Five Teams That Should Hand Ravens QB Lamar Jackson A Blank Check

Dec 4, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) warms up prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) warms up prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports /

The Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson are in a negotiation battle over the former MVP’s potential compensation for a contract extension. While talks paused before the regular season got underway, Jackson and the Ravens will have another opportunity to reach an agreement before he hits free agency.

The most likely option is the Ravens using the franchise tag on their franchise quarterback. The team would be free to continue negotiating a long-term deal without any jeopardy of losing Lamar Jackson to the open market. The question regarding Jackson’s willingness to play on such a tag is an important one to ask.

It would not be the first time a player bets on himself and turns down the franchise tag. Le’Veon Bell is the most recent example, as he called the Steelers’ bluff, sat out for a season, and still found a lucrative deal with the New York Jets the following offseason.

The difference here is that Lamar Jackson plays the most important position in the sport. If Jackson refuses to play on the franchise tag, he enters 2024 free agency at age 27. The contract Jackson can command on an open market is almost unfathomable. Still, if Jackson were to suffer an injury like he has each of the past two seasons, it would hurt him at the negotiation table.

Another wrinkle in this dynamic is that Lamar Jackson represents himself. He does not employ an agent. This is not to say Jackson goes without any counsel on his career decisions, but at the end of the day, no one is taking a percentage or influencing his ultimate decision. If Jackson wants to hold out, no one is stopping him.

The Ravens will tag Lamar Jackson this offseason, even if only temporarily. If Baltimore and Jackson cannot agree to terms, and the fifth-year quarterback refuses to play on it, that is when trade talks will start to gain steam. Rather than further alienating Jackson, or losing him for nothing, the Ravens could ask for a Kings Ransom from a handful of teams looking to upgrade behind center.

Which teams would make the most sense in this scenario? A team must fit the following criteria to qualify as a legitimate destination:
•Plenty of NFL Draft Capital
•A Contending/Borderline Contending Roster
•Need An Upgrade at QB
•Have Future Cap Space Available

Below I have compiled a list of NFL teams that fit (most of) the criteria. Where will Lamar Jackson play football in 2023/2024?

Option #5: Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks find themselves in an enviable position. The team was supposed to witness a steep step back in 2022 following the Russell Wilson trade with Denver. Who would have guessed that his replacement in Seattle, Geno Smith, would have a better season than Wilson? Certainly not me.

Geno Smith is proving to be a more than serviceable leader for the Seahawks. An unprecedented resurgence at age 32 will likely result in a Comeback Player of the Year Award and a hefty, but short, contract extension in the offseason. But what if general manager John Schneider is looking to make a splash?

Lamar Jackson’s demeanor and energy are a natural fit in the Seattle culture. Jackson prides himself on being a hard worker and doing everything he can to elevate the guys around him. With Jackson, the Seahawks will sacrifice some of the pinpoint accuracy that Geno brings. In turn, they will also add a game-breaking rushing attack. The weapons in Seattle, including the much-improved offensive line, present a realistic possibility for Jackson.

Option #4: Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions 2022 season looks a lot like the Seattle Seahawks 2022 season. The Lions are winning with a quarterback who replaced the best signal-caller in franchise history. Although Matthew Stafford had considerably more success in year one with his new team, the Rams are experiencing a stark decline in 2023.

Thanks to the Stafford trade, the Lions are positioned to receive a top-five pick from Los Angeles. This comes in handy because Detroit is arguably the hottest team in the NFL. The Lions have won six of their last seven, with the only loss being a three-point L to the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving. The surprising success means their own first-round pick will fall somewhere in the middle of day one.

The Lions have options. Goff is under contract for a reasonable price through 2024 and carries a low dead cap figure in each of the final two seasons of his deal. Few could blame Detroit if they opted to run it back with Goff. Drafting a quarterback with the Rams’ pick is also in play, as the Lions hope to never be picking that high again in the NFL Draft. Allowing a rookie to learn behind Goff might present the best option for the franchise.

