The Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson are hurtling towards an unceremonious breakup. We haven’t quite reached the point where a divorce is guaranteed, but things continue to go poorly in contract negotiations between the sides. As it stands the Ravens and Jackson can’t agree on a long-term contract extension, remain extremely far apart on money, and the most likely scenario appears to be Jackson receiving the franchise tag in 2023.
Dragging this process out was a risk the Ravens rolled the dice on, and lost everything. Every day they waited to get the extension signed drove up Jackson’s price more, as quarterback contracts continue to soar around the league. For comparison, had Baltimore locked up Jackson for the same money as Josh Allen got in 2021 they’d be on the hook for 6 years. $258M. Now, it’s likely the same term deal will cost over $300M — with a large portion of that money guaranteed. Kicking the money can down the road had now led to a rift between the former MVP quarterback and the team that took him.
The best path forward for both sides is slapping the tag on Jackson and trying to trade him before the draft. It’s clear Jackson wants to be paid like a top quarterback, Baltimore aren’t sold on the idea — and there’s no shortage of suitors who will line up to trade for a franchise quarterback. So, let’s look at the potential teams who would be willing to make a deal.
No. 1: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have become a very hot name in potential Jackson trade talks in recent weeks, and it makes a ton of sense. Sure, the team took Desmond Ridder in the 3rd round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but even if you like Ridder’s game and think he has potential, there’s a chasm between trying to develop him and acquiring one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the game.
Atlanta represents a really soft landing spot for Jackson. He joins a team that already has a top tight end in Kyle Pitts, a big-bodied promising receiver in Drake London. Hell, the weapons on offense for the Falcons already exceed what he had in Baltimore. Couple that with a city with a lasting love story with running quarterbacks from the team’s time with Michael Vick and you have a fanbase primed to swoon over Jackson’s abilities.
The NFC South is wide open with Tom Brady’s retirement, with all four teams in some form of rebuilding. Landing Jackson immediately catapults Atlanta to the top of the division, and starts getting the team wins now. Keep in mind they weren’t terrible in 2022 either, so there’s a lot of promise here.
Meanwhile for Baltimore the appeal would be obvious. The Falcons hold the No. 8 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, importantly positioned immediately before the Panthers, who are a lock to take a quarterback this April. Should the Ravens like one of the rookie QBs they would be in a position to take one of the Top 4 passers, and still have draft capital left over. It would take Atlanta’s first this year, and likely in 2024 as well as some mid-round picks to get the deal done — giving Baltimore a lot of flexibility in the future.
No. 2: Baltimore Ravens
The grass isn’t always greener. While Atlanta might represent the best landing spot for both sides should they part ways, the next best scenario is for the Ravens to wake up and realize what they have. The Eagles came within three points of winning a Super Bowl with a dual threat quarterback because THEY SUPPORTED HIM.
Jackson has continued to watch his weapons dissolve around him without the shelves being restocked. While Jalen Hurts had A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith this season to make his life better, Jackson’s top two wide receivers were Demarcus Robinson and Devin Duvernay — neither of whom had 500 yards receiving.
Every available asset needs to be spent upgrading the weapons on offense, and if that happens this team will win, a lot. Jackson may be asking for a lot in salary, but pandora’s box isn’t getting shut on quarterback contracts. Huge QB money is a sunk cost that every team has to factor in now, and with the salary cap soaring it lessens the impact of a big deal.
No. 3: Las Vegas Raiders
Nobody loves big, splashy moves like the Raiders — and now they need a quarterback. Much like Atlanta, the No. 7 pick is of considerable value and Vegas underperforming in 2022 could lead to landing the best quarterback the team has had in a long, long time.
Jackson has to have Josh McDaniels’ offensive sensibilities salivating. Nobody thinks they could do more with Jackson than McDaniels does. Whether or not that’s accurate remains to be seen.
That said, there’s more than just blind promise to a Raiders move. Davante Adams and Darren Waller are two great targets for him. Vegas also gives huge marketability potential for Jackson, and that’s an increasing part of the puzzle to landing a top quarterback as well.
No. 4: New York Jets
The primary issue with the Jets is compensation. The No. 13 pick isn’t terrible, but it’s a big step back from getting one in the top 10. That said, no team is better primed to win immediately with a top quarterback than New York.
This team already has an elite defense capable of stopping anyone in the NFL. Their receivers are markedly better than a few years back, and with Breece Hall returning from injury their running back position is locked.
Jackson likely catapults this team from fighting for a wild card spot, to challenging the Bills and Dolphins atop the AFC East. That’s powerful motivation to get a deal done, and New York has so many quality defensive players there’s an opportunity the Ravens could get a player back in a deal as well.
No. 5: Tennessee Titans
The Titans are in a really weird spot right now. Ryan Tannehill is definitely not the future, and developing Malik Willis seems like a bigger project than the team is ready to tackle right now. As it stands there are so many ways this team feels ready to compete, and yet they’re drifting back in the AFC South and fell below the surging Jaguars in 2022.
If we’re to assume the team still believes it can compete, then Jackson is a step to remaining relevant. Still, this feels very much like an outside chance — largely because it would be a bad move for Jackson, complicating accepting a contract extension, and the Titans at No. 11 doesn’t offer the draft capital the Ravens would want.