Today is a key day in quarterback Lamar Jackson’s future. If he doesn’t finalize a new contract with the Baltimore Ravens by the end of the business day, the team will have to make a decision about whether or not to place a franchise tag on him (extremely likely), and then if so, which type of tag (less clear).
There are two types of franchise tags: the exclusive and the non-exclusive. The exclusive costs significantly more, but the tagged player has no rights beyond either signing the tag or not playing. Under a non-exclusive tag, the player can seek a contract from another team. An offer sheet would then be presented to the original team, and if they choose not to match it, they would be awarded two first-round picks from the team signing the player.
Some, like Dan Orlovsky on ESPN, think that’s a rather big deal and would consider a non-exclusive franchise tag a slap in the face. “I just think that’s the beginning of the end for Lamar in Baltimore”, he said on the Get Up program, if they place the non-exclusive tag on him.
“How can Lamar sit there and be okay with that situation? How could Lamar see what’s going on with his peers who haven’t accomplished some of the stuff that he’s done and be okay with it?”, he posited. “You’re giving someone the chance to come take him away”.
To be clear, Jackson could be gone regardless of what tag they place on him. Only the type of tag determines who gets to decide that. It’s ultimately Baltimore’s decision, since they have the right to match an offer even if another team attempts to sign him under the non-exclusive tag, but they can still author their own trade under an exclusive tag. And they would likely get more for him than two first-round picks.
In either scenario, there’s likely a team out there who would be willing to give Jackson a fully-guaranteed contract—in my opinion. Why? Because teams out there now know that’s what he demands, because the Cleveland Browns did that for Deshaun Watson.
And he’s not going to leave Baltimore for less than that, so if they want him, they’ll have to come out swinging. And who might be willing to do that? Perhaps the Atlanta Falcons, for example. Perhaps the Indianapolis Colts. Fill in your own blanks. There are a lot of teams who would like to upgrade their quarterback position for the next decade-plus.
So why would the Ravens opt for the non-exclusive tag? Well, for starters, it’s about $13 million less expensive (roughly $45 million in comparison to $32 million), and they’re going to have to make other moves today just to accommodate either one of them. They’re currently about $20 million or so under the cap.
And in the event that they are not able to work out a long-term contract by the summer deadline, they would be stuck paying him that $13 million more. On the other hand, there would be a greater risk of him choosing not to play at all under the non-exclusive tag. So as can be seen, there are decisions to be made.