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Revisiting 7 NFL teams that publicly passed on Lamar Jackson this offseason, including the Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson
Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has the team atop the NFL standings heading into Week 17. Coming off an MVP-caliber performance over the San Francisco 49ers, it’s worth revisiting the NFL teams that passed on Jackson this offseason.

After his contract expired this past spring with Baltimore and the two sides failed to agree to terms on a contract extension, the Ravens placed the franchise tag on their star quarterback. Without any progress in contract talks, Jackson publicly requested a trade.

  • Lamar Jackson stats 2023: 3,357 pass yards, 19-7 TD-INT, 97.2 QB rating, 66.3% completion rate, 7.7 yards per attempt, 787 rushing yards, 5.5 yards per carry, 5 rushing touchdowns

Related: Highest-paid NFL players, including Lamar Jackson

While Jackson was never a free agent, quarterback-needy teams around the league had an opportunity to pursue him. Under the non-exclusive franchise tag, another NFL team could’ve offered Jackson the contract he was looking for. If he signed the offer sheet, Baltimore would’ve had five days to either match the offer or allow the other club to sign Jackson in exchange for the Ravens receiving their first-round picks in consecutive years.

As ESPN’s Adam Schefter pointed out, NFL teams never even attempted to pursue Jackson. Some of the same clubs that engaged in trade talks for Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft determined they wouldn’t make any effort to acquire one of the best, young quarterbacks in football.

  • Lamar Jackson contract: $22.15 million cap hit in 2023, $32.4 million cap hit in 2024, $43.65 million cap hit in 2025, $74.65 million cap hit in 2026, $74.65 million cap hit in 2027
    • Ravens can designate Jackson as a pre-June 1 release/trade candidate in 2027, create $39.5 million in salary cap room

With all 31 other NFL teams refusing to even negotiate with Jackson, the 2019 MVP signed a five-year, $260 million contract with the Ravens on April 27, 2023. It’s proving to be one of the smartest decisions in the team’s recent history, with Jackson playing at an MVP level and Baltimore favored to win the AFC.

As we head into the final weeks of the 2023 season, let’s revisit the NFL teams that passed on Jackson.

Related: NFL QB rankings

What teams passed on Lamar Jackson?

Atlanta Falcons

When the Houston Texans shopped Deshaun Watson around the NFL in 2022, following 30 allegations of sexual misconduct, the Atlanta Falcons pursued a deal for Watson. In fact, the team seemed to be on the verge of a deal for Watson, trading multiple first-round picks to Houston. Then, the Cleveland Browns stepped in and offered Watson the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history. One year later, the Falcons publicly confirmed they wouldn’t even pursue Jackson. An MVP-caliber quarterback was available and would’ve cost less than it would’ve to acquire Watson. Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank refused to consider it, citing Jackson’s history of missing games. This season, Atlanta’s quarterback situation is one of the worst in the NFL but it won’t be picking high enough to land one of the top quarterbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Atlanta Falcons QB stats 2023: 83.8 QB rating, 14-11 TD-INT, 218.5 pass ypg, 62.4% completion

Related: Atlanta Falcons coaching candidates

Washington Commanders

The Washington Commanders have lived in quarterback purgatory for the majority of the last two decades. Finally, new ownership took over and vowed to make changes. That commitment to change didn’t include upgrading at quarterback. Instead of pursuing Lamar Jackson, despite having the resources to do it, Washington publicly announced in March it would pass on Jackson and commit to Sam Howell. In related news, the Commanders will be in the quarterback market and searching for a new general manager this offseason.

  • Washington Commanders QB stats 2023: 83.3 QB rating, 22-17 TD-INT, 63.8% completion rate

Related: Washington Commanders coaching candidates

New York Jets

The 2023 season can only be described as a disaster for the New York Jets. Instead of pursuing Lamar Jackson, New York made 39-year-old quarterback Aaron Rodgers its sole focus. As it began negotiating a trade for Rodgers, the Jets began adding players from his wishlist (Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, Dalvin Cook). None of them have made a positive impact this season and New York now heads into 2024 with a 40-year-old quarterback coming off a torn Achilles.

  • New York Jets QB stats 2023: 70.2 QB rating, 10-14 TD-INT, 59% completion rate

Related: New York Jets finally own up to costly mistake from 2023 season

Carolina Panthers

There was no NFL team more desperate to land a franchise quarterback than the Carolina Panthers. The team could’ve made a run, offering a fully guaranteed five-year contract and two first-round picks (2023 and 2024), hoping the Ravens wouldn’t match the contract offer. Instead, Carolina traded star wide receiver D.J. Moore, the 9th overall and 61st overall picks, its 2024 first-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick to move up to No. 1 overall. The same team that gave all that up deemed Jackson too expensive to pursue. Now, the Panthers’ coaching staff is out the door and their GM is likely next.

  • Carolina Panthers QB stats: 76.5 QB rating, 13-9 TD-INT, 59.7% completion rate

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the few teams with the least regret about passing on Lamar Jackson last offseason. However, they are still one of the clubs that publicly announced they wouldn’t pursue the MVP quarterback. Baker Mayfield has played very well this season, leading Tampa Bay atop the NFC South. Although, the Bucs are still betting on Mayfield maintaining his play long-term.

  • Baker Mayfield stats 2023: 96.2 QB rating, 26-8 TD-INT, 64.3% completion rate

Related: Latest on Baker Mayfield’s future with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

San Francisco 49ers

There should be no doubt that Lamar Jackson is a better quarterback than Brock Purdy and he would’ve made the 49ers’ offense even better than it is now. San Francisco publicly announced this offseason that it wouldn’t be pursuing Jackson, but it’s the one team with the best rationale. A roster high-paid stars like Trent Williams, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, Arik Armstead, George Kittle, Javon Hargrave, Fred Warner and Nick Bosa simply couldn’t afford to fit Jackson under the NFL salary cap.

  • Brock Purdy stats 2023: 112.2 QB rating, 29-11 TD-INT, 68.8% completion rate

Related: NFL defense rankings

Detroit Lions

If the Detroit Lions had wanted to pursue Lamar Jackson this offseason, they could’ve kept the top-10 pick acquired via the Russell Wilson deal and shipped their mid-first along with a 2024 first-round pick to Baltimore. Instead, Detroit committed to Jared Goff for another season and used its own first-round pick on linebacker Jack Campbell. Goff did help the Lions snap their 30-year division title drought and he’s played at a Pro Bowl level this season. However, his issues versus pressure and his poor track record suggest Detroit could’ve been a Super Bowl contender this season had it acquired Jackson.

  • Jared Goff stats 2023: 98.3 QB rating, 27-10 TD-INT, 67.7% completion rate
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