To recap: Jackson did not play in — or travel to — Sunday’s excruciating playoff loss to the rival Bengals. And he did so amid criticism and questioning about whether he should fight through his knee injury — even from wideout Sammy Watkins. Then running back J.K. Dobbins — while complaining about his touches — threw backup Tyler Huntley under the bus and said Baltimore would have won with Jackson.
And then Jackson threw this up on Instagram:
Lamar Jackson’s Instagram … ? pic.twitter.com/k9ndDZIEtH
— Antwan V. Staley (@antwanstaley) January 16, 2023
Kudos to all involved for kicking off the biggest story of the NFL offseason on such a strong foot. So what’s next? Good question.
Jackson — who is representing himself — is reportedly determined to get a fully-guaranteed deal like the Browns gave Deshaun Watson. Which is fine. But the rest of the NFL sees Watson’s contract as a legal bribe to get him to play in Cleveland rather than a precedent-setting event.
The Ravens reportedly offered Jackson a deal with $133 million guaranteed before the season. That is more guaranteed money than any other active quarterback aside from Watson. And Jackson turned it down. He has since missed a significant stretch of the season for a second straight year to hamstring the Ravens’ postseason hopes. Still, let’s assume the Ravens still want Jackson and they do not want to reduce their next offer given his recent health issues.
That creates a situation where the Ravens have three options: Re-sign him before free agency begins, give him the franchise tag or let him walk. The latter two would give the Jets a chance to land him. It is hard to believe the Ravens would throw their hands up and lose Jackson without any compensation in return, so the Jets are likely hoping the Ravens will be open to a tag-and-trade situation.
There are two ways that could go down. The Ravens could tag Jackson and then let him negotiate with the Jets, followed by a deal. The Packers and Raiders did this with wide receiver Davante Adams. Or Jackson — assuming Baltimore gives him the non-exclusive tag — could sign an offer sheet with the Jets independent of the Ravens.
Baltimore would then be able to match the sheet and retain Jackson or let him leave. The NFL rulebook says the Jets would owe the Ravens two first-round picks if Jackson takes their offer sheet. But that is not believed to be a hard-and-fast standard; the teams would be able to negotiate Jackson’s passage at a lower price.