'Historic Event' Begins Today, As Teams Can Negotiate Directly With Lamar Jackson
At 4 p.m. ET today, Lamar Jackson is officially open for business.
At that time, the Ravens quarterback can begin negotiating a long-term deal with other teams. If Jackson ends up signing an offer sheet, the Ravens would have five days to match. If Baltimore chose not to match the offer, it would receive two first-round picks from the team.
If this all sounds unprecedented, that's because it is.
"This is a historic event," NFL Network analyst and former New York Giants executive Marc Ross told The Baltimore Banner. "There's really no one of his caliber at this stage in his career that this has happened to."
Kyle Brandt of "Good Morning Football" said: "At 4 p.m., maybe the most talented athlete we've ever seen at quarterback can be explored, negotiated with, bargained with, begged, pleaded, recruited – you name it – by as many as, who knows, could be a dozen, 15, half the teams in the league who say, 'I like our quarterback, but it's just not working. Let's go and get Lamar Jackson.'"
Not only is it a unique situation because of Jackson's status as a former unanimous league MVP and one of the sport's most electrifying players, but also because he is acting as his own agent.
"At 4 o'clock, do you call his personal cell phone number? Don't know. Do you call his mother? Don't know. Is there a hotline? I have no idea," Brandt said. "But you call, and maybe there's a lawyer who answers the phone and you say, 'Hi, this is such-and-such team. We're interested in really talking turkey with Lamar Jackson. We'd like to make you the face of our franchise and we're going to give you all the money in the world.' That's crazy to me. That's not only a transaction in free agency. That's NFL history."
There's been ample speculation about which teams may or may not be interested in pursuing Jackson, and there are reasons why teams could be wary.
For one, since the Ravens have repeatedly made it clear that their goal is to sign Jackson to a long-term deal, the prevailing opinion is that the Ravens will match.
While that would surely be frustrating for the team that made the offer, there are tangible consequences beyond simply having wasted their time.
"Under league rules, any signed offer sheet counts against the team's cap as if it were finalized," The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "So if a suitor were to design a front-loaded contract, knowing that the Ravens would labor to find enough financial flexibility to match a 2023 cap hit of $50 million, $60 million or more, a sizable chunk of their budget would vanish with it. … The money freed up on their salary cap would have little power to help build a winning team in a free-agent market that, by then, would likely be plucked clean of its top available talents."
The other issue facing a team who was to make a failed attempt to sign Jackson is the message it would send to its current quarterback.
"Few scenarios would create a bigger headache for a front office than one in which Jackson signs an offer sheet, only for the Ravens to match it," Shaffer wrote. "One surefire way to make it worse? Have a young starting quarterback who's just found out that the team doesn't believe in him anymore. Or at least not as much as his coach and general manager said they did."
Brandt summed up the entire, history-making situation thusly: "The Lamar thing is enigmatic as hell. I cannot wait."
Will Ravens Tender Tyler Huntley?
While the Jackson contract situation continues to be discussed and debated, a decision regarding the future of another Ravens quarterback is imminent.
The Ravens have until 4 p.m. ET today to decide whether to tender a contract to their six restricted free agents, one of whom is backup quarterback Tyler Huntley.
"Huntley might represent the toughest decision of them all," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens have had discussions about bringing in a more experienced veteran backup, which, assuming Jackson is back, would leave Huntley as the No. 3 quarterback. That certainly could impact just how much the team would be willing to pay Huntley. However, if the Ravens non-tender him, the only quarterback on their roster in mid-March would be second-year undrafted free agent Anthony Brown.
"The idea behind the Ravens spending some money on the backup quarterback position wasn't based on finding a replacement if Jackson leaves. It was more about finding a more experienced option if Jackson's late-season injury woes persist, and a contingency plan if the quarterback opts to hold out from training camp as a result of his contract stalemate."
The top options on the backup quarterback market are Baker Mayfield and Jacoby Brissett. The Buccaneers have been rumored to be interested in Mayfield.
"Behind them are former starters Carson Wentz, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan," Zrebiec wrote. "And then there are a group of younger options, such as Cooper Rush, Gardner Minshew, Drew Lock and Mason Rudolph. The Ravens could easily just tender Huntley and stand pat, choosing to spend their limited cap dollars elsewhere. There are options, however, if they go in a different direction."
Two 'Best Fits' for Ravens in Agree Agency Reportedly Off the Market
It was noted in yesterday’s Late for Work that wide receiver Allen Lazard and edge rusher Arden Key were named as the best free-agent fits for the Ravens at their respective positions by The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker.
Well so much for that.
According to reports, Lazard and the New York Jets are finalizing a four-year, $44 million contract, and Key is signing a three-year, $21 million deal with the Tennessee Titans.
The good news for the Ravens is that the wide receiver market hasn't exploded like it has in recent years, and there are a number of viable options available via free agency or trade.