Original version of this Lamar Jackson story published March 8
Well strap in, NFL fans, because Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has officially requested a trade.
And in scenes synonymous with this very unique set of circumstances, he was the one to go public on the update. Not Adam Schefter, not Ian Rapoport, him.
That’s important detail, because part of what’s turned this into a whole saga is Jackson’s stubborn stance with agents and managers; he doesn’t have one. Lamar Jackson is the one doing all the negotiating and posturing here. And NFL organisations don’t like it.
There’s even been talk of ‘collusion’, given how quickly a number of teams and owners declared they wanted nothing to do with Jackson and this situation. Because there’s a refusal to do business this way.
It’s added a major level of complexity to the circumstances; it’s the reason franchises aren’t lining up like they should be. Finding a long-term, difference-making quarterback can be one of the most painful processes a front office and fan base can go through.
And yet the interest in acquiring the 26-year-old is lukewarm at best.
Revisiting how the Lamar Jackson saga started this off-season
The AFC North powerhouse made the call to place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, which for the record costs $32.416 million in 2023.
It basically means the franchise would like to keep him for another year and figure out a long-term extension. But it also means the QB, who was the MVP in 2019, is now free to negotiate with rival teams.
If Jackson was now to sign an offer sheet with a different organisation – the lucrative and fully guaranteed extension he believes he’s worth, the five-day clock then starts ticking for Baltimore to decide whether or not to match it. And if the Ravens opt not to, the team that lands Lamar Jackson will send back two first-round Draft picks as compensation – an absolute steal for a player of Jackson’s quality.
Teams that don’t possess first-round picks in the next two NFL Drafts cannot put together an offer.
To this point, Baltimore and Jackson have not been on the same page negotiating a long-term extension.
It’s admittedly not the easiest situation to follow, but the point is we’ve reached a stage where other organisations can officially talk to the quarterback who’s almost unanimously viewed as a top ten player at his position. And that means he’s one of the most valuable players in the league.
It almost never happens that a player of his resume – which also includes the 2016 Heisman Trophy as a Louisville sophomore – makes it this close to free agency in the NFL.
Lamar Jackson saw Cleveland give Deshaun Watson a five-year, $230 million dollar fully guaranteed deal and he wants nothing less. And while we can all sit here and wonder what in the world the Browns were thinking at the time they made that transaction, the reality is that Jackson has more runs on the board and far less off-field baggage. You do the math.
So that’s the brief story of how we got here and now the fun begins; playing match-maker and speculating the best landing spots for the Ravens quarterback.
Ravens confirm they’re still ‘committed’ to getting something done
It’s certainly not a forgone conclusion that Jackson’s played his last snap for the Ravens. Across the NFL and the NBA, there are more requests made than requests approved.
Probably the most high-profile recent example was Kevin Durant’s initial off-season plea to the Brooklyn Nets to find him a new home. It happened eventually at the trade deadline, but the power forward did end up returning to the court for the Nets for several months first.
Which teams won’t go after Lamar Jackson?
There are various reports that Atlanta, Miami, Carolina, Washington and Las Vegas have ruled out tabling an offer for Jackson. So there’s no need to put forward their case as a landing spot.
While some of the better destinations were ruled out before having a chance to become a thing, we can use the process of elimination to compute what’s still out there.
The New York Giants, for example, just extended Daniel Jones on a four-year, $160 million dollar deal, with $82 million in guarantees. Now Lamar Jackson might’ve been a nicer outcome, but there were always going to be too many hurdles and there are certainly too many now. Teaser: it leaves only one New York team in the mix to land Lamar.
On top of the franchises listed above, the other teams that we absolutely know won’t be pursuing Lamar Jackson are:
Arizona (Kyler Murray), Buffalo (Josh Allen), Cincinnati (Joe Burrow), Chicago (Justin Fields), Cleveland (Watson), Dallas (Dak Prescott), Denver (Russell Wilson), Houston (pick two in the Draft), Green Bay (Jordan Love and an Aaron Rodgers problem), the Los Angeles Rams (Matthew Stafford and no first-rounder in the Draft), Jacksonville (Trevor Lawrence), Kansas City (Patrick Mahomes), New Orleans (Derek Carr), the Los Angeles Chargers (Justin Herbert), Philadelphia (Jalen Hurts), Pittsburgh (Kenny Pickett and division rival of Baltimore), San Fransisco (Trey Lance, Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold) and Seattle (Geno Smith, plus a high Draft pick).
