The Baltimore Ravens have all of five draft picks this year. They pick 22nd in the first round and then they don’t pick again until late in the third. They didn’t get any compensatory draft picks for 2023, in a rare occurrence. And on top of that, they don’t have much cap space.
For a team that only narrowly made the playoffs a year ago, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta understands the task ahead. “How do we use that money wisely? How do we get creative with what we do to build the best team we can?”, he posed rhetorically, speaking to the media recently about the upcoming draft, via the team’s website.
According to Over the Cap, the Ravens are only a bit over $6 million under the salary cap right now, and that’s not factoring in all predictable expenses, which will be more than that $6 million amount. This is chiefly because of the more than $32 million they have to allocate for quarterback Lamar Jackson’s franchise tag.
That is a substantially unresolved situation at the moment. Jackson had requested a trade, as he revealed himself, more than a month ago. It was reported that he was still negotiating for a new contract relatively recently, but even that report is becoming dated, so we don’t even know if there are active negotiations. Meanwhile, the Ravens are eyeing rookie quarterbacks.
It is unfamiliar territory for the Ravens to have so few draft picks. While they expressed some overtures about acquiring more, at the same time they expressed almost a relief, after so many years of an abundance of picks. Their roster is currently full of players they’ve acquired over just the past three or four seasons. They’ve drafted 29 players the last three years and 49 over the last five.
But do they have a Super Bowl roster? Already they’ve let go of Calais Campbell and traded Chuck Clark. They’ve only signed one outside free agent, an unremarkable move in acquiring wide receiver Nelson Agholor. This isn’t business as usual.
At least in part, this is what it feels like to be paying a franchise quarterback, and yet the Ravens don’t even know if they’ll have their franchise quarterback. If it came down to it, would Jackson sign the franchise tag and play?
Most likely, he will get a deal at some point this year. But will it be from the Ravens or from another team, and how will we get there? If it comes from outside, would it be from an offer sheet that would be painful for Baltimore to match? Or would they work out a trade?
One imagines that if they were to trade Jackson, they would like to get it done before the draft so that they might have some ammunition to move up and get another quarterback. Or are they “comfortable” with Pro Bowl quarterback Tyler Huntley for this season?