Analysis

Lamar Jackson, 5 Other NFL Players In Need of Scenery Change in 2023

“Home sweet home” doesn’t necessarily apply to professional sports. For many athletes, another time-honored slogan sometimes fits: “Get me out of here.”

There are plenty of NFL players who are in need of a scenery change after this season. Mike Tannenbaum, a former front-office executive for the Jets and Dolphins and current analyst for The 33rd Team, offers six:

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Jackson simply can’t stay on the field, and Baltimore is no contender without him. He has been absent for 13 games since late in his MVP 2019 season, and his injuries over the past two seasons wrecked the team’s fortunes. Baltimore has gone 4-9 in those contests, scoring just 82 points (13.6 average) in the six games he missed this season, including a 24-17 loss to the Bengals in the Wild Card Round.

And he’s now in contract limbo.

“With the Lamar Jackson situation, it seems like what has happened with the contract has led to a lot of frayed feelings,” Tannenbaum said. “Sometimes a fresh start is good for everyone. I’m not saying it is beyond repair, but I think it would serve everyone well to move on. It could be a team like Atlanta or the Jets; a lot of teams would be interested in Lamar.”

The Falcons stand out as a possible suitor because coach Arthur Smith maxed out the talents of Ryan Tannehill when he was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. Atlanta has a strong running game, instability at quarterback, and the salary cap room (more than $50 million) to pay what Jackson would command.

Jameis Winston, QB, New Orleans Saints

Sticking with quarterbacks, where might Winston land? Probably not back in New Orleans, where he made only 14 appearances in three seasons. If released, the Saints would have a dead-cap hit of $15.2 million.

“I’m a big fan of Jameis, and I think a fresh start would help him,” Tannenbaum said. “He’s a more traditional quarterback than Lamar. I think he is somebody who should sign a one-year deal and prove himself quickly, then get back in 2024 with a more notable deal. He should bet on himself for another year. Jameis has an unbelievable amount of ability.”

Derek Carr almost certainly will be traded or released by Las Vegas and would benefit from a new start, and New Orleans seems like a logical landing spot, given the need and how the city embraces community-active quarterbacks (think: Drew Brees). But the market should be hot for Carr, who will likely have several suitors, including the Jets, Colts, Texans, Commanders and Panthers.

Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets

The second-year quarterback has been a major disappointment for the Jets. He has flashed talent with his arm but the situation in New York seems toxic at best at this point. This feels like a situation where both sides should want a split; the Jets invest in a new quarterback for the future and Wilson gets a fresh start in a new city.

“I would trade him and see if I could get a third-round pick and take your losses,” Tannenbaum said. “Then the Jets could sign a veteran guy or trade for one.”

Maybe Carr. Maybe Jimmy Garoppolo. Or Aaron Rodgers? It wouldn’t be the first time a future Hall of Fame Packers quarterback landed in the Big Apple.

Trey Lance vs. Seattle

Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Brock Purdy has changed the thinking here dramatically in what he has done over the past two months. The consensus had been that Garoppolo would be the quarterback leaving the Bay Area as a free agent, not Lance, but maybe the Niners find a way to keep him instead, as insurance behind Purdy.

“I don’t think a trade will happen, but he can’t really get on the field, and Tennessee has a new general manager, Ran Carthon, who comes from San Francisco,” Tannenbaum said. “And it doesn’t look like it has worked out there for Lance.”

Lance is young enough and is still on a team-friendly rookie deal that there would certainly be a trade market for him. He was all set to be the 49ers’ starter in 2022 before an ankle injury ended his season in Week 2. The ankle required a second surgery in December, but by all accounts he appears set to return to action by the start of OTAs in May.

The question remains: Will it be in San Francisco or someplace else?

Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins

A year ago, Miami placed the franchise tag on their tight end, guaranteeing him a salary of $10 million in 2022. It doesn’t appear the Dolphins will make an attempt to re-sign Gesicki to a long-term deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, and Gesicki himself seemed to acknowledge as much Wednesday that his final days in Miami are behind him.

“I’m not sure what the next step has in store for me and I’m not positive where it will be, but if my time in Miami has come to an end I will forever cherish every moment and be grateful for the highs and lows,” Gesicki wrote in a message to fans on Twitter. “No matter what and no matter where, the show goes on.”

Gesicki is coming off a down year (32 receptions, 362 yards and five touchdowns) in Mike McDaniel’s explosive offense. He seemed to be the forgotten man with the Dolphins, who have heavily invested in the wide receiver position with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

“If he gets into an offense that moves him around the way they did in Jacksonville with Evan Engram, he can be a real asset to a team,” said Tannenbaum, who believes Cincinnati would be an excellent fit.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Elliott is coming off the worst year of his career (231 carries, 876 yards, 3.8 yards per catch) while being outshined by backfield mate Tony Pollard. It could be time for a mutual split as the Cowboys invest in their emerging running back (Pollard), and Elliott can take on a role with another team.

The 27-year-old Elliott signed a six-year extension in 2019 worth an average of $15 million per year. Only Christian McCaffrey ($16M) has a larger per-year average. He received $12.4 million in this season, but the remaining four years have no guaranteed money. With Pollard’s emergence as a legitimate RB1, it seems like Elliott’s days are numbered in Dallas.

“He could stay on a pay cut, but sometimes it’s easier for a guy like Zeke to take a pay cut someplace else,” Tannenbaum said.

Mike Tannenbaum, the co-founder of The 33rd Team, is a former front-office executive for the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. Follow him on Twitter at @RealTannenbaum.

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