By now everybody and their mother has linked the Baltimore Ravens’ decision to sign wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a one-year, $15 million contract with $3 million in incentives to their efforts to get quarterback Lamar Jackson under contract.
One finds it difficult not to draw that conclusion, frankly, and it does seem readily apparent that Jackson was involved in recruiting Beckham to Baltimore. The ultimate goal, after all, was always for Jackson to re-sign with the Ravens.
Assuming that does happen, however, what does it mean for the long-term? Since he was drafted, the Ravens have made the postseason four out of five seasons, missing only once when he was injured for most of the second half of the 2021 season. But they’ve gone 1-4 in the postseason as well, never getting past the Divisional Round.
Thus, the debate continues to rage about just who Jackson is as a quarterback and how far he can take the Ravens, even under “ideal” circumstances. And former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had some interesting comments about his former rival as it relates to how Beckham could potentially impact him.
“You don’t really fear Lamar’s accuracy all the time. He’s got a huge arm, he can make things happen when he scrambles, but you don’t fear him just sitting in the pocket and picking you apart”, he said recently on his Footbahlin podcast. “You can bring safeties down because you do fear him running, because he’s a different-level runner. So you fear that, so you bring safeties down”.
“But now if you’ve got [Beckham] on the outside, you better put a safety back or it’s one on one, you could just throw it to him”, he added. “It definitely creates some potential opportunities for that offense and for Lamar to run if he has to or to take those big shots down the field if he needs to if they bring the safeties down”.
It’s the same logic the Ravens followed when they used a first-round pick on Marquise Brown, the speedster. And again when they drafted Rashod Bateman. Give him a weapon that will cause defenses to respect the vertical dimension of the field. But is Beckham that weapon, at this point in his career, after two ACLs?
Regardless, the broader point I’m interested in is Roethlisberger’s comments about Jackson as a passer, and it is a widely held view. It’s the reason why a lot of Steelers fans are actually rooting for the Ravens to give him as much money as possible, as they did with Joe Flacco before him, because they question his ceiling, specifically as a traditional pocket passer.
I personally believe Jackson doesn’t get quite enough credit for the improvement he’s made with his mechanics, his accuracy, his diagnostic speed and capability, and his decision-making over the course of his career. It doesn’t help that his numbers don’t reflect that improvement but nevertheless, there is certainly some truth there. It’s just interesting to hear a future Hall of Fame quarterback who played against him talk about it.