still far apart in terms of guaranteed money. The latest reports, though, have the Ravens ready to make a shocking move that will essentially ensure Jackson is out in Baltimore, and he’ll leave for far less than the market value of a Lamar Jackson trade.
The Lamar Jackson contract negotiations are reaching a head
For anyone not following the Lamar Jackson contract drama closely, the short version of the story is that the Ravens should have locked him up a year or more ago but didn’t. General manager Eric DeCosta and company let the 2019 NFL MVP play out his fifth-year option and reach free agency.
And in between the 2021 offseason, when fellow Class of 2018 QB Josh Allen got his extension, and now, a lot has happened. Specifically, the Cleveland Browns traded for Deshuan Watson. They gave him a fully-guaranteed $230 million deal, more than $120 million more than the next-largest guaranteed NFL deal (Kyler Murray, $103 million at signing).
Now the two sides — which include Jackson representing himself with the help of his mother — are at an impasse.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler is now reporting that the Ravens are considering taking a drastic step that will take the negotiations out of their hands and reduce the price they could get for a Lamar Jackson trade.
“Several people around the league believe the Baltimore Ravens have strongly considered using the non-exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Lamar Jackson,” Fowler writes. “Which would deepen the intrigue on his future in a major way.”
And that intrigue could lead to a catastrophe for the Ravens.
How the non-exclusive franchise tag works
There are two types of NFL franchise tags, the exclusive and non-exclusive tags.
The exclusive franchise tag gives a player the greater of either the average of the top-five salaries at that player’s position (set in April of the current year) or 120% of the player’s salary from last season. In 2023, the exclusive franchise tag is estimated at around $45 million.
With the non-exclusive tag, the player gets the average of the top-five cap hits of that player’s positions, which in 2023 is $32.4 million for quarterbacks.
Outside of the money, the biggest difference between the two is that with the exclusive tag, only the player’s current team gets to continue to negotiate with them on a long-term deal. Under the non-exclusive tag, the player and his representatives can negotiate with the other 31 NFL teams.
If the player gets a deal, the current team has the right to match that deal or allow the player to walk for the other franchise. If the latter happens, the team that gets the player gives the original organization two first-round picks.
The non-exclusive franchise tag could negate a lucrative Lamar Jackson trade
The Detroit Lions got Jared Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-rounder for Matthew Stafford.
The Seattle Seahawks got two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, Noah Fant, Drew Lock, and Shelby Harris for Russel Wilson.
And the Houston Texans got three first-round picks, a third-round pick, and two fourth-round picks for Deshaun Watson.
The point is, the going rate for a franchise QB these days is well more than two first-round picks. Detroit, Seattle, and Houston got (what represents) between four and eight players for their star signal-callers.
In 2023, the Seahawks and Lions have top-six picks because of these deals, and the Texans have No. 12 from the Browns.
If the Ravens put the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, they are shooting themselves in the foot.
Chances are, Jackson will find a team willing to give him a deal close to Watson’s $230 million guaranteed. The Ravens have shown no inclination they’re willing to give their QB this type of deal, so it seems unlikely they would match a Lamar Jackson contract like that.
If that happens, and the Ravens only get two first-round picks instead of what they could fetch in a Lamar Jackson trade, that would be a disaster.
The saga continues for now, but we’ll know a lot more on Tuesday.