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Baltimore Ravens have a $100 million decision to make on Lamar Jackson

The Baltimore Ravens are facing a March 7 deadline to place the franchise tag on star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Said tag window opens up next week.

While it’s pretty clear that Baltimore will tag Jackson, we’re not sure what it might look like. The Ravens can hand him the non-exclusive tag for $32.42 million, which would enable another team to sign the star quarterback while exhausting two first-round picks in return.

Baltimore also has the ability to place the rare exclusive franchise tag on Jackson. This would take the former first-round pick off the market completely. However, it would also cost the team a projected $45.46 million against the cap in 2023.

With everything happening behind the scenes, it’s not yet known what direction general manager Eric DeCosta will go. There’s been recent reports that the Ravens are open to trading their former NFL MVP. Said decision will not have to be made before the franchise tag window closes. However, what Baltimore does beforehand could tell us in what direction the team is going.

Placing the exclusive tag on Jackson would put place Baltimore behind the proverbial eight-ball with the agent-less Jackson. A guaranteed sum of $45.46 million creates a lack of flexibility and increases the possibility that Jackson will simply play out the 2023 campaign under said tag.

It also increases the likelihood that Baltimore will then have to franchise Jackson again after the 2023 season. At this point, the minimal tag number for 2024 would $54 million or so. That’s a total of $100 million guaranteed for just two seasons.

Related: Lamar Jackson and the top 2023 NFL free agents

Lamar Jackson contract situation is a dark cloud for Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens Lamar Jackson
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve all read the reports over the past calendar year or so. Jackson and Baltimore’s brass continues to be at a stalemate.

It was noted earlier in February that Jackson and the Ravens are $100 million apart in contract talks right now. The division comes in terms of guaranteed money with Jackson seeking a deal similar to the fully guaranteed $230 million deal Deshaun Watson landed with the Cleveland Browns last offseason.

The math is relatively easy here. Baltimore is seemingly offering Jackson just $30 million more in guaranteed cash on a long-term deal than what he’d be paid under the franchise tag over the next two seasons. From a logical standpoint, this really doesn’t make sense for Jackson and his camp.

While the 26-year-old Jackson is coming off a down season that saw him throw just 17 touchdowns in 12 games, there’s a number of teams who would pay out of the back end to bring him in as their starting quarterback.

The simple fact that Baltimore has let this situation play out so long now seems to increase the possibility that a divorce will be in the cards this offseason. The finances we focused on above adds another layer to this.