The Baltimore Ravens announced on Thursday that they were reopening contract negotiations with quarterback Lamar Jackson. While this is a positive development between the two sides, it’s not a guarantee that a deal will get done.
If Jackson’s long-term extension doesn’t come together, the Atlanta Falcons have been consistently mentioned as a possible landing spot for the former NFL MVP. Not only do the Falcons have cap space, this is the same front office that pursued Deshaun Watson a year ago.
Going after Watson paved the way for Matt Ryan to leave Atlanta, but it also pushed quarterback contracts into another stratosphere. Quarterbacks are already the highest-paid players on the team, but the Browns took it a step further and made Watson’s five-year, $230 million contract fully guaranteed. Considering Watson’s off-field controversies, it was an unprecedented deal at the time.
Since Jackson is the next major QB up for a new contract, naturally he wants a similar deal to the one Watson signed. Jackson was reportedly offered a deal worth $250 million in September, but since only $133 million was fully guaranteed, he rejected it.
However, the Ravens are likely to apply an exclusive franchise tag (approx $45 million) to Lamar for the 2023 season. This allows them a chance to further negotiate a deal until mid-July. If a deal can’t be reached, expect the Ravens to get what they can for the franchise quarterback. And expect it to be for a similar haul, if not more, than what Cleveland gave up for Watson.
The Browns traded away their first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024, along with a 2022 third-rounder and a fourth-round pick in 2024. This was all for a player with 22 ongoing sexual assault allegations and a suspension looming — which should give you an idea of what the Falcons would have to give up for Jackson.
To land the former first-round pick, Atlanta would likely need to cough up its next three first-round picks. Additionally, you could see the Falcons throw in their second and/or third-round pick in this or next year’s draft.
For a developing team, that’s a lot to give up. The first-round picks are enough on their own, but additional picks would seriously hinder the team’s ability to add depth and develop talent. Then you must factor in the contract that Jackson would likely command.
This would hurt the Falcons’ ability to add free agents, despite entering the offseason with the second-most cap space in the NFL. The team would be giving up a ton of draft capital, while using a huge portion of its cap space.
So, while the potential to add a superstar like Lamar is exciting for a team that has missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, there is a lot to consider when making such a monumental decision.
Is Atlanta’s roster good enough to withstand the cost of acquiring Jackson? Or should the team focus on building the offense around Desmond Ridder and taking a potentially slower approach?