Lamar Jackson

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Steelers, Ossai

Lamar Jackson‘s foray as his own agent involved years of proposals and counterproposals, and while the former MVP received criticism for playing out his rookie contract, the Ravens rewarded their centerpiece player with a record-setting deal. That $52MM-per-year contract includes $135MM fully guaranteed. While that is not in the Deshaun Watson stratosphere — a range Jackson sought to enter — it places the sixth-year veteran second for full guarantees. One of Jackson’s proposals along the way included a three-year, $156MM fully guaranteed deal, Albert Breer of notes. The Ravens did not relent on term length, but Jackson’s proposal probably factored into the final result. By March 2024, Jackson will see his guarantee total balloon to $156MM.

The Ravens made a seismic bet Jackson (11 missed games since 2021) will stay healthy, as this contract locks them in through 2025 at least. Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • While the Steelers drafted Joey Porter Jr. 32nd overall, he was in consideration for their first-round selection. Had the Steelers not traded up to draft tackle Broderick Jones at No. 14, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly notes they likely would have chosen Porter at 17 (subscription required). Teams often paint rosy pictures of their draft plans in the aftermath, but Porter — who visited the Steelers’ facility, a place he is quite familiar with due to his father’s history with the team — was viewed as a first-round talent who slipped a bit. The Steelers did make it known the 32nd pick was available, and as Will Levis also fell out of Round 1, they received multiple offers. But they now have Jones and Porter in the fold.
  • Joseph Ossai‘s final-seconds hit on Patrick Mahomes may well have denied the Bengals a second straight Super Bowl berth, giving the Chiefs a better chance of avoiding overtime. Following Harrison Butker‘s game-winning field goal, Ossai headed toward a rehab-filled offseason. The edge rusher suffered a torn left shoulder labrum during a December game against the Browns and played hurt the rest of the way. Ossai, who had rebounded from a full-season rookie absence (due to a meniscus injury) to play 19 games last season, is expected to be ready for training camp, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets.
  • When the Steelers brought Bud Dupree in for a visit, they wanted to re-sign their former first-round pick back to a two-year deal, Kaboly adds. A previous report indicated the Steelers did not discuss terms with Dupree, but it does appear the club had a preferred contract range — one that would have helped keep the edge rusher’s 2023 cap number low. Dupree signed a one-year, $3MM Falcons deal that could spike to $5MM.
  • On the subject of contracts that did come to pass, Rock Ya-Sin‘s one-year Ravens deal will be worth $4MM. That amount is fully guaranteed, according to OverTheCap. This will give the former Colts and Raiders cornerback a chance to re-establish his value for a possible 2024 free agency bid.
  • Shifting back to Pittsburgh, the Steelers will see some front office turnover. Mark Gorscak, who has been with the team for 28 years, will retire from his scouting post this offseason, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Also known for his role as the Combine’s 40-yard dash starter, Gorscak follows another Steelers staffer in place since the 1990s — assistant coach John Mitchell — as mainstays departing the team this offseason.
  • The Steelers are hiring former Raiders southeast area scout Zack Crockett to work in the same capacity, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Crockett, who enjoyed a 13-year career (mostly with the Raiders) as a fullback, spent the past 14 years as a Raiders scout. Las Vegas’ Dave Ziegler– and Josh McDaniels-led regime parted ways with Crockett, 50, earlier this offseason.

QB Notes: Ravens, Levis, Colts, Richardson, Rams, Bennett, Hurts, 49ers

The Ravens hosted Anthony Richardson on a pre-draft visit, and GM Eric DeCosta did not shoot down the idea of taking a first-round quarterback. Of course, the Ravens squashed any such contingency plan by agreeing to terms with Lamar Jackson on his record-setting extension. Had that not happened, the team is believed to have been intrigued by Will Levis. The Ravens would have considered Levis with their first-round pick had Jackson not signed, Jeremy Fowler of notes. Baltimore had pursued Baker Mayfield as well and entered draft week with neither of its top QBs signed beyond 2023. Tyler Huntley is on an RFA tender.

Selecting a quarterback at No. 22 would have both been a leverage play and certainly would have cost the team its best opportunity to add weaponry around Jackson, thus weakening the 2023 Ravens edition. A number of teams were connected to Levis coming into the draft, and trade rumors — centered around teams eyeing a move up for the falling Kentucky prospect — emerged in the late first round and early second. The Ravens now loom as a Levis “what if?” Though, they will probably not be the first team mentioned as a near-miss regarding the strong-armed prospect. Considering Jackson’s contract, Levis may barely be a footnote for the team.

Here is the latest news from the quarterback position:

  • Seeing as the Colts and Titans are in the same division, Indianapolis will probably be the top Levis “what if?” team. The Colts were tied to Levis for weeks ahead of the draft, but they successfully masked their Richardson interest. Even though Richardson’s ceiling enamored Colts brass, Fowler adds Levis had a few fans in Indy’s building. The Penn State transfer might be readier to play compared to Richardson, a one-year Florida starter, though Ryan Tannehill‘s presence in Tennessee may ensure Richardson begins his QB1 run first. Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds was a Richardson skeptic at first, but fellow seventh-year Indy front office staffer Morocco Brown — who primarily scouted the Gators talent for the Colts — made near-weekly trips to Gainesville to chart the athletic prospect’s progress. Ex-Shane Steichen Eagles coworker Brian Johnson, Florida’s OC during Richardson’s freshman year (2020), also vouched for Richardson, per Fowler.
  • The Rams did not consider Levis, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, who notes they came into the draft with a goal of landing a Day 3 passer (subscription required). Despite Levis having played for 2022 Rams OC Liam Coen in 2021, team brass was split on the prospect. Los Angeles ended up with Stetson Bennett via the No. 128 overall pick. This came after the Rams hired one of their former QBs, Kellen Clemens, as a consultant to evaluate Bennett and other arms, Rodrigue adds. Clemens met with Bennett in Georgia before the draft, but even though Bennett is a 26-year-old rookie, ex-Broncos backup Brett Rypien may begin as Matthew Stafford‘s backup.
  • The EaