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Late for Work 3/8: Multiple Teams Reportedly Won't Pursue Lamar Jackson. Who's Left, What Could Deals Look Like?

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Multiple Teams Reportedly Won't Pursue Lamar Jackson. Who's Left, What Could Deals Look Like?

After the Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson yesterday, making him eligible to negotiate with other teams, reports began to surface that five teams in particular would not be pursuing him.

The teams mentioned were the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins, Washington Commanders, and Las Vegas Raiders, although a subsequent report by ESPN’s Dianna Russini said the Raiders "haven't eliminated any QB options — including Lamar Jackson."

If the reports are accurate, which teams might have interest in signing Jackson? (As a reminder, if Jackson were to sign an offer sheet with another team, the Ravens would have the opportunity to match. If they choose not to, the Ravens would get that team's next two first-round picks.)

ESPN's Bill Barnwell named 16 teams that should consider trading for Jackson, who according to CBS Sports' Josina Anderson is seeking a contract with more guaranteed money than Deshaun Watson’s $230 million. Barnwell's list included the five aforementioned teams. Here's a look at his top six other teams, along with his thoughts on what a deal would look like:

New York Jets

"The simplest scenario would see the Jets sign Jackson to an offer sheet and send the No. 13 overall pick in 2023 and a first-rounder in 2024. They could try to reduce the cost of the deal by including [wide receiver Elijah] Moore, who might need a change of scenery after a frustrating 2022. The Ravens could try to get [quarterback Zach] Wilson in the deal to develop him as a reclamation project, but Wilson would probably fetch only a mid-to-late-round pick if New York included him in the package."

Indianapolis Colts

"If the Ravens are going to take two first-round picks for Jackson, the best offer they're likely to get would come from the Colts. There's a chance they land two top-five picks as part of that deal (if Indy bottoms out in 2023). If they're ready to move on from the 2019 MVP, the No. 4 pick would be a huge building block as Baltimore GM [Eric] DeCosta plans out the team's future."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

"If the Bucs wanted to avoid sending two first-round picks to the Ravens for Jackson, they could include a significant player by adding [wide receiver Chris] Godwin, which would help create cap space at the cost of losing a star receiver. At 27, Godwin would be worth more than a first-round pick in a possible trade, but it likely would take Godwin and a first-rounder to get Jackson to Tampa."

Chicago Bears

Bears get: QB Lamar Jackson, 2023 22nd-overall pick (from Ravens), 2024 second-round pick, 2025 third-round pick (from Colts)

Ravens get: QB Justin Fields (from Bears), 2023 fourth-overall pick, 2024 first-round pick (from Colts)

Colts get: 2023 first-overall pick (from Bears), 2024 fourth-round pick, 2025 fourth-round pick (from Ravens)

"Here's one way every team would land what it wants. The Bears would get three first-round picks for the top selection and immediately ship two of them to the Ravens for Jackson, while also landing second- and third-round picks for Fields. The Colts would trade up from No. 4 to No. 1 and sacrifice their top two picks in 2024 (and a third-rounder in 2025) to get their pick of the quarterbacks.

The Ravens, meanwhile, would trade Jackson and their own first-round pick and land both Fields and two first-rounders from the Colts, including the No. 4 overall selection. Landing at No. 4 would give the Ravens a chance to either trade down for more selections or to go after the best defensive player available."

Houston Texans

"The dream scenario for the Texans would be to hold on to the No. 2 overall selection and trade the 12th pick as the focal point of a package for Jackson. … Would the Ravens be willing to settle for one first-round pick if it were the No. 2 selection? Landing there would give the Ravens the ability to directly draft Jackson's replacement, whether that becomes Bryce Young, Will Levis, C.J. Stroud or [Anthony] Richardson. Most advanced draft models would suggest picks later in the first round and early in the second round are more efficient selections after accounting for cost, but the Ravens might not be able to land a quarterback with those selections. It's a fun idea, but the Texans probably would prefer to hold on to the No. 2 pick and send No. 12 and a 2024 first-rounder to Baltimore."

Tennessee Titans

"The Ravens likely would want the baseline deal of the No. 11 overall pick and that 2024 first-round pick from the Titans, especially given how Tennessee is turning over its roster. I'm not sure [quarterback Ryan] Tannehill has much trade value given his $27 million base salary in 2023, although the Ravens could pursue him as a Jackson replacement after he gets cut."

Why Falcons' Supposed Interest in Jackson Never Made Sense

As discussed in yesterday’s Late for Work, the Falcons were the team most often mentioned as a potential suitor for Jackson. The speculation seemed to be validated when Heavy On Sports' Matt Lombardo reported yesterday that "the Lamar Jackson conversation between the Ravens and Falcons progressed tremendously in Indianapolis" at the Combine.

That's why it was surprising when Russini reported that the Falcons were out on Jackson.

However, The Athletic's Josh Kendall wasn't surprised.

"The news that the Falcons aren't going to be involved drew a decidedly negative reaction from the most vocal online segment of the team's fan base Tuesday afternoon," Kendall wrote, "but the move never made a lot of sense based on what we know about General Manager Terry Fontenot and Coach Arthur Smith.

"Since taking over two years ago, that duo has taken the team from salary cap jail to second-most money in the league but it has taken some hard decisions and a 14-20 record to get there. To then essentially hand the fate of the franchise to the health and happiness of one player always felt like too long a bridge for the Falcons to cross. That being said, this is the team that was in the Deshaun Watson pursuit until its final days last offseason. Maybe the team's early exit from this situation is a sign of a lesson learned. Or maybe it's an indicator of the Falcons' faith in Desmond Ridder."

