Ravens ‘Hopeful That We’ll Get A Deal Done’ With Lamar Jackson Before Franchise Tag Deadline

The franchise tag window is now open. It closes on March 7. The Baltimore Ravens are hoping to have a long-term contract completed with quarterback Lamar Jackson by that point. I’m not sure many people outside of the building share their optimism, however, but they’re prepared either way.

We’re hopeful that we’ll get a deal done with Lamar” before the tag deadline, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said yesterday at the NFL Scouting Combine, via the team’s website, but added that the organization has several plans they can enact in the event that doesn’t happen.

Those plans necessarily involve clearing considerable cap space just to fit the value of a franchise tag. According to ESPN, the Ravens are currently about $21 million under the cap, but even the non-exclusive franchise tag checks in at $32 million. The exclusive franchise tag comes in at $45 million.

Even if they were to sign Jackson to a contract that averaged $50 million per season, they could still structure it in such a way as to have a substantially lower cap figure for 2023. Just as an example, Deshaun Watson’s 2022 cap hit with the Cleveland Browns was just $9,395,000, but it’s $54,993,000 in each of the final four years.

Is it really realistic that the Ravens can get a deal done with Jackson in the next five days? Well, that likely hinges upon Jackson and how willing he is to accept an offer that is not fully guaranteed.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk speculates that his camp’s leaking to ESPN that he never demanded a fully-guaranteed contract may be a hint that he is indeed open to taking something less than the entire farm from the outset.

It the Ravens don’t get a deal done and they only apply the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson, then the quarterback would be free to negotiate with other teams, functioning essentially the same way a restricted free agent tender would, only the compensation Baltimore would receive if they refuse to match an offer would be two first-round picks.

It may be telling which tag they choose. If they opt for the exclusive tag, that means that they would entirely control his ability to negotiate with other teams, as permission would have to be sought, and they would also determine whatever compensation would be worth their while.

If they go this route, it could possibly an indication that they are more open to trading him. Or it could simply mean that they don’t even want him negotiating with anybody. Either way, his next contract will pay him more than $45 million per season so in the long run it doesn’t really matter.

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