Mike Florio Expects Ravens to Use Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag on Lamar Jackson
With the two-week window for application of the franchise tag beginning today, speculation about which tag the Ravens will place on Lamar Jackson is heating up.
If a long-term deal has not been reached by March 7 at 4 p.m. ET, the Ravens will apply the franchise tag on Jackson. 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.
"Our current guess is that, unless the exclusive franchise tender dips below $40 million, the Ravens will be inclined to go the non-exclusive route," Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio wrote. "That would give them the ability to match any offer sheet Jackson signs, to take a pair of first-round picks if they choose not to match, or to otherwise work out a trade.
"And if no one will give Jackson the five-year, fully-guaranteed contract he wants, he'll have to decide whether to play for the Ravens on a one-year tender and do it all over again in 2024, or to accept the best offer the Ravens will make on a long-term deal."
Florio suggested that a trade could be the end result, for something less than two first-round picks, "especially if it's the Falcons (with the eighth overall pick) or the Panthers (with the ninth) that try to get Jackson."
Florio continued: "In lieu of waiting for someone who drafts lower in round one signing Jackson to an offer sheet (or having him sign an offer sheet after the 2023 draft, putting 2024 and 2025 first-round picks in play), the Ravens could accept a top-10 pick and maybe a second-rounder or a third-rounder in 2023, or perhaps a conditional pick in 2024 based on Jackson's playing time in 2023."
A few weeks ago, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said he expected the Ravens to use the exclusive tag on Jackson.
"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."
Unlike Florio and Rapoport, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer wouldn't hazard a guess as to which tag the Ravens apply.
"Which way will the Ravens go? To me, it's still incredibly unpredictable, because Jackson has handled this the same way he plays — uniquely," Breer wrote.
Breer noted that "each tag sends a very different message."
"The [non-exclusive tag] exposes the Ravens to another team signing Jackson to an offer sheet and finding a way to (even though it's technically against the rules) poison-pill the contract for the Ravens. To do it, Baltimore has to at least be comfortable with moving on from Jackson and getting two first-round picks in return," Breer wrote. "The latter would take Jackson off the market completely, and say, more or less, He's going nowhere.
"So why wouldn't the Ravens just put the exclusive tag on him? Mostly because it would make a contract harder to negotiate. Your starting point, off that tag, would have to be a two-year guarantee of over $100 million (the sum of two exclusive franchise tags), because that's the route you'd have to persuade Jackson not to take. And even then, he'd have the option to not sign it, with no penalty for not showing up until September (when he'd start losing game checks off that tag)."
Has the Ravens' Super Bowl Window Closed?
The Ravens have made the playoffs in four of the past five seasons, but they have just one postseason win during that span. Is their Super Bowl window still open?
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks named eight teams with the biggest Super Bowl windows entering the 2023 season, and the Ravens were not among them.
Five of the eight teams on Brooks' list reside in the AFC, with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs at No. 1, followed by the Cincinnati Bengals (No. 3), Los Angeles Chargers (No. 5), Buffalo Bills (No. 7), and upstart Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 8).
The uncertainty surrounding Jackson's future in Baltimore obviously looms large, but there's no question the Ravens have a lot of pieces in place on both sides of the ball. General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh both made it clear last month during the Ravens' season-review press conference that they believe the team is in position to remain a legitimate contender for years to come.
"When we look at the team, and when we look at the roster, we see the talent that we have, [and] I think John and I are both encouraged that we have the potential to build something that's sustainable over a long period of time," DeCosta said. "We can win a lot of football games – we've seen it – and we can go very far in the playoffs [with] John as a head coach and with the right players on the field."
Harbaugh said: "We're kind of on a curve of building this football team right now, and we have been on it for about three years, I'd say, putting this thing together. You can see the pieces coming together; you can see it coming together on the field in terms of scheme and process, personnel and coaching. A lot of hard work has gone into it, and I think it's starting to become apparent where we're going. So, I'm really excited about it."
Ravens Are Ideal Fit for Three Top-50 Free Agents
ESPN's Matt Bowen ranked the top 50 free agents and identified the best team fit for each. The Ravens were named the ideal fit for three players:
"With new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken in Baltimore, the Ravens can build a system around Jackson's dynamic traits at the position — one that features QB run-game elements, play-action and a detailed dropback route tree to scheme against opposing coverages. The franchise tag should be a starting point to securing Jackson on a multiyear contract after Jackson totaled 2,242 passing yards and 742 rushing yards before missing the final six games of the 2022 season with a knee injury."
36. WR DJ Chark
"The Ravens would be adding a vertical stretch target on the perimeter for Jackson. Chark averaged 16.7 yards per reception in 11 games for Detroit last season, separating on deep balls and finding open voids on schemed in-breakers. In five pro seasons, he has caught 18 touchdowns, and at 6-foot-4, he could give the Ravens someone who can win on the boundary. Baltimore was last in the NFL last season in wide receiver yardage (1,517)."
48. DE Jadeveon Clowney
"I'm putting Clowney with Baltimore on a one-year deal; I like the fit as a rotational sub-package defender in Mike Macdonald's defense. While his production declined in 2022 (two sacks), Clowney still has the physical tools of a straight-line power rusher who can win defined one-on-ones and set a hard edge against the run out of the Ravens' multiple fronts."
On a side note, the Bills were named the best fit for guard Ben Powers (No. 40).
Ravens Encouraged to Re-Sign This Under-the-Radar Free Agent
Next Gen Stats named veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston one of 14 under-the-radar free agents who should be kept off the market by their teams.
"The edge rusher showed few signs of his age in his 12th NFL season, leading the Ravens with 36 pressures," the Next Gen Stats analytics team wrote via NFL.com. "Houston maintains his twitchy burst off the ball — he averaged a pass-rush get-off of 0.75 seconds, the fourth-quickest in the NFL (minimum of 250 pass rushes). That translated into a sack rate of 3.7 percent, a number that trailed only three players: Brandon Graham, Nick Bosa and Haason Reddick."
Houston, who turned 34 last month, led the Ravens with 9.5 sacks, his most productive season since 2019 with the Indianapolis Colts.
After the Ravens' loss to the Bengals in the playoffs, Houston indicated that he doesn't plan to retire and would like to be back in Baltimore next season.
"The way I feel right now – I'll be back," Houston said. "We'll see if the chips work out, and I'll be here. That's out of my control. We'll see what they do. I'd like to be back here."
Three Ravens (So Far) Among Pro Football Focus' Top 101 Players of 2022
Pro Football Focus has started its countdown of the top 101 players of the 2022 season, with Nos. 51-101 being revealed thus far.
Three Ravens have made the rankings to this point:
74. Mark Andrews
"Despite dealing with no real threat at wide receiver for most of the year and backup quarterbacks for some of it, Andrews remained elite for the Ravens. He caught 73 of the 110 targets thrown his way, dropping just four passes all season."
91. Kyle Hamilton
"Baltimore's rookie safety had people worried in the preseason after some tough reps in practice and preseason games, but he looked like the assured college star once the games counted for real in the regular season. He became particularly adept as the season wore on at covering the slot against tight ends and running backs."
"Jackson played in just 13 games in 2022 — his second straight injury-marred year — but those games saw him approach some of his best play again. He finished with a 5.0% big-time throw rate while adding 47 first downs and 6.9 yards per carry on the ground."