The Baltimore Ravens placed the franchise tag on star quarterback Lamar Jackson on Tuesday, answering two important questions in this long saga and prompting many more.
First and foremost, the biggest question leading up to this point has been whether the two sides would be able to reach a long-term deal prior to Tuesday’s Franchise Tag deadline, thus avoiding the designation altogether. Clearly, that answer is no.
Which leads us to the second answer we got on Tuesday, centred around what kind of tag the team would use. Rather than using the exclusive tag, which would have cost Baltimore about $45 million and given the Ravens full control, they used the non-exclusive tag. That means other clubs can send offers his way, but Baltimore will have the opportunity to match anything; and if they don’t match, they’ll receive a pair of first-round picks in exchange for Jackson signing elsewhere. Jackson is the first QB to be given the non-exclusive tag since Washington took that approach with Kirk Cousins in 2016. (In that case, the two sides failed to reach a long-term deal by the deadline.)
This is a fascinating situation, to say the least. Jackson is one of the most elite, dynamic talents the league has ever seen, and at 26 years old his best football is very likely still ahead of him. While injury concerns seem to be headlining the lists of why teams might not target him, citing his run-heavy style of play and the fact he’s been limited to 12 games in each of the past two seasons, that hasn’t stopped other clubs from locking up lesser talents to larger deals.
So, what happens now? There are still many different ways this situation could go. Here’s a roadmap outlining the possible outcomes from here.
Jackson and the Ravens agree to terms on a new, big-money deal.
In theory, this is the simplest solution — but, as we’ve learned for about a year now, these talks are anything but simple. Failing a resolution last summer, Jackson entered the 2022 campaign (the fifth and final of his rookie deal) without an extension after watching his peers square away their own situations long before. Jackson doesn’t have an agent and has been very quiet publicly about the contract stalemate, letting the countless reports — including those stating that he wants Deshaun Watson-like money, and a fully-guaranteed contract for example — do most of the talking.
According to a statement from Ravens GM Eric DeCosta, the team still intends to sign their star QB long-term:
Jackson and the Ravens have until July 17 to agree on a new deal.
Jackson receives no outside contract offers, and decides to play under the franchise tag.
He’ll earn $32.4 million in fully guaranteed money and can revisit negotiations after the 2023 season.
The idea that Jackson would get zero outside offers feels absolutely absurd, considering he’s one of the most dynamic runners and talented QBs this game has ever seen. And yet, within mere minutes of the Ravens making public their announcement of designating Jackson with the non-exclusive tag, we saw a rush of reporters tweet out news of various QB-needy teams stating they’re not interested in acquiring his services. This list of teams includes the Miami Dolphins, Vegas Raiders, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers… all teams that have major questions at the QB position and could greatly benefit from a player of Jackson’s calibre. Eyebrows are, rightly, being raised here.
Jackson signs another team’s offer sheet, and Baltimore matches it.
Because Baltimore opted for the non-exclusive franchise tag, negotiations are exactly that. This may ultimately prove to be a very smart — albeit, risky — strategy by Ravens brass as now it’s up to the entire league, not just Jackson himself or Ravens management, to set the QB’s market value (and perhaps send a message that the ludicrous pact between the Browns and Watson won’t be setting the new standard for QB deals to come). Teams can officially extend offers upon the opening of the new league year on Mar. 15. If another club swoops in with an offer Jackson signs, the Ravens will have five days to match it and keep their QB under his new contract.
Jackson signs another team’s offer sheet, and Baltimore doesn’t match.
Any team offering Jackson a deal must have a first-round pick in 2023 and 2024. Should they extend the QB an offer that he signs, and the Ravens don’t match, Baltimore will receive two first-round picks from Jackson’s new team. Regardless of what happens here, the Ravens will not be leaving this situation empty-handed.
Jackson holds out altogether.
Technically, the QB could hold out and simply not play under the franchise tag — something we saw in Pittsburgh in 2018 when running back Le’Veon Bell sat out the whole year. This is, obviously, a worst-case scenario for all parties — not to mention, it wouldn’t prevent Baltimore from franchise tagging him against next spring.
Jackson would have until the Tuesday following Week 10 of the 2023 season to sign his franchise tender in order to be eligible to play in 2023.
WHO ELSE WAS TAGGED?
Jackson was the biggest name tagged on Tuesday, but he wasn’t the only one. In total, six players league-wide were given the franchise tag designation, and all received the non-exclusive tag. In other words, things could get interesting. will be names to watch in the coming weeks and months to see if they can reach long-term deals with their clubs:
Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys running back
Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars tight end
Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders running back
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants running back
Daron Payne, Washington Commanders defensive tackle