Robert Griffin III: Ravens Hope Non-Exclusive Tag Will Speed Up Stalled Negotiations With Jackson

While the possibility of Jackson leaving Baltimore will continue to dominate talk shows, let's not lose sight of the fact that the Ravens have repeatedly made it clear that signing Jackson to a long-term contract remains the goal. DeCosta reiterated that point in a statement yesterday.

ESPN analyst and former Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III reported that the "Ravens aren't reluctant to give Lamar a top QB market deal, but hope the Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag will speed up their own stalled negotiations with him."

The Ringer’s Ben Solak noted that history suggests the Ravens and Jackson will reach an agreement at some point.

"So we haven't seen a quarterback actually get signed to an offer sheet on the nonexclusive tag this century— and that's what the Ravens are banking on here. It seems like a good bet," Solak wrote. "Yesterday, I was confident that Lamar would have a large market in this quasi-free agency, but with the Falcons and the Panthers already out, it looks like interest in signing Lamar to a massive guaranteed deal—and sending two first-round picks away in the process —is waning.

"If Lamar discovers the appetite for a fully guaranteed deal is not present anywhere in the NFL, he may return to the negotiating table with the Ravens and hammer out a long-term contract that meets the Ravens on their terms. Because Jackson is a tagged player, he will be eligible to sign an extension with the Ravens up until a July 17 deadline. The longer this goes on, the more leverage the Ravens gain."

Peter King Proposes Short-Term Deal for Jackson to Stay in Baltimore

NBC Sports’ Peter King said he has no doubt that the Ravens are sincere in their stated intention to sign Jackson. Going on the assumption that a fully guaranteed contract is the sticking point, King proposed a compromise.

"My idea: Baltimore tries to sign Jackson to a short-term guaranteed deal. Maybe two years, $85 million, or three years, $125 million. Or if Jackson is dead-set on eclipsing the $45-million average for Deshaun Watson (I don't know that he is), Baltimore bites the bullet and makes it two years for $92 million, for example."

King said that Jackson wouldn't get the security he wants, but he doesn't see the Ravens doing a full guarantee for five years.

"If I'm the team, I want Jackson badly, but not enough to guarantee him his money five years into the future after he's missed so much time hurt," King wrote. "If the injury trend continues, or gets worse, the team would be spending a fifth of its salary cap, let's say, on a player not playing. The advantage for Jackson if he signs for two years and plays at his expected level: He'd be a free agent again at age 28, in his absolute prime, and probably able to demand (and get) a contract averaging much more as the cap rises. Say, $65 million a year.

"I doubt either side would be happy with this compromise. Jackson wouldn't be making the big score, and the Ravens would be faced with reliving this nightmare in less than two or three years. But as in most compromises, it's necessary because neither side finds a deal it likes. This deal, I think both sides could tolerate."

Regarding a fully guaranteed deal, former NFL executive Joe Banner said the odds are good that Jackson would ultimately end up with 100 percent of his contract even if it's not fully guaranteed.

"I think Lamar has viewed himself as somebody who's standing up for the collective good of the platers and the opportunity to potentially leverage the Watson contract in getting himself a fully guaranteed contract and what that could mean as we get down the road," Banner said on "The Rich Eisen Show. "I think he's taken that on as a cause. I don't think it's just his contract anymore.

"The reality, despite what you hear, is if you're 25 years old and you're a top-tier player, the chances that you're going to collect a hundred percent of your contract are extraordinarily high. So if he has an offer in front of him, the average is fair, the length is something he can live with, and he's fighting to get more of it guaranteed, he's fighting for something that has almost no chance of mattering."

How Tagging Jackson Affects the Salary Cap

The cap hit for placing the non-exclusive tag on Jackson is $32.4 million, which took the Ravens from $22 million under the cap to $9 million over it. They have until 4 p.m. ET next Wednesday to get under the cap.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley looked at what the Ravens can do to get there.

"The Ravens can create $15 million in cap space by cutting defensive end Calais Campbell ($7 million cap savings), safety Chuck Clark ($3.64 million) and running back Gus Edwards ($4.384 million)," Hensley wrote. "Baltimore can make more room by reaching contract extensions with guard Kevin Zeitler and wide receiver Devin Duvernay."

Hensley noted that the Ravens need cap space not only to get Jackson under the cap, but also to make improvements to the roster.

"The Ravens have five draft picks, their fewest since 1999, and they need to upgrade at wide receiver and add a starting cornerback," Hensley wrote. "In other words, Jackson's tag severely limits what the Ravens can do to build a championship team around him."

The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon said that restructuring some existing contracts is an option, but it comes with risk.

"This year, according to Over The Cap, the Ravens could create roughly $19.2 million in salary cap space by once again tweaking deals with [Marlon] Humphrey ($7.3 million) and [Ronnie] Stanley ($7.5 million), as well as tight end Mark Andrews ($4.5 million)," Doon wrote.

"While such moves would greatly benefit the 2023 Ravens, they would leave future iterations of the team in peril. Along with pushing those inevitable salary cap hits into the future, the Ravens would be inviting risk if a player is severely injured or struggles over the course of his contract, as any salary that is converted into a bonus becomes guaranteed money."

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