And just to reiterate that based on reports already, Atlanta, Miami, Carolina, Washington and Las Vegas are also apparently off the table. Which is a shame, because some of those teams could really use a Lamar Jackson.
What size contract will get it done for Lamar Jackson?
Reports suggest it’s reasonably simple; Jackson wants more guaranteed money than Deshaun Watson, who signed a five-year, $230 million dollar deal with Cleveland last off season.
Which teams should pursue Lamar Jackson?
The old process of elimination always does the trick and after the above exercise, we’re left with seven possible outcomes… not including the Ravens figuring this out and agreeing on a long-term extension.
So let’s asses each of them, in order of feasibility.
1. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have been in QB purgatory ever since Andrew Luck announced his retirement on the eve of the 2019 season; it has not been a fun ride for the organisation since.
Owner Jim Irsay’s actions last season illustrated his patience has run out. The organisation owns pick four in April’s Draft, enough to acquire Indianapolis’ future quarterback and he’d be under the Colts’ contractual control for up to five years.
This might be one of the deals that interests both parties, should pick four be a part of the equation. And a Lamar offence with Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman sounds scary as hell.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Let’s get the Florida kid back to his home state. While Jackson grew up on the eastern side, close to Miami, the Buccs are the Florida franchise that hasn’t ruled out a play.
Tampa have been in the headlines this off-season, with news of Tom Brady’s retirement that left Kyle Trask as the only remaining QB on the roster. Now while that’s since changed, with Baker Mayfield brought over as well, the upgrade to Jackson is a no-brainer. Signing Mayfield should in no way block a play for the Ravens QB. And sending over pick 19 in the upcoming Draft, plus a future first, would be an incredible result for a team that wouldn’t mind rebuilding quickly.
For Baltimore, if you’re going to lose Lamar Jackson, the better outcome is sending him to the NFC. And the other leading contenders are not.
3. Tennessee Titans
The Titans are cleaning house and facing a rebuild. Even though the more likely scenario is using its assets to develop back through the Draft, what’s to say they couldn’t send pick 11 and next year’s one and just go from there?
They’ve got some promising young pieces on offence and a highly effective head coach in Mike Vrabel who’s a year removed from winning Coach of the Year honours.Embed from Getty Images
4. New York Jets
Any moment now, we may hear an update involving the Jets and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. The New York organisation have actually announced that going after Jackson at this point would be acting in bad faith. And that’s an honourable position, but given the current stalemate with Green Bay playing out, maybe just pick up the phone?
The Jets think they’re just a quarterback away from competing. And that’s probably right. Now Rodgers will most likely be a cheaper acquisition, due to the 39-year-old’s uncertain future.
And GM Joe Douglas would have a fair bit of work to do cap-wise to make Lamar Jackson fit; they’ve built sizeable parts of this team through free agency, which doesn’t happen cheaply.
But what New York have in the building right now at quarterback isn’t the answer. They need a guy.
5. Detroit Lions
The likely outcome is Detroit sticking with Jared Goff, still two years on his current deal, and have a long and hard look at Anthony Richardson in the upcoming Draft, if he were to fall to them at pick six (a fair possibility, even after a flashy combine performance).
But at the end of the day, figuring out trades to end up with Lamar Jackson as the team’s starter would strike infinitely more fear into NFC North rivals and even without multiple first-rounders in their pocket, the Lions would have one of the most smoke show offences in the league.
They’ve got two firsts in this Draft.
6. New England Patriots
Lamar Jackson has been Bill Belichick’s kryptonite since becoming locked in as the starter in 2019. You don’t have to squint much to see Jackson joining forces with the highly acclaimed coach. And as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them.
Mac Jones dropped off badly as a quarterback in year two and while you can point to the team’s offensive coordinator situation as a logical reason, the Pats still don’t actually know if Jones is the future of the organisation.
The thing is, though, Lamar might baulk at an offer from New England; Bill O’Brien’s now the OC and the receiver room is one of the least talented in the NFL.
7. Minnesota Vikings
It might seem a bit left-field; they’re coming off a 13-win campaign and have a – slightly – above-average starter in Kirk Cousins. The Vikings could be a year away from Cousins walking, though, so Jackson would be a decent upgrade and set them up for a prosperous longer term future.
But it would take an awful lot of work and fiddle from general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to make the team cap-compliant this off-season, remembering that any deal for Lamar Jackson comes with a huge contract.