If those options fail to excite the front office, a massive swing for Lamar Jackson should do it. Jackson throwing to Jameson Williams and Amon’Ra St. Brown, while having D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams behind one of the best offensive lines in the league? That is a recipe for some winning football.

Option #3: Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons announced during their bye week that third-round rookie Desmond Ridder would take over the QB1 spot on the depth chart. Ridder, who showed flashes in the preseason, will be given every opportunity to claim the spot going forward. The Falcons are only one win behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the lead in the NFC South, showing that the roster is more competitive than initially thought.

The reason for having an interest in Lamar Jackson is two-fold. First, if we recall back to this past offseason, the Falcons put themselves in a position to acquire Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans. Watson ended up in Cleveland, leaving Atlanta in an awkward position with franchise icon Matt Ryan. General manager Terry Fontenot pivoted, trading away Ryan to Indianapolis and drafting Desmond Ridder after he fell down the board.

The next reason is that Atlanta has shown a willingness to throw a monster bag at the quarterback position. If they were willing to move Heaven and Earth for a player coming off major controversy, they would surely do the same for a former NFL MVP. With Atlanta, Jackson would step into an Arthur Smith system that thrives at running the football. Drake London and Kyle Pitts would be great options in the passing game, and the run game would look even better with Jackson adding his speed.

Option #2: New York Giants

Two New York franchises check in atop the list. First, the New York Football Giants.

Big Blue has watched Daniel Jones start behind center for four seasons, but the new regime decided against exercising the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. Danny Dimes hits free agency in a few months, starting head coach Brian Daboll’s search for the franchise’s next star quarterback.

Due to some surprising success of their own, the Giants find themselves out of range for a top quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft. The option to trade up is there, but what if Daboll and Co. want to expedite the process by adding a quarterback with NFL experience? Lamar Jackson says hello!

Under Brian Daboll, Jackson would have a chance to improve as a passer. Granted, Josh Allen was still learning the ropes, but the leap he took with Brian Daboll as the play caller was special. Although Jackson is more established in his ways, Daboll’s quarterback-friendly scheme should unlock another dimension as a passer.

If Saquon Barkley returns, imagine trying to defend him with Lamar Jackson in the backfield, too. Read options just became even scarier for the defense.

Option #1: New York Jets

The New York Jets rank slightly ahead of their NY companion. The Jets similarly surprised the NFL world by contending for a playoff spot in 2022. They currently sit just outside of the postseason, but still far enough down the NFL Draft order to take them out of the top 10 talks. Again, do not rule out a trade up the board, but Lamar Jackson with the J-E-T-S feels right.

Jackson is a superstar in every sense of the word. He is an enigma in press conferences, and you never know what tweet he will send out from his Twitter account. Some NFL folks may not like this part of Jackson, but it is what makes him so endearing to me. How would he handle the NY tabloids? That is a fair question, but not enough of a concern to outweigh the good he can bring.

The Mike LaFleur system, which mirrors much of the same philosophy as the Kyle Shanahan scheme, is a hand-in-glove fit for Lamar Jackson. The focal point of the offense is the ground game, and with a healthy Breece Hall returning in 2023, that could be a lethal QB-RB combination. The Jets also have some capable tight ends and rookie wide receiver, Garrett Wilson, giving Jackson targets in the passing game.

If the Jets can put themselves in the thick of the playoff chase with Mike White and Zach Wilson, imagine what they could accomplish with Lamar Jackson. The roster contains young, ascending talent from top to bottom. The team has enough NFL Draft capital and cap space to make the move work. It makes too much sense.

My Prediction: Baltimore Ravens re-sign Lamar Jackson to a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $250 million.

After all that talk of Lamar Jackson leaving, the most likely option remains to be the Baltimore Ravens agreeing to a long-term pact. Jackson has won an MVP and downright carried the Ravens, at times, during his rookie deal; it is time for him to reap the benefits.

The Ravens’ concerns are not unfounded. With the injury history and Jackson’s tendency to make plays with his legs, the longevity of his career is fair to question. I have no doubts about Jackson for the next four-to-five seasons though, so Baltimore should cut the check and keep their franchise player in tow.