Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson went into the 2022 NFL season seeking to prove he deserved to become the highest-paid quarterback in football. Poised to miss his third consecutive game due to injury, the former NFL MVP hasn’t strengthened his case this season.
Contract talks between Baltimore and its franchise quarterback went poorly this offseason. Reports surfaced in July that the two sides never made ‘hard progress’ on a deal and many around the league never truly expected anything to materialize.
At the root of the issue is guaranteed money. When the Cleveland Browns acquired Deshaun Watson, they signed him to a fully guaranteed contract worth $230 million. Despite not playing a single snap the prior year, having more than two dozen sexual misconduct allegations against him and having a worse resume than Jackson, Watson landed the record-setting contract.
Nine quarterbacks now make at least $40 million per season, with Russell Wilson ($48.517 million) and Aaron Rodgers ($50.271 million AAV) leading the position in terms of average salary. As a result, with the NFL salary cap expected to skyrocket in 2023, Jackson reportedly wanted $50 million per season with a guaranteed deal.
It’s a price point the Ravens aren’t comfortable matching. Furthermore, based on the approach Jackson has taken to contract negotiations, the expectation remains he will insist on playing on the fully-guaranteed franchise tag in 2023 and 2024.
While Baltimore would seemingly be comfortable applying the tag to Jackson in both instances, avoiding a long-term commitment, one NFL insider is now raising the possibility of a trade.
Jason La Canfora of The Washington Post recently shared his expectation that trade rumors involving Jackson will likely heat up this spring. Baltimore will attempt to engage in contract negotiations but if progress isn’t made, La Canfora raises the possibility of a trade and adds it becomes a “less surprising outcome by the week.”
- Lamar Jackson stats (2022): 59.4 QBR (7th in NFL0, 17-7 TD-INT, 764 rush yards
Will the Ravens trade Lamar Jackson?
It would have to be the last resort for the Ravens’ front office. Jackson remains one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, serves as a leader in the locker room and he carries Baltimore’s offense. Applying the franchise tag, projected to be worth $45 million, is a far easier outcome.
Jackson could demand a trade this offseason, seeking a better opportunity. Baltimore’s play-calling has become predictable in recent years with offensive coordinator Greg Roman failing to make the necessary adjustments that defensive coordinators did following Jackson’s MVP campaign.
However, the fact that the 25-year-old quarterback might prefer to play on the franchise tag so he can become a free agent in 2025 complicates matters. Baltimore would certainly want multiple first-round picks plus additional assets for Jackson and no team will meet that price if it can’t sign Jackson to a long-term deal.
Ultimately, it would be a stunning outcome if the Ravens seriously entertain trading Jackson in 2023 and there are no true signs he wants out of Baltimore. As a result, the Ravens’ front office will simply apply the franchise tag and then focus its efforts on surrounding Jackson with better offensive weapons.
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