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Late for Work 2/1: Ian Rapoport Expects Ravens Would Use Exclusive Franchise Tag on Lamar Jackson

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Ian Rapoport Expects Ravens to Use Exclusive Franchise Tag on Lamar Jackson

If the Ravens are unable to sign Jackson to a long-term deal within the next few weeks, they will have a window between Feb. 21 to March 7 to place either the exclusive or non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson to avoid him becoming a free agent.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said he senses that Jackson will get the exclusive tag.

"Because here's why," Rapoport said on "The Pat McAfee Show." "If they give him the non-exclusive tag, then someone can sign Lamar Jackson to an offer sheet and get him with the price of two first-rounders. If it's the exclusive tag, it costs Baltimore more. However, if at some point, and I don't think they will, but if at some point they ever want to trade him, they set the price. So it'd be two, maybe more than two first-rounders. So if they get the exclusive tag, it basically raises the price in the event of a trade, which I don't think is going to happen."

The non-exclusive tag number for quarterbacks is $32.4 million. The exclusive franchise tag number has not been announced yet; it currently projects to be $45.248 million.

If the Ravens tag Jackson, they will have until July 15 to sign him to an extension before he would be locked into the tag next season.

As Rapoport noted and General Manager Eric DeCosta emphasized in the Ravens' season review press conference three weeks ago, the Ravens' intention remains to sign Jackson to a long-term contract. When asked if the Ravens had made a decision on which tag they would give Jackson, DeCosta said he's "thought about it every day."

"I would love to be able to go down there and not have to talk about Lamar Jackson because we got a deal done," DeCosta said. "But no matter what, we will have a plan in place like we always do. We've been down this road before in different ways with different players, and we'll do what we think is best for the club."

Ravens Have 'Pretty Good Reason to be Optimistic About Next Season'

Now that we're more than two weeks removed from the Ravens' heartbreaking loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild-card round, The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker and C.J. Doon took stock of the state of the Ravens and assessed how much optimism there should be for the 2023 season.

"On a scale of one to 10, call it a six," Walker said. "The Ravens' wild-card loss in Cincinnati confirmed what we knew all season: they could compete with anyone for 60 minutes. It also confirmed that even with a decent offensive performance, they would struggle to score enough points to knock off the league's best. But the Ravens will spend the offseason knowing they came as close as anyone to shutting down one of the NFL's hottest teams."

Doon wrote: "They were a 98-yard fumble return away from beating the team that almost returned to the Super Bowl. I'd say that's a pretty good reason to be optimistic about next season. [Mike] Macdonald might already be one of the best defensive coordinators in the league, and the Ravens could have a more balanced attack next season with a healthy Jackson and a new offensive coordinator. Nobody is interested in moral victories in January, but at the end of the day, the Ravens went punch-for-punch against an elite team with their backup quarterback."

Walker said the Ravens have the defense, offensive line and running game to win now, and as long as Jackson is under center "the Ravens' 2022 performance will be the floor for what they can accomplish in 2023."

Doon expressed a similar sentiment, writing: "Assuming Jackson returns and jells with his new offensive coordinator, the Ravens will have a fighting chance against the Bengals, Chiefs and Bills."

When discussing which player they are most eager to watch when the team reassembles next summer, Walker went with wide receiver Rashod Bateman, while Doon chose running back J.K. Dobbins.

"[Bateman] has flashed elite talent, beating cornerbacks with sharp moves off the line of scrimmage and snatching balls out of the air in traffic. He has also dropped passes at crucial moments and has played just 18 games over his first two seasons," Walker wrote. "[John] Harbaugh said Bateman will soon be healthy enough to run at full speed and will have a full offseason to prepare for training camp. He wants to be great, and the Ravens desperately need him to get there."

Regarding Dobbins, Doon wrote: "We saw how good he could be as a rookie in 2020, when he led the league with 6.0 yards per carry. While still recovering from a major knee injury, which eventually required a second surgery, he averaged 5.7 yards per carry this past season. If Dobbins can regain the burst and balance that makes him nearly impossible to bring down, the Ravens will have one of the best running backs in the league at the center of their offense."

Kevin Zeitler's Wife Addresses Retirement Speculation

Yesterday’s Late for Work spotlighted an article by The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, in which he identified key players the Ravens will have to make a decision on this offseason. One of them was right guard Kevin Zeitler.

Zrebiec wrote: "He has never mentioned publicly that he's considering retirement, but the first order of business will be making sure he wants to return for a 12th NFL season."

In response, Sara Zeitler took to Twitter to shed light on her husband's intentions.

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