Examining the pros and cons of Atlanta trading for Lamar Jackson
The Falcons may not have qualified for the postseason in 2022, but they will head into the 2023 offseason with a lot to look forward to. Atlanta has an influx of salary cap space, another top-10 draft pick and some talented pieces on both sides of the ball.
With that said, there are still several positions on the roster that have question marks, including the quarterback spot. One name that has been consistently floated around is Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens have been unable to get a long-term extension done with Jackson thus far, and they’re expected to franchise tag the former MVP this offseason. Even if Baltimore tags Jackson, a trade is still a strong possibility.
So does Atlanta make sense as a potential landing spot? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of trading for Jackson.
PRO: Increased free-agent appeal for Atlanta
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Once players hit the open market, there are a number of variables that come into play. While the financial offerings are a big one, the overall appeal of the franchise plays a role as well. Players want to go somewhere they can win and will sometimes take less money in order to compete for a Super Bowl.
In short, if the Falcons pull off a trade for Lamar Jackson, Atlanta becomes a prime destination for any free agent looking to win. We saw this last offseason when a number of players were waiting to see where Deshaun Watson landed before deciding on their team. Free agents like Jarvis Landry and Jadeveon Clowney were ready to follow Watson to Atlanta.
However, the trick is to get this deal done before free agency begins in mid-March. The deadline for a team to apply a franchise tag, which the Ravens will almost certainly do in order to recoup value for Jackson, is March 7. So getting a deal done before the official start of free agency on March 15 is crucial.
CON: Atlanta would have to give up/pay a ton for Jackson
(AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
As mentioned above, there is a soft window to maximize the value of bringing Lamar to the Falcons. Ideally, the team would get as many high-end free agents as possible and some key role players since any trade would require Atlanta to give up a king’s ransom.
It has also been reported that Lamar and the Ravens are “$100 million apart,”mainly due to the deal the Browns gave Deshaun Watson a year ago. Once you grant a quarterback with nearly two dozen sexual assault claims $230 million of fully guaranteed money, other franchise quarterbacks are rightfully going to want more. This is exactly what’s unfolding with Lamar, and that’s just the financial side.
To trade for Jackson, it would likely cost the Falcons their next three first-round picks, along with multiple second and third-round picks. For a team that’s rebuilding, that’s a hefty price to pay. In order to be comfortable giving up this much, Atlanta would have to feel the roster is a quarterback away from contending.
PRO: Jackson is a truly dynamic talent
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Since entering the league, Jackson has constantly battled the narrative that he is simply a run-first quarterback. While he is undoubtedly the best running quarterback in the game today, he has a lot to offer as a passer as well.
When Lamar went on to win the league MVP in 2019, he did so on the back of breaking Michael Vick’s rushing record, but also added over 3,100 passing yards to his statistical total. Lamar ended that 2019 season with 36 passing touchdowns (43 total) and a career-high QBR of 83.0 (113.3 passer rating). He was on track to break this passing total in 2021 but saw his season end short due to injury.
Lamar may not give you 4,000-yard passing seasons on a consistent basis, but his dynamic skill set would make him a game-changing addition for the Falcons.
CON: Health is a concern
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Jackson does have health concerns, missing five games in each of the last two seasons. Aside from that, he’s missed just two games — one in 2019 as the team rested starters for the playoffs and another in 2020 due to COVID.
In 2021, Jackson suffered an ankle injury early in Week 14 that forced him to miss the rest of the season. As for 2022, he suffered a knee injury in early December which wasn’t thought to be season-ending at the time. Jackson had a Grade 2 PCL sprain that did eventually keep him out for the remainder of the year.
Some have doubted the severity of the injury, implying it could have been contract related. Although Jackson stated that was not the case.
“There is still inflammation surrounding my knee and my knee remains unstable,” stated Jackson in mid-January addressing his absence.
PRO: Jackson would put fans back in the stands
(Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images)
While there has been no legitimate report that the Falcons actually want Lamar as their quarterback, fans are intrigued by the idea after missing the playoffs for five straight seasons.
Simply put, there is a large push from within the fan base to recapture the electricity that Mike Vick once brought during his playing days in Atlanta. Matt Ryan eventually took over, and while he had the better career of the two quarterbacks, his game definitely lacked any kind of sizzle. Outside of the 2008, 2012 and 2016 seasons, there was no real reason to watch the Falcons.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium has not provided much of a home-field advantage for Atlanta since its inception. Jackson would change that almost immediately.
CON: Giving up on Desmond Ridder
(Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)
The last thing to consider is Desmond Ridder. The team spent a third-round pick on the quarterback from Cincinnati, and if Lamar were to come to Atlanta, Ridder’s Falcons career is over.
After mostly mixed results in his first two starts, Ridder did show some promise in the team’s final two games of the year. Obviously, the rookie QB is not in the same class as Jackson at this point in his career, but it’s still a bit early to give up on Ridder after seeing him play in just four games.
Plus, it would be exponentially cheaper for Atlanta to build around Ridder than it would to build around Jackson.
Fan Vote: Should Atlanta trade for Jackson?