Ravens Reportedly Considering Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag; What That Means for the Roster
The NFL Scouting Combine ended this weekend, but not without one final intriguing report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. According to the insider, the Ravens have "strongly considered using the non-exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Lamar Jackson."
The deadline for applying the franchise tag is tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET.
Fowler noted the tag would be $32 million, nearly $13 million cheaper than the exclusive option.
This morning, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that while General Manager Eric DeCosta met with Jackson in Miami recently, "the situation appears headed towards a franchise tag Tuesday."
DeCosta said at the Combine that he hoped to get a long-term deal with Jackson done before the franchise tag deadline, but even if the tag is applied, the two sides can continue working towards a deal.
The question pundits are now waiting for an answer to is which tag the Ravens will apply.
If the Ravens use the non-exclusive tag, they still need to make cuts elsewhere to get under the cap. They'll be given a week to do so, as teams must be cap complaint by March 15. According to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, they'll need to part ways with a few of their own.
"This is the other side of the Jackson tag debate that isn't getting as much attention as it probably should," Zrebiec wrote. "If Jackson is on the tag through the March 15 start of the new league year, the Ravens will be forced to open up other roster holes to make the cap work. Campbell, running back Gus Edwards ($4.4 million in cap savings), wide receiver/return specialist Devin Duvernay ($4.3 million), nose tackle Michael Pierce ($2.1 million) and safety Chuck Clark ($3.5 million) are all potential salary-cap casualties. In a perfect world, all would stay. If DeCosta and company were more desperate for space, they could also look at players such as fullback Patrick Ricard ($1.6 million) and right tackle Morgan Moses ($2.5 million)."
If the Ravens were to make such moves, Zrebiec notes the depth at certain areas becomes thin quickly.
"If Campbell goes, the Ravens probably have to find a starting interior defensive lineman somewhere. If Edwards moves on, J.K. Dobbins would be the only running back on the roster," Zrebiec wrote. "If Duvernay is jettisoned, that wide receiver depth chart gets even more concerning. Difficult decisions, indeed. So much is at stake with these Jackson negotiations."
Applying the non-exclusive tag would be significantly cheaper and require fewer roster cuts, but would allow Jackson to negotiate a deal with another team. If he reached an agreement, the Ravens would have the opportunity to match it. If they did not, Baltimore would get two first-round picks.
PFF Breaks Down Non-Exclusive Tag Scenarios
Regarding the non-exclusive franchise tag, PFF’s Gordon McGuinness covered scenarios in the event of a team signing Jackson and sending two first-round picks to the Ravens in exchange, starting with the Houston Texans or Indianapolis Colts.
"If the Texans or Colts signed Jackson, and the Ravens got Pick Nos. 2 or 4 and a 2024 first-rounder, it's relatively simple. At either pick, they would be guaranteed one of the top four quarterbacks in this class," McGuinness wrote. "They would also have the firepower to move up in a deal with the Chicago Bears if they really wanted a particular player."
In each scenario, McGuinness puts a premium in finding a new quarterback and guaranteeing one of the top four rookies. The second of these options considers a trade with a trio of teams not in the top four picks.
"If it's [the Las Vegas Raiders, Atlanta Falcons or Carolina Panthers,] the Ravens would likely need to move up to at least Pick No. 3 to guarantee one of the top four signal-callers," McGuinness wrote. "In that case, the pick they get in return and either their own Pick No. 22 or a 2024 first-round pick likely would get them to No. 3 with the Arizona Cardinals. Here, they could land Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, who tied for sixth in the FBS last season with 29 big-time throws."
McGuinness' third option once more sees the Ravens partnering with the Cardinals, but not before the Jets or Titans give them two first-round picks to acquire Jackson.
"Here, the Ravens would again likely need to get up to No. 3 overall, but it will be a bit tougher this time," McGuinness wrote. "They might get there with the Titans' No. 11 pick and their own No. 22 selection but potentially would still need to sweeten the deal. It's less likely that Baltimore gets there with Pick Nos. 13 and 22, so it would probably require a 2024 second-round pick, too."
Of course, all this hinges upon the Ravens using the non-exclusive tag and losing Jackson, something both DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh have shared their disinterest in.
Post-Combine Mock Draft Lands Top-Tier Wide Receiver
The latest NFL mock drafts continue to bring familiar wide receivers for the Ravens. In CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson's first mock draft following the NFL Scouting Combine, the Ravens go wide receiver as they have in most mock drafts, taking TCU's Quentin Johnston.
"Quentin Johnston's an above-the-rim playmaker whose athleticism and contested-catch abilities make him in the running for WR1," Wilson wrote. "Assuming the Ravens and Lamar Jackson get on the same page, finding a No. 1 WR is on the to-do list based on GM Eric DeCosta's recent comments."
Johnston was one of CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards' "biggest winners in his position."
"Johnston could have really blown people away with a strong 40-yard dash time, but he jumped out of the stadium in all directions," Edwards wrote. "Johnston followed up with on-field drills showing his ability to secure the catch down the line and track the ball deep. He stated his claim as the draft's top wide receiver prospect."
NFL Combine Wide Receivers Talk Big Plays with The Baltimore Banner
An element the Ravens hope to gain with the hiring of Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken is a more explosive passing game. According to The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer, it's an expectation that he'll transform the offense into just that.
"Over Greg Roman's four seasons as offensive coordinator, the Ravens' aerial attack never ranked higher than 16th in the NFL in explosive-play rate (completions of at least 16 yards), according to TruMedia," Shaffer wrote. "In Monken's three seasons at Georgia, the Bulldogs never finished lower than 14th nationally, stressing pass defenses with a mix of deep shots, open-field catch-and-runs and run-pass options."
To do so, the Ravens will need a combination of Monken's mind, their current playmakers, and possibly a rookie wide receiver. Shaffer spoke with numerous wideouts at the Combine, ranging from first-round to Day 3 prospects, asking them "for the highlight-reel play from their college career that best exemplifies their NFL potential."
USC's Jordan Addison
"Before transferring to USC, Addison finished with 14 catches for 202 yards and four touchdowns — all career highs — in a 48-38 win over Virginia that clinched Pittsburgh's Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division title in 2021," Shaffer wrote. "On his last score, a 62-yarder with just over two minutes remaining, Addison wrestled a jump ball away from a Cavaliers defender before racing to the end zone to put the game away."
Boston College's Zay Flowers
"In a 41-10 loss to Wake Forest in 2021, Flowers took a reverse, then reversed fields again for a 73-yard touchdown," Shaffer wrote. "One problem: 'It got called back,' Flowers said. An illegal block wiped out the play."
Tennessee's Jalin Hyatt
"Coming from my freshman year, I didn't want to block anybody. I just wanted to catch the ball and run," Hyatt told Shaffer. "But playing in the SEC, actually maturing, my junior year, I was actually blocking way better — way better — than my freshman, sophomore year. Because the O-line, they block for me. Running backs block for me, for their [pass] protection. It's a team sport, and I got to do what I've got to do."
"Hyatt had six catches for 207 yards and five touchdowns in a 52-49 win over Alabama in October," Shaffer wrote. "His fifth score, a game-tying 13-yarder with about three minutes left, was his favorite."