When the NFL’s free agency period opened over two weeks ago, quarterback Lamar Jackson was arguably the best player available on the market. If positional value is taken into account, Jackson was the undisputed best player available.
There was a caveat. The Baltimore Ravens tagged Jackson with the non-exclusive franchise tag. The decision came after both parties failed to agree on a contract extension during the 2022 season. Jackson is set to make $32 million on the tag, significantly less than the $45 million the typical franchise tag would bring him.
However, the non-exclusive franchise tag allows Jackson to negotiate a contract with other NFL teams. The Ravens have the option to match any contract he is offered.
When Jackson’s negotiation window opened on March 15, no deal surfaced. Instead, teams openly announced they were not interested in signing the former league MVP to their squad. Things have only become more complicated since Jackson announced he requested a trade from the Ravens in a Twitter thread.
Where is the market for Lamar Jackson
The lack of a market for Jackson is astonishing. The two-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro is the most lethal dual-threat quarterback in the NFL. The league has not seen a quarterback with his elite natural running ability since Michael Vick. Jackson has answered concerns about his throwing ability. He is not an elite passer, but he has proven he has the arm talent and reliable accuracy necessary to play within the pocket.
Jackson has not been the pinnacle of health. He has missed five games in each of the past two seasons. However, health concerns have not stopped teams from signing the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo or Teddy Bridgewater to contracts in the past. Garoppolo signed a three-year $72 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason.
Jackson is seeking a higher salary than Garoppolo. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Jackson is not seeking a fully-guaranteed contract; however, he is seeking a contract with guarantees above what Deshaun Watson earned.
Asking for over $230 million in guarantees is a lot. NFL owners despise contracts with high guaranteed numbers, and the Cleveland Browns received ridicule for offering Watson a fully guaranteed deal. However, that is the price to pay for an MVP-caliber franchise quarterback. Jackson has proven to be just that in his career. He boasts a 45-16 regular season record while working with less than adequate weapons.
Jackson would provide an upgrade at quarterback for most of the NFL’s teams, but after two weeks of free agency, decision-makers are doubling down on their disinterest in signing Jackson.
Comments on Lamar Jackson throughout the league
“Look, Lamar is a heck of a talent,” Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell said to MLive’s Kyle Meinke. “Trying to defend that guy has been something else. We played them two years ago. But, man, we got a quarterback.”
The Lions are set to start Jared Goff this upcoming season.
“First of all, Lamar Jackson’s a fantastic player,” New York Jets GM Joe Douglas said, via SNY. “But where we stand is, it would be disingenuous and negotiating in bad faith if we went down that path. So, right now, we have our plan, we have our process and we’re sticking to that.”
The Jets are currently in talks to trade for Aaron Rodgers.
“I think Lamar is a great player, he was MVP for the league (in 2019). But we look at our roster and our ability to continue to build our roster now and have salary cap freedom, which we’ve never had,” Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank told USA Today.
The Falcons’ current starter is Desmond Ridder.
“I know he’s a tremendous talent. I know he’s a player that can impact your team. That was just the direction for us as a football team,” Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said in regards to the team not pursuing Jackson.
Sam Howell is slated to start next season for Washington. He has one career start under his belt.
The lack of interest in Lamar Jackson is disrespectful to the former MVP
The cost to trade for Jackson is set at two first-round picks. With the Ravens placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson, that is the limit to what Baltimore can receive in exchange for the 26-year-old.
The lack of a market for Jackson makes little sense, especially for quarterback-needy teams not currently in a position to take one high in the draft. The Falcons, Commanders, Patriots, Titans, Packers and Buccanneers should all have at least some interest in acquiring Jackson.
One team that does appear to have some interest in Jackson is the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts hold the fourth pick in the draft and desperately need to find a franchise quarterback. With Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud likely off the board with the first two picks in the draft, that leaves Will Levis and Anthony Richardson as the top options left in the class. If the Colts are not in love with either of those options, trading for Jackson makes complete sense.
“Anytime a special player is available, which he is, you’ve got to do the work,” Colts GM Chris Ballard said, via ESPN.com. “I’m not gonna get into deep discussions on where it’s at or what we’re doing or what we might do, but what I’ll tell you is he’s a really good player, really special player. But you never know how any of this will work out.”
Pursuing Lamar Jackson does not make sense for every NFL team. However, the lack of interest and lack of reports indicating even the beginnings of contract negotiations is disrespectful to the All-Pro quarterback. Jackson has the ability to play like a top-five quarterback. It is time teams started treating him like it.
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