The most important issue facing the Baltimore Ravens this offseason is what to do with Lamar Jackson. The former MVP is set to hit free agency, and both the quarterback and front office are trying to come to terms on a long-term contract. However, the two sides are reportedly very far apart in negotiations. If they can’t come to an agreement, should the Ravens consider trading Lamar Jackson for a massive return?
Will the Ravens Trade Lamar Jackson If Contract Talks Stall?
The Current Situation
As things currently stand, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are worlds apart on a potential contract extension. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the two sides could be off by up to $100 million in guaranteed money. Now, it’s still very early in the offseason, so a lot can happen between now and the start of the season, but that is a significant amount of money.
The #Ravens and QB Lamar Jackson "could possibly be" $100 million apart in contract talks over how much guaranteed money should be in his contract, according to @JFowlerESPN
"Those trade calls are coming." Fowler adds. pic.twitter.com/NctB8e56BA
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 5, 2023
From the outside looking in, it appears as though Lamar Jackson is using Deshaun Watson’s fully-guaranteed deal as precedence, while the Ravens are basing their offer on Russell Wilson’s five-year, $242.5 million contract that came with “only” $161 million guaranteed.
The bad news is that both sides have very strong arguments to justify their respective offers. From Jackson’s perspective, he has been just as good, if not better, than Watson since entering the league, and he’s not staring down countless legal battles. If Watson is good enough for a fully-guaranteed contract, then he should also get one.
From Baltimore’s perspective, Watson’s contract is a complete outlier, and the fact that Wilson signed his incentive-laden deal after Watson shows that Watson’s contract shouldn’t be used for comparison. Even if the team was ok with using Watson’s contract as precedent, Jackson’s physical style of play combined with his recent injuries could make the team worry about the quarterback’s long-term health. Jackson has missed a combined 10 games in the past two seasons, and that probably won’t get better with age.
Where Do We Go Now?
It should go without saying that the best version of the 2023 Baltimore Ravens has Lamar Jackson under center. However, if the two sides can’t come to terms on a contract, there comes a point where the team needs to cut their losses, trade Jackson, and build for the future.
Free agency officially begins on March 15th, which means Jackson and the Ravens have a bit over a month to come to terms on a deal. If both sides cannot find common ground, then Baltimore will need to use the franchise tag to keep Jackson from reaching the open market. In a perfect world, both sides will continue to negotiate and agree to terms before the 2023 NFL Draft. If, however, both sides remain far apart prior to the draft, the Ravens will need to think about pursuing a Lamar Jackson trade.
What Could the Ravens Get In A Lamar Jackson Trade?
Based on the Wilson and Watson trades, it’s safe to assume that the Ravens could probably get three first-round picks in exchange for the quarterback’s service. A team like the Atlanta Falcons would probably agree to that, and the Ravens could use the additional draft compensation to find their quarterback of the future.
As of this posting, there are four quarterbacks that have a realistic shot of being a top-five: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson. If the Ravens feel like there are multiple franchise quarterbacks in this draft, then they can wait to see how the board falls and move up if they have to. If, however, they feel like there is only one franchise quarterback in this class, then they could be able to use their three first-round picks to trade up with the Chicago Bears. The Bears have already committed to Justin Fields, and there are reportedly multiple teams already trying to trade for the first-overall pick.
This would certainly be a bold move, but there is nothing more valuable than a franchise quarterback on a rookie deal. If the Ravens don’t want to pay Jackson, they need to make sure they get their guy in the draft.
Main Photo: Mitch Stringer – USA Today Sports