Lamar Jackson tagged: Should Vikings pursue Ravens QB?

The Lamar Jackson saga has taken another turn.

Like the best movies, the saga has been nothing short of intriguing. At one point, Jackson looked destined to be a Baltimore Raven for the foreseeable future. Then, in a twist, it looked like the former NFL MVP would be wearing another jersey.

Now, Jackson will be free to negotiate with other teams. On Tuesday, the Ravens placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson.

Placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson allows him to negotiate with other teams when free agency opens, but the Ravens would be able to match any contract. If the Ravens choose to let Jackson walk, they would get a first-round pick in 2023 and 2024 from the team who signed him.

This decision opens up more possibilities for Jackson’s next landing spot, including the Minnesota Vikings.

What is the non-exclusive franchise tag?

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In the off-season, teams can franchise tag one of their players currently not under contract.

There are two tags that a team can apply: an exclusive franchise tag and a non-exclusive tag.

Most NFL fans have likely heard of the exclusive franchise tag. This franchise tag means the team has exclusive (hence the name) rights to the player. That player also gets around 40% more than the normal franchise tag.

The Ravens chose to use the non-exclusive tag on Jackson, meaning he can negotiate with other teams. If another team signs Jackson, the Ravens can match him or get two first-round picks.

Teams can also negotiate directly with the Ravens, meaning there could still be a bidding war for Jackson.

Players that sign on the franchise tag are paid an amount that is either no less than the average top-five salaries at the player’s position or 120% of the player’s salary from last season, whichever is greater.

What would a contract look like for Lamar Jackson?

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Lamar Jackson is going to get paid.

Aaron Rodgers is the league’s highest-paid quarterback at just over $50 million a season as of March 7. Jackson’s contract will likely exceed that value because most mega-deals in the league end up resetting the market.

Pro Football Focus estimated that Jackson would earn a contract that exceeds $260 million over five seasons. Such a contract would average out to about $52 million a season.

However, the Vikings would not have to have a $52 million cap hit every season. The unique thing about contracts in the NFL is that teams can manipulate the cap hit in certain seasons to make the number smaller than the average annual value (AAV).

Despite signing a four-year contract worth $150 million total, Derek Carr’s cap hit is just $7 million for the first year of his new deal with the New Orleans Saints. This strategy offers the Saints more flexibility in the early seasons of his contract.

Derek Carr’s contract with the New Orleans Saints, according to OverTheCap

However, it also means that the later years of the deal come with bigger cap hits. For example, Derek Carr will account for $50 million in the final year of the contract. That’s, of course, provided he is still on the team that season.

Should the Vikings sign him, they could do similar to Jackson’s contract. The Vikings have approximately $100 million in cap space available for 2024, meaning they could balloon his cap room to help mitigate the impact on the Vikings’ current salary.

However, the Vikings would have moves to make to fit Jackson into the cap. According to Over The Cap’s data, the Vikings are currently $15 million over the cap.

The obvious move would be trading Kirk Cousins with a post-June 1st tag, saving the Vikings $30 million. They could also cut Jordan Hicks and Z’Darius Smith, opening up about $17 million.

Those moves would give the Vikings $31 million in cap space, which doesn’t include other potential cuts.

Should the Vikings trade for Jackson?

Cincinnati Bengals At Baltimore Ravens Week 7

In short, the Vikings should absolutely trade for Jackson.

Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah might have preached flexibility during the NFL Scouting Combine, but all that goes out the window when someone like Jackson becomes available.

Jackson is a former MVP and two-time Pro Bowler who immediately upgrades the Vikings’ offense. His impact on the ground also adds another dimension to the scheme.

While the Vikings’ cap space will get a little complicated with Jackson’s salary, there are ways Adofo-Mensah could give the Vikings flexibility.

The most important thing is that Jackson would elevate the Vikings into Super Bowl favorite status and extend their window as competitors.

It also allows the Vikings to figure out their long-term option at quarterback without taking a risk through the draft. At 26 years old, Jackson can still go multiple years in the NFL as an impactful quarterback.

In a league that’s won on quarterback play, Jackson is one of the league’s best. Not pursuing him because of “flexibility” would set your franchise back.

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Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire