Ravens Place Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag On Lamar Jackson

Many around the league have been waiting to see the Ravens’ decision with Lamar Jackson. A long-term deal will not be finalized in time for today’s deadline, though. ESPN’s Kimberley Martin reports (via Twitter) that Baltimore is using the non-exclusive franchise tag. A team announcement confirms that the less expensive tag option is their chosen route with the former MVP.

With contract talks resulting in an impasse between the two sides, it comes as little surprise at this point that the tag has been used. Over the course of the weekend, reports emerged that the Ravens were leaning towards going the no-exclusive route, something which carries potential financial benefits from the team’s perspective but also a great deal of risk.

The non-exclusive tag carries a value of $32.4MM, a figure which is far lower than the roughly $45MM the exclusive version would have cost. In that regard, the former option was the most logical one with respect to Baltimore’s cap situation. However, other teams will now be eligible to send the 26-year-old an offer sheet, which would not have been possible had the Ravens used the exclusive tag. One team frequently linked to Jackson via an offer sheet or tag-and-trade scenario is the Falcons. However, Atlanta will not pursue such a move, per ESPN’s Dianna Russini (Twitter link).

Baltimore would have the option to match any offer sheet which Jackson signs. If they elect not to, they will receive two first-round picks as compensation from Jackson’s new team. The fact that not every squad currently owns Day 1 selections in each of the next two years slightly shrinks the list of potential suitors for him, but competition could quickly ramp up. Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowler, would constitute a significant upgrade over many other incumbent QBs.

The Louisville product has been eligible for a new deal from the Ravens since 2020, but at no point has one seemed to be particularly close. Annual compensation is not thought to be a sticking point from the Ravens’ side, even though any multi-year extension would have surely been the most lucrative in franchise (perhaps league) history. Rather, the matter of guarantees has long been the most pressing issue. Jackson is reportedly seeking a fully-guaranteed pact, a desire seemingly made more plausible after Deshaun Watson‘s historic deal signed with the Browns last offseason.

The Ravens – led by owner Steve Bisciotti – have publicly spoken out against the possibility of making such a commitment to Jackson (and, by extension, a number of other young QBs around the league when they sign second contracts). New deals for Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson signed in 2022 pointed to the Watson accord being an outlier, rather than a new benchmark. That presumably gave the Ravens some leverage in negotiations, but a compromise has not been found.

By going the non-exclusive route, Baltimore is banking on the rest of the league agreeing that full guarantees are too great of a risk for Jackson. The All-Pro has missed five regular season games in each of the past two seasons, including the Ravens’ wild-card loss in 2022. The nature of his PCL injury increasingly became a point of contention as his absence continued deeper into the year, and tension is thought to have increased during the direct negotiations between Jackson himself and GM Eric DeCosta.

Injury problems could scare off other teams to the point where they don’t make an offer to Jackson, or at least one which the Ravens don’t feel comfortable matching. The earliest that teams can submit an offer sheet is the start of the new league year on March 15. Another factor to keep in mind is the possibility of a tag-and-trade situation, where Baltimore could deal him anywhere for any package of trade compensation. That would only be possible, however, after he signed the franchise tender – something he is under no obligation to do until much later in the offseason.

Jackson is the eighth player in franchise history to receive the tag, a move which has more often than not resulted in a long-term deal being agreed upon before the July deadline. Attention will continue to be placed on the two sides in this situation, as negotiations will continue in the hopes of a mega-deal being finalized before the possibility of Jackson skipping portions of the offseason becomes more likely.

A statement from DeCosta reads in part, “We will continue to negotiate in good faith with Lamar, and we are hopeful that we can strike a long-term deal that is fair to both Lamar and the Ravens. Our ultimate goal is to build a championship team with Lamar Jackson leading the way for many years to come.”

Jackson’s importance to the Ravens – from his numerous all-time NFL records to his overall winning percentage of .707% since 2019 – is clear for any observer. The degree to which it is seen and acted upon by any other team (and if so, Baltimore’s willingness to keep him in place for the long-term future) will be a major storyline as the QB landscape takes shape.

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