PHOENIX — The next step in the saga involving the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson was taken Monday, when Jackson revealed he requested a trade out of Baltimore on March 2.
In a tweet, the former NFL MVP said the Ravens, who previously placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on Jackson, have “not been interested in meeting my value.”
Speaking at the NFL’s annual league meeting in Phoenix on Monday, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said “I don’t know what direction it’s going to go” in regard to the negotiations, and also said of Jackson: “That’s the guy I want to see be our quarterback.”
Jackson — who is reportedly seeking a long-term contract with a guarantee in the neighborhood of the $230 million the Cleveland Browns gave Deshaun Watson last year — had the nonexclusive franchise tag placed upon him by the Ravens on March 7. The tag allows Jackson to negotiate with other teams.
If he signs an offer sheet with another team, Baltimore would have five days to either match it or receive two first-round picks as compensation. If there is no offer sheet, Jackson would earn $32.416 million this season — if he plays under the tag.
Though Monday’s statements were new, the impasse between player and team in negotiations is not. So what exactly has changed? Let’s look at the most pressing questions.
What kind of leverage does Jackson have to force a trade?
Not much. The Ravens own Jackson’s rights under the franchise tag and have the upper hand in negotiations until another team shows interest in Jackson. But Jackson might think the perception that Baltimore will match any offer sheet has discouraged teams to reach out to him and stopped any market for him to develop.
Jackson’s tweet — which was perfectly timed to the start of Harbaugh’s media session at the league meetings — is the first public indication that he wants out of Baltimore and might be a message that he doesn’t want the Ravens to match an offer sheet to keep him. It is notable that, since Eric DeCosta took over as Ravens general manager, the team has dealt players who have requested a trade, including offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. DeCosta has said in the past that he doesn’t want players who don’t want to be in Baltimore.
What is the current market for a Jackson trade? Which teams could be interested?
It’s been 20 days since the Ravens placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on Jackson, and no team has signed him to an offer sheet. Jackson would certainly upgrade the quarterback situations for the Indianapolis Colts, Washington Commanders and Atlanta Falcons. There has been speculation that the Tennessee Titans or San Francisco 49ers might get in the mix. But there are multiple factors — the compensation to acquire Jackson (two first-round picks), Jackson’s asking price (reportedly a Deshaun Watson-like deal) and the threat of the Ravens matching any offer — that might have led to no team publicly pursuing him. Teams have until July 17 to sign Jackson to a multi-year offer sheet.
If the Ravens are unable to deal Jackson, what is the likelihood he will choose not to play under the franchise tag? How much money would he be forfeiting in that scenario?
If anyone has learned anything from Jackson’s time with the Ravens, you should expect the unexpected, whether it’s on the field or in how he has handled contract negotiations of the past 25 months. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said “I don’t know” when asked if Jackson would play under the tag. It would be costly for Jackson if he became the first player since running back Le’Veon Bell in 2018 to sit out the entire year and not play under the tag.
Jackson would make more in 2023 under the tag ($32.416 million) than he’s made in his first five seasons combined ($27.519 million). He would lose $1.8 million for every week he is absent from the Ravens. It’s hard to believe sitting out would improve the stock of Jackson, who likely needs a strong season in 2023 to answer questions about his durability after not finishing the last two seasons due to injury.
What does it mean that John Harbaugh said Monday he expects Jackson to be his Week 1 QB?
The one constant in the Jackson contract saga has been Harbaugh’s optimism. He has repeatedly expressed confidence Jackson will remain with the Ravens. Harbaugh believes the issue is about money and not about the team’s relationship with Jackson. “Eventually, it’ll work out,” Harbaugh said Monday. “There will always be creative ways to figure that stuff out.” Right now, the Ravens don’t have a viable alternative at quarterback. Without Jackson last season, the Ravens lost four of their last six games and struggled to score touchdowns with Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown. Harbaugh, though, didn’t rule out the possibility of adding a veteran quarterback this offseason.
How might the trade request alter the Ravens’ draft strategy at quarterback?
Not at all. Baltimore isn’t in position to take a top quarterback with the No. 22 overall pick. The Ravens don’t have the draft capital to move up into the top 10 because they only have five selections in this year’s draft. Baltimore would only become a player for a top quarterback prospect if the team doesn’t match an offer sheet for Jackson and gets a high first-rounder in return. Outside of that, the Ravens are likely taking a wide receiver or cornerback with their top pick.