Ravens QB Lamar Jackson Could Force His Way Out of Baltimore

There has been a great deal of speculation about Lamar Jackson’s future with the Ravens, especially since Baltimore’s season ended with a loss to the Bengals in the Wild Card Round, a game in which the star quarterback didn’t accompany the team to Cincinnati.

It’s a bit unclear if Jackson traveled with the team to other road games aside from this last one. Of course, the week before when they played the Bengals in Baltimore, he was there on the sideline. Everyone saw him. He was smiling and walking around for that one.

There are people who believe whenever you have a knee injury like Jackson does, and some players even mention he’s been limping around in the team building, it might not be worth going on a plane because the swelling could get even worse. One of the main reasons Jackson has yet to return is he still has significant swelling from that injury, which was first reported as one that would keep him out of action for 1-3 weeks. He ended up missing six, never making it back in time for the playoffs. This is the second straight year he has missed the entire back end of the season.

Jackson just completed the fifth and final year of his rookie contract. He does not have an agent, and I think everyone knows that by now.

Last year, Deshaun Watson got $230 million, fully guaranteed, in an unprecedented contract. And Jackson seeks a deal similar in structure, where the raw dollar figure doesn’t matter. It’s the guarantee structure that matters more to him.

When Watson signed his contract last year, only one owner came out publicly and said it was a bad contract: Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.

The Ravens’ final offer before the regular season was a traditional contract. It wasn’t fully guaranteed, and Lamar declined it. He played out this season, got hurt, and didn’t return.

Now, everyone is speculating on where he might end up in 2023. I think I’ve seen a jersey swap of him on almost every team on Twitter already, so everyone understands the situation.

Where it gets really interesting is the franchise-tag dilemma. The Ravens will have from Feb. 21 until March 7 to tag Jackson. That would prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. I think everyone expects them to do so.

However, there are two different types of franchise tags. There’s the exclusive franchise tag and there’s a non-exclusive franchise tag.

If Baltimore placed the exclusive tag on Jackson, it would cost upwards of $40 million per year. Non-exclusive is about $30 million to $33 million per year. The difference is, if Jackson gets the non-exclusive tag, he would have the right to go out and try to find a contract from a different team.

If he signed another team’s offer sheet, the Ravens would have five days to match it, and if they don’t, they would receive two first-round picks from the team signing Jackson.

Considering how much Houston got for Watson (five draft picks, including three first-rounders), getting just two first-round picks is not that much. So it seems unlikely Baltimore will go the non-exclusive route. The exclusive tag makes much more sense.

The question then becomes: does Jackson want to play another season on a fully guaranteed franchise tag after knowing he just had two straight years of getting injured? Because now security is a big deal. So it becomes a situation for Jackson where, if he’s not getting the long-term deal with Watson-like guarantees from Baltimore, does he try to force his way out? And Jackson not having an agent makes it pretty hard for the team to understand what he’s thinking.

READ: Compromise Key for Jackson, Ravens to Strike Deal

The only way we get any new information from Jackson has been through Twitter, which he used a couple of weeks ago to provide an update on his injury. But otherwise, nothing is getting out, which makes sense since the Ravens are one of the best organizations at not allowing sensitive information to leak. So this situation has been more speculation than facts.

The Ravens have until March 7 to make a decision on the franchise tag. From there, maybe Jackson starts pushing a little bit and saying, “You know what, if you’re not giving me what I deserve, what do we do from here? Should I leave?”

Will he force his way out in the end?

Until now, Jackson has not forced much of anything, but the way the season ended felt a bit fishy. We’ll see where it goes in the coming weeks and months. One thing is for sure: this is going to be the offseason of Lamar Jackson.

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