Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the end of the regular season due to a knee injury, and didn’t even make the trip for the team’s Wild Card Round playoff exit against the Cincinnati Bengals -- fueling a belief that his time with the team may be coming to an end.
Jackson, a pending free agent, wants a long-term deal but it’s looking increasing likely he could be tagged and traded, adding another established quarterback to a market the Jets are expected to be heavily interested in.
Should the Jets try to make a deal? Let's break down the pros and cons...
Talent and Production
Jackson has already had plenty of individual success at the NFL level since being drafted in 2018 – 29 spots after the Jets selected Sam Darnold. In his career so far, Jackson has won an MVP award and been a Pro-Bowler twice.
Critics will say he’s only thrown for over 3,000 yards once, but his running ability enhances his offensive contribution, and he’s twice had a thousand-yard rushing season with 14 hundred-yard games in his career.
While he’s best known for his running ability, Jackson led the league in touchdown passes and was third in the league in passer rating in his MVP season in 2019. He was also in the top 10 for yards per attempt and completion percentage. He showed the Jets that when you stop him from running, he can beat you through the air in the season-opener, as he was held to 17 rushing yards but threw for three touchdowns.
Jackson is a dynamic and exciting player who would bring some star quality to the Jets. This will sell tickets and jerseys but, more importantly, could attract some other big stars to the team.
Jackson has posted a win-loss record of 45-16 with the Ravens, whereas the Jets were just 24-58 over the same time period, so he’s a player who has been a leader in a winning program. He led the team to the postseason in four of those five seasons, with some clutch moments, including 10 game-winning drives.
While it’s fair to note that Jackson has had some strong supporting casts while with the Ravens, the Jets believe they have a strong enough defense and offensive playmakers that a serviceable quarterback could take them to the next level. A player who is capable of winning MVP awards could make them a real contender.
Age and Potential
Jackson turned 26 earlier this month and it’s rare for a star quarterback to hit the market this early in their career. All of the other top available quarterbacks this offseason are already in their 30s. If you make this move and it works out, you might not need to worry about the quarterback position again for a decade or maybe even longer.
After five years in the league, Jackson arguably hasn’t even fully developed as a pocket passer and may yet continue to improve that aspect of his game. The Jets would hope that Garrett Wilson is going to develop into an elite receiver, which Jackson hasn’t really had in the past, so that could potentially unlock more production.
The Ravens can control Jackson’s rights via the franchise tag next season, but executives around the league reportedly believe they are set to move on from him -- and some of the social media activity this week was potentially indicative of a relationship that is souring. Despite this, Jackson’s value remains high, and it will cost multiple first round picks to secure his services.
As noted, he’s also seeking a long-term, big money deal. Some believe the Ravens are reluctant to give him this, but Woody Johnson indicated earlier this month that the Jets are prepared to spend big to shore up their quarterback position. Estimates for Jackson’s contract demands are in the region of $50 million per season, though, so it will be a huge commitment.
Jackson has been sidelined with a PCL strain, which is not a career-threatening injury, but the fact he’s missed 12 games in his career gives rise to a longer term concern. There’s a school of thought that suggests running quarterbacks are more likely to get injured because they get hit more over the course of their career. This can work the other way though, as they have the ability to elude big hits.
Jackson will probably be encouraged to continue to get rid of the ball quickly and operate more from within the pocket over the course of his career in an effort to maximize his longevity. Whether this will hold him back or help him take his passing game to the next level is anyone’s guess.
Jackson’s toughness was called into question a bit after it was announced he would sit out Sunday’s playoff game, but nobody really knows what his status was so, it’s difficult to read too much into that.
This is a unique season with several top-level quarterbacks potentially hitting the market. Opportunities to land a quarterback of this caliber don’t come around too often, but when there are other options available, that complicates matters.
Jackson has proven he can play at an elite level, but the concern is that he won’t prove to be worth the massive outlay it will cost to get him. The Jets must consider the upside and potential downside of this move but then also weigh it against every other potential move that could be made at quarterback.
If the Jets don’t get Jackson, he could end up in the AFC East anyway, as oddsmakers currently have the New England Patriots as the favorites to be his next team. While that alone shouldn’t be a major factor in the decision-making process, it could make for a what-if scenario that will be revisited for years to come.