Former Sports Agent: Lamar Jackson Will Be Ravens' Quarterback in 2023
Questions about Lamar Jackson and what the future holds undoubtedly will be at the top of the list of topics discussed in today's season-review press conference with Head Coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Eric DeCosta.
There's been no shortage of hot takes and speculation regarding Jackson's contract situation, but CBS Sports’ Joel Corry, a former sports agent, took a pragmatic approach in his analysis. He concluded that Jackson will be the Ravens' quarterback in 2023.
For that to happen, the Ravens would need to place the franchise tag on Jackson if a long-term deal – which both the Ravens and Jackson said this past offseason is the goal – isn't finalized.
"Nothing that's transpired since the start of the regular season has convinced me Jackson won't be with the Ravens next season," Corry wrote. "Seems like 2024 has always been the year of reckoning because of the franchise tag dynamic, even if the 2023 season is just a marriage of convenience."
The Ravens have between Feb. 21 and March 7 to apply either the exclusive or non-exclusive franchise tag. The exclusive tag comes with a higher price (projected $45 million compared to $32.5 million), but it would keep Jackson from negotiating with other teams. A non-exclusive tag would mean he can reach a deal with another team that the Ravens could either match or get two first-round picks.
Corry noted that Jackson could choose to sit out 2023 rather than playing under an exclusive franchise tender to avoid risk of injury or to express displeasure with not having long-term security.
"Forfeiting approximately $45 million would be an interesting decision given Jackson's career earnings from his NFL player contract," Corry wrote. "Jackson has made just under $32.5 million in five NFL seasons. The exclusive franchise tag would be about 40% more than Jackson's football career earnings."
Another potential outcome is that the Ravens tag-and-trade Jackson, a scenario that ESPN’s Jamison Hensley addressed.
"It's unknown how much draft capital Baltimore could accrue by dealing Jackson," Hensley wrote. "Last year, the Seattle Seahawks received two first-round picks and two second-rounders from the Denver Broncos for then-33-year-old Russell Wilson. The market value should be much higher for Jackson, who turned 26 earlier this month. Houston traded [Deshaun] Watson and a 2024 sixth-round pick to the Browns in exchange for first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024; a third-round pick in 2022; and a fourth-round pick in 2024."
If Jackson does play on the tag next season, what does that mean for 2024 and beyond?
"A second franchise tag in 2024 at a NFL collective bargaining agreement-mandated 20% increase over Jackson's projected 2023 exclusive number would be $54,297,600," Corry wrote. "Knowing that Jackson would be positioned to test the open market in 2025 after making a little less than $100 million on two straight franchise tags, the Ravens would be forced to give him a fully guaranteed contract or trade him next year to prevent only getting a meager compensatory draft pick in 2026. Designating Jackson as a franchise player in 2025 for a third consecutive year would be cost prohibitive. A third and final franchise tag with a 44% increase over the 2024 figure projects to $78,188,544."
Patriots Cornerback Named a Free Agent Ravens Should Target
Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger identified one defensive free agent each team should sign this offseason. For the Ravens, it's cornerback Jonathan Jones, who started 16 games for the New England Patriots this season.
"Jones' versatility as a cornerback who can play outside — as evidenced by a strong 2022 season — and in the slot makes him a good fit for a creative Ravens defense that does a lot of mixing and matching on the backend," Spielberger wrote. "Cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety Kyle Hamilton will also rotate into the slot based on matchups, and Jones could allow them to continue to move defensive backs all over the formation.
"Jones played a career-high 914 snaps in 2022 — his first season playing primarily outside — and did see his performance tail off a bit down the stretch, but he still earned very respectable 68.1 overall and 67.9 coverage grades. Jones is also a good run defender and tackler, earning 75.0-plus run-defense grades in back-to-back seasons."
Cornerback is a position the Ravens will likely address either in free agency or the draft. Marcus Peters is a pending free agent, as is fellow veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller. Brandon Stephens has gotten significant playing time since being drafted in the third round in 2021, but he has yet to play extensively at cornerback.
Should Ravens Pick Up Patrick Queen's Fifth-Year Option?
NFL.com’s Marc Ross looked at the players selected in the first round in 2020 and gave his opinion on whether each of them merits having their fifth-year option exercised.
Not surprisingly, inside linebacker Patrick Queen got a thumbs up.
"The addition of Pro Bowl linebacker Roquan Smith in 2022 seemed to free up the reliable Queen to make more plays," Ross wrote. "After the acquisition of Smith at the trade deadline, Queen added 1.5 sacks and a pick to his total, giving him a career high in both categories (five and two, respectively). Having not missed a game in three seasons, Queen should be part of Baltimore's great defensive core – alongside the newly extended Smith – moving forward."
Picking up Queen's fifth-year option would keep him under contract through 2024. As noted in yesterday’s Late for Work, Queen is a prime candidate for a contract extension.
Ravens Could Play in London Next Season
The NFL announced the five teams set to play in the 2023 International Games. Two of them are on the Ravens' road schedule: the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Both teams will play in London, with the Titans going to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, while the Jaguars return to Wembley Stadium.
Details of the dates, matchups and kickoff times will be confirmed later in the year when the full 2023 schedule is announced. The Ravens have played in one international game in team history, a 44-7 loss to the Jaguars in London in 2017.