Lamar Jackson Franchise Tag: Why QB Is Likely To Stay With Ravens

min read
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) takes to the field
(Nick Wass/AP Photo)
Colton Pool @CPoolReporter Mar 07, 2023, 7:03 PM
  • The Ravens used the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson.
  • Jackson might have to go elsewhere for the contract he wants.

The pressure was nothing for Lamar Jackson.

The Ravens quarterback, who was among the NFL odds leaders to win MVP early in 2022, caught a shotgun snap against the Bills when the Ravens were already leading 14-3 in the first quarter.

Jackson stood tall and diagnosed the play. Data says he’s a dynamic pocket passer, and he was ready to prove it.

He had only a second before a Bills pass rusher shed a block and had a clear path to Jackson. He juked forward, forcing the defender to whiff on a potential sack, then scrambled out of the pocket. This was all while keeping his eyes downfield.

When another defender bolted toward Jackson, threatening to end the play, he released the ball just before taking a jarring hit.

Data and almost every other metric will tell you Jackson isn’t bad at evading opponents, either.

The ball landed gently in the hands of running back J.K. Dobbins, who gained a first down and put the Ravens well within the red zone.

Jackson has sparked the Ravens’ offense in myriad ways. And yet they don’t seem willing to commit to him, or at least for the amount of money the quarterback is seeking.

Lamar Jackson-Ravens News

The Ravens used a non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson on Tuesday, March 7.

That means Jackson is scheduled to make $32.4 million in 2023, which would be in the top five among all NFL players next season. But that could change soon if he finds a more long-term solution.

What’s a Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag?

A non-exclusive franchise tag is a one-year deal that must be at least the greater of two totals: 120% of the player’s salary the previous year or the average of the top five cap hits at that player’s position.

A player on a non-exclusive franchise tag can work out a deal with other teams, but the original club can match that offer. If that franchise declines to give an equal contract, then it will receive two first-round draft picks.

Why Lamar Jackson Stays in Baltimore

The Ravens and Jackson probably aren’t making much progress in their contract negotiations if the team is willing to use a non-exclusive franchise tag.

In many ways, Jackson is worth being paid like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He was the league MVP in 2019, and he was fantastic in several ways in 2022.

No doubt should linger about Jackson’s rushing prowess. He was second in DYAR and DVOA among quarterbacks in that aspect, as he had 921 effective rushing yards while playing 12 games.

But Jackson is also a standout passer, and not just on short throws. He was tied for third among quarterbacks with 20% of the most attempts with a 66.7% completion rate on throws between 10 and 19 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. 

He had four touchdowns and no interceptions on such passes. He was also first with a 12.5% big-time throw rate in that area.

Only 42.6% of Jackson’s throws were 0-9 yards, which was 29th in the league. Via PFF, Jackson was ninth in big-time throw percentage but 63rd in turnover-worthy play percentage.

This all means Jackson was aggressive, and it paid off. He was accurate downfield.

In the second week of the season against the Dolphins, Jackson threw for 318 yards, three touchdowns and zero picks while completing 21 of 29 passes. He also ran for 119 yards and a score on nine attempts.

Jackson showcased in that contest he can stand tall in the pocket, lean on protection and dissect a defense on one snap and take a run-option play 80 yards to the house the next.

What Jackson can do as a passer, or as a quarterback for that matter, shouldn’t be in doubt. 

It never should’ve been to begin with.

His injury history is the tricky part. He missed six games, including the Ravens’ playoff loss to the Bengals, in 2022. He also missed five starts the year before.

The Ravens aren’t comfortable doling out massive cash for Jackson because of the risks, but other teams might not be. That’s why it seems likely Jackson stays in Baltimore, no matter what his future earnings look like.

Why a Lamar Jackson-Falcons Deal Won’t Happen

Jackson has been rumored to be a fit for the Falcons for months. And in several ways, it makes sense.

Jackson attempted 20-plus yard passes 14.4% of the time, the seventh-most in the NFL. The Falcons also loved their downfield passing game, as Marcus Mariota was second at 16%.

Though Jackson didn’t throw to shallow routes very often, Mariota didn’t either. The former Atlanta signal caller threw 0-9 yards just 38% of the time, which was 36th in the league.

The Ravens were in shotgun formation 89% of the time last season, the third-highest rate in the league. The Falcons were just behind at 75%, good for seventh. 

So Jackson should be comfortable in the Falcons’ scheme.

Mariota is a mobile quarterback, and he ran for a career-high 438 yards and four touchdowns on 85 carries last year. But he’s not nearly as skilled of a runner as Jackson, who’s never tallied less than 695 yards in the five seasons of his career.

The Falcons were third in rushing offense DVOA last season. Adding Jackson to that equation should be terrifying for opposing defenses.

The Falcons also might even have a better supporting cast. While Mark Andrews is one of the best tight ends in the league, no Ravens wide receiver was in the top 70 in DVOA last season.

Meanwhile, Atlanta has young potential stars like wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts. Thus far, they haven’t shined as much as first-rounds picks should, but they also haven’t had a quarterback like Jackson.

But reports indicate the Falcons are not interested in paying Jackson. Other teams could be, though. 

Might the Jets quickly change course and decide to give up draft picks and money for Jackson rather than an aging Aaron Rodgers? Or could another team be willing to move on from its current quarterback situation for an upgrade?

The deciding factor, as it was from the Ravens’ point of view, will be Jackson’s contract demands.

Lamar Jackson Contract Prediction

Jackson should be paid more than $40 million a year — wherever he goes.

He’s played like a top-eight quarterback in the NFL. He should be paid like it.

On the same day news broke about Jackson’s franchise tag, reports came in that Daniel Jones had agreed to a four-year, $160 million deal with the Giants.

Jones has shown potential, but he hasn’t been on Jackson’s level.

In terms of total cash, Jackson probably deserves to be paid about $42 million per year. In terms of total cash, that would put him fourth in the league right above Kyler Murray and below Patrick Mahomes.

Guarantees will also be critical in negotiations. Deshaun Watson signed his five-year, $230 million contract last offseason, and that was entirely guaranteed.

Jackson’s injury history and what other quarterbacks are being paid might cause him to want more guarantees. But more guarantees would also force teams to reconsider.

Jackson’s dazzling play is worth the price. Whether NFL teams agree will be decided soon.

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About the Author

Colton Pool

Read More @CPoolReporter

Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.

Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.