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What will the Ravens do with Lamar Jackson's contract?

Baltimore Ravens vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

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When Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson refused to accept the team’s best offer before the start of the season because it was not a full five-year guarantee (like Deshaun Watson‘s contract), it seemed likely that the Ravens would apply the Jackson-exclusive franchise tag for 2023. With the Ravens one loss away from heading into their offseason, is that still the case?

This may not be the case.

The Ravens may decide that now is the time to let Lamar get a taste of the offers other teams would (or wouldn’t) make, thinking that (like the Ravens) no one else would give him a five-year, fully guaranteed contract. . This could happen in three different ways.

First, the Ravens could apply the non-exclusive tag. It would be significantly cheaper than the exclusive tag, and it would give teams the ability to negotiate with Jackson and get him to sign an offer sheet. However, the team that ultimately signs Jackson should be prepared to give up a pair of first-round picks if/when the Ravens don’t match the offer Jackson accepts. It could also open the door to a trade deal with the Ravens for fewer than two first-round picks.

Any deal under the non-exclusive label would be dependent on Jackson and a new team brokering a deal he deems acceptable. That becomes harder to do if the new team were to also give the Ravens a package that would presumably include at least one first-round pick.

Second, the Ravens could just let Jackson become an unrestricted, no-cap free agent. At this point, Jackson should try to navigate between the various options available, taking advantage of one team against the other until someone (ideally) offers him a fully guaranteed five-year contract. He would most likely learn very quickly that no one would give him that kind of contract. He might also learn that, of all the offers available, the deal the Ravens are willing to sign remains the fairest and most appropriate – assuming the Ravens would still offer what they were offering before the start of the game. season.

Third, the Ravens could apply the transition tag to Jackson. Even cheaper than the non-exclusive franchise tag, the transition tag might be the best compromise between letting Jackson into the open market and hampering his prospects with the compensation the franchise tag requires. The Ravens would have the right to match the offer sheet signed by Lamar with a new team. It would then be up to Jackson to go negotiate an acceptable deal.

What would someone else offer? Who would break ranks like the Browns did with a fully guaranteed five-year contract? Would anyone at this point, especially after Jackson finished two straight seasons unable to play due to injury?

Either way, Jackson would find out what’s going on. Or what does not exist. And the Ravens would have a chance to match the best offer Jackson finds elsewhere.

This approach carries the risk that Jackson and a new team will craft an offer sheet that the Ravens won’t match or can’t match. But if Jackson, without an agent, can’t strike a deal to stay in Baltimore, would he be able to finalize an offer sheet specifically aimed at getting the Ravens to refuse to match? Or would he just insist on a fully guaranteed five-year deal, holding no talks for anything other than that?

The reality for the Ravens is that every option at this point comes with risk. At some point over the next few weeks, the team will need to make a strategic decision about which set of risks they are most willing to take on, and choose accordingly – with an eye at all times to give Jackson a lucky to see there’s no one… willing to give Jackson the kind of guarantees the Ravens refuse to provide.

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