News today from Lamar Jackson that he asked the Ravens for a trade back on March 2nd has dominated the NFL headlines and once again raises the question of where he’ll play in 2023 and beyond.
That question becomes a complicated one for the Ravens and other teams who may be interested in Jackson’s services as the Ravens have placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on him, which he has yet to sign. A non-exclusive franchise tag allows the Ravens to match any offer sheet, or if they elect not to, requires the team making the offer to provide the Ravens with first-round draft picks in the next two drafts as compensation. But this is NOT the only option for a Lamar Jackson trade to happen. Let’s explore the options from the perspective of the Ravens and other teams interested in Lamar Jackson- including the Vikings.
The Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag Option
As outlined above, this option allows teams to make an offer sheet for Lamar Jackson, which the Ravens have five days to match or received two first-round draft picks from the acquiring team as compensation.
From the Ravens’ perspective, this is their preferred way to deal with Lamar Jackson. They get other teams to do their negotiating for them with Jackson, then can match any offer if they choose or are guaranteed two first-round draft picks if they don’t. In the meantime, Jackson remains on their books for $32.4 million in 2023.
The problem for the Ravens is that Jackson is unlikely to play for $32.4 million this season if no trade offer is completed, and having a disgruntled and unhappy QB that won’t play and has asked to be traded is untenable for the Ravens.
For other teams, the parameters of the non-exclusive franchise tag are very unattractive. They could simply end up wasting their time negotiating a deal with Jackson, tying up their salary cap for a week only to have their very public offer (which has ramifications for their QB room, locker room, and fan base) matched by the Ravens, leaving them holding the bag.
Secondly, for teams that hold high first-round draft picks, that compensation is too high along with paying Jackson top dollar- which could average around $45 million a year. Teams with top ten draft picks this year will likely favor drafting a quarterback rather than trading their first-round pick, and next year’s, for the right to pay Jackson $45 million/year.
All that suggests that no team is going to make Jackson an offer under the non-exclusive franchise tag - much to the Ravens’ displeasure.
The Sign and Trade Option
The other option that teams, other than the Ravens, interested in Lamar’s services is to complete a sign and trade deal. In this option, Jackson signs his non-exclusive franchise tag on condition that he is immediately traded to a team that has worked out a new contract for him. Compensation for such a trade to be negotiated with the Ravens in advance of the deal.
The Ravens would understandably be against pursuing this option unless it becomes their only option. The non-exclusive franchise tag parameters are more favorable and provide them with an option for keeping Jackson at what would be his market value, which would presumably silence Jackson’s grievance that they’re not willing to pay him what he’s worth.
But teams have had over a week to pursue a deal under the non-exclusive franchise tag and there has been zero interest. At some point the Ravens will need to re-evaluate the situation and begin to explore alternatives.
Former Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman summarized the Ravens’ options pretty succinctly:
“Baltimore is also asking themselves as well if not Lamar Jackson, then who? They’re picking too low to go get one of the top four quarterbacks, all the rest of the veteran quarterbacks are off the market- unless they believe in Tyrod Taylor who they signed back- other than that they don’t have a chance and then you’re looking at a rebuild for Baltimore in my opinion.”
And so for the Ravens, if they’re prepared to walk away from Lamar Jackson rather than pay him what he wants- and they’ve been at this for two years and still haven’t come to a deal- then who’s playing quarterback for them this year?
This is where the Vikings come in.
The Vikings could offer to trade Kirk Cousins, Za’Darius Smith, and next year’s first-round pick to the Ravens for Lamar Jackson after each side worked on contracts with the QB they would acquire.
For the Ravens, they’d get Kirk Cousins for $10 million in 2023, but presumably would need to give him some sort of guaranteed deal under $40 million/year for 2024 and 2025. That is what Cousins was looking for from the Vikings in negotiations earlier this year, but the Vikings didn’t want to guarantee 2025. Cousins would need to approve the trade. And with two first-round picks in 2024, the Ravens would have sufficient draft capital to spend on a quarterback who’d have a couple years to develop behind Cousins. In the meantime, they’d remain competitive and have a more durable quarterback in Cousins than Jackson has been. I suspect durability holds some appeal in Baltimore after having promising seasons undercut by Jackson’s injuries.
For the Vikings, they’d get a young (26) former MVP quarterback in Lamar Jackson, who adds a running threat to their offense, and is a dynamic playmaker. But he wouldn’t come cheap and has durability concerns. The Vikings would probably need to sign on to a $45 million average annual value contract for Jackson- right there with Mahomes- and hope that with a better training staff and better receivers to throw to, Jackson won’t need to run as much and won’t get injured as much either. But they’d instantly have the best quarterback in the NFC and much improved odds to make it to the Super Bowl.
The Vikings could also trade Cousins to another team for sufficient draft capital to offer the Ravens, if the Ravens preferred that to being competitive now and avoiding a rebuild at QB.
For other teams, mostly QB-needy teams, interested in trading for Jackson, they don’t have as good a quarterback to offer in trade, and so would have to pay a higher price in draft capital. That essentially puts them in a position where they’d need to pay two first-round draft picks plus Jackson’s salary in trade. They have that option now under the non-exclusive franchise tag, but no team is making an offer.
A team like the Lions could offer Jared Goff, but the Lions appear to be building their roster along the 49ers blueprint, and so investing top dollar in a quarterback wouldn’t be in-line with that philosophy. They’d be more likely to draft a QB than pursue Jackson, although they seem willing to stay with Goff. The Patriots could offer Mac Jones, but that isn’t likely to be very enticing at this point in Jones’ career, although the price would be cheap. The Titans could offer Ryan Tannehill, but doubtful the Ravens would see him as better than Cousins at this point in his career.
In any case, for all the difficulties and complexities involved in a Lamar Jackson transaction, the betting website bookies.com has updated odds on Lamar Jackson’s team in 2023. They are as follows:
- Tennessee Titans +400
- Minnesota Vikings +450
- Baltimore Ravens +500
- New England Patriots +500
- Indianapolis Colts +750
- Atlanta Falcons +1000
- Detroit Lions +1200
- The Field +450
Other websites have differing odds and I haven’t seen the Vikings as high on other sites. Sportsbetting.ag odds that Jackson is traded to another team (-225) is now much more likely his staying with the Ravens (+175). The implied probability of Jackson playing for another team under those odds is 69%.
But which team? The Vikings at +450 implies an 18% chance Jackson lands in Minnesota.
Which team will Lamar Jackson play for this season?
This poll is closed
Some other team