Mike Florio: Commanders Make Most Sense of Possible Destinations for Lamar Jackson
With the Ravens placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, the possibility exists that he might not be taking snaps in Baltimore in 2023. But could the former unanimous MVP still be taking snaps in Maryland?
Of all the potential destinations for Jackson, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said the team that makes the most sense is the Washington Commanders, who play less than 40 miles from M&T Bank Stadium.
"The light first flickered after the Commanders hired [Offensive Coordinator] Eric Bieniemy," Florio wrote. "Coach Ron Rivera admitted during a Super Bowl-week interview with 'PFT Live' that Sam Howell was QB1. Rivera made it clear that, one year after the Commanders literally called every other team to see if they had a quarterback available in trade, the Commanders won't be looking for a veteran starter. Of course, that was before the Ravens gave Jackson a qualified shot at the open market, via the non-exclusive franchise tag.
"Obviously, Lamar is a better option than Howell, from a football standpoint. Jackson would be far more expensive, and the question would become whether the investment makes sense to the team, from an overall roster construction and cap/cash allocation standpoint. From a football standpoint, he clearly would make the Commanders better."
Florio added that regardless of whether or not owner Daniel Snyder is selling the team, "adding Jackson would be the perfect bright, shiny object to distract from the ongoing controversies" surrounding the franchise.
"Giving Jackson a fully-guaranteed deal (which the Ravens likely wouldn't match) also would stick new ownership with the bulk of the bill," Florio wrote. "And it likely wouldn't affect the purchase price. Anyone who owns the team will have cap and cash obligations. Jackson will simply be part of the player payroll for the new owner.
"Then there's the most fascinating point. With fully-guaranteed contracts for veteran players currently frowned upon, Snyder could give his soon-to-be-former partners a gigantic middle finger as he rides his superyacht into the sunset."
NFL Network's Rich Eisen also said "it makes a ton of sense," for the Commanders to pursue Jackson.
But weren't the Commanders one of the teams who reportedly said they weren't going to pursue Jackson shortly after it was announced that the Ravens had placed the non-exclusive tag on him? They were, but that doesn't mean they — or any of the other supposedly uninterested teams — won't.
The Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora wrote: "The barrage of teams leaking that they don't have interest in Lamar Jackson, now available to negotiate with any team on Baltimore's non[exclusive franchise tag, has the league buzzing. Many executives aren't buying it, and multiple high-ranking team officials pointed to the New York Jets and Falcons as franchises that virtually must explore that option."
On a side note, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero noted that no team is allowed to speak with franchise-tagged players such as Jackson before this coming Wednesday. The two-day negotiating period that begins Monday applies only to unrestricted free agents.
Pundit Says Best Outcome for Jackson Is to Remain a Raven
As speculation continues about where Jackson will be playing next season, NFL.com’s Adam Schein said the best place for Jackson to be is in Baltimore.
"Teams like the Falcons, Commanders, Dolphins, Panthers, Raiders and 49ers should be knocking down Jackson's door for his services. Even some teams that aren't outwardly in the quarterback market -- think: Minnesota and Detroit -- should kick these tires," Schein wrote. "On the other hand, Lamar should think long and hard about taking as much money as he can get from the Ravens and ultimately staying put. The franchise is a model of stability, and Jackson's already a Baltimore sports legend. The grass isn't always greener — even if the up-front money is richer."
It's been reported that Jackson is seeking a fully guaranteed, $230 million deal like Deshaun Watson got from the Cleveland Browns last year (Jackson's camp refuted that claim, via Stephen A. Smith), but Schein is of the opinion that Watson's deal is an outlier.
"In the year since, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, Derek Carr and Geno Smith have all signed lucrative deals, but their fully guaranteed money hasn't come close to what Cleveland committed to Deshaun," Schein wrote. "To be frank, Watson didn't deserve Watson money. But he found a QB-starved team willing to pony up. Can Jackson, who obviously doesn't carry Watson's off-field baggage, follow suit? I'll be fascinated to see how this plays out in the coming weeks."
What Type of Offer Could Damage the Ravens' Chances of Retaining Jackson?
It's believed the Ravens are likely to match any offers for Jackson, but The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer said a front-loaded offer could damage Baltimore's chances of retaining him.
"If a team that covets Jackson can stomach losing two first-round picks and offering a potentially historic sum of guaranteed money, its best course of action might be to attack the Ravens where they're weakest: in 2023 cap space," Shaffer wrote.
Shaffer noted that 10 teams could have at least $60 million in cap space this offseason with simple restructures, which convert a player's salary into prorated bonuses over the length of his contract, and 21 teams could have at least $80 million in cap space with maximum restructures, which involve contract extensions and added void years.
"The Ravens do not qualify for either group," Shaffer wrote. "Simple restructures would push their cap space to just $19.2 million, and maximum restructures to just $71.6 million. That could leave them vulnerable. If Jackson signs an offer sheet with a cap hit of, say, $70 million in 2023, it would take considerable cap manipulation for the Ravens to match the offer without strip-mining the rest of their roster."
Chuck Clark Lauded for Going From Sixth-Round Pick to Defensive Stalwart
The Ravens reportedly agreeing to trade safety Chuck Clark to the Jets yesterday in a cost-saving move is an illustration of their salary cap situation.
Clark was a four-year starter, defensive signal-caller, and highly respected player on and off the field, but he was set to enter the final year of his contract and carry a $6.8 salary-cap hit. The Ravens, who last year drafted safety Kyle Hamilton in the first round and signed coveted free-agent safety Marcus Williams, have to clear about $9 million to be under the salary cap before the new league year begins next week.
After the trade was reported, several pundits — as well as Clark's teammate, Marlon Humphrey — took to Twitter to recognize Clark's contributions to the Ravens during his six seasons in Baltimore.
Michael Pierce Reportedly Restructures Contract to Create Cap Space
Another cap-savings move was reported this morning, as NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that nose tackle Michael Pierce restructured his contract in a way that cleared nearly $2.7 million in cap space.
Pierce was playing at a high level last year, but suffered a torn biceps in Week 3 and underwent season-ending surgery. He finished with six tackles.
Ravens Named Ideal Fit for Free Agents Jakobi Meyers, James Bradberry
With wide receiver and cornerback at the top of the list of Ravens' needs this offseason, it's not surprising that a player at each of those positions was named when a couple pundits were asked to match a free agent with the Ravens.
Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers was CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr’s pick as the free agent the Ravens should pursue.
"Rashod Bateman is the No. 1 in Baltimore, but Meyers would be an excellent complement in the slot," Kerr wrote. "While the touchdown numbers haven't been great in his career, Meyers does have 1,670 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over his last two seasons. A great route runner and lethal in the slot, Meyers can put up huge numbers if Jackson returns."
Eagles cornerback James Bradberry was The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec's choice.
"He's considered the best cornerback available," Zrebiec wrote. "In reuniting with his Eagles secondary coach Dennard Wilson, Bradberry would pair nicely with Marlon Humphrey and give the Ravens two quality matchup corners."
On a side note, Chiefs free-agent offensive tackle and former Raven Orlando Brown Jr. was named as an ideal fit for two of Baltimore's AFC North rivals. Kerr said the Steelers should pursue Brown, while The Athletic's Jay Morrison made the case for the Bengals to make a run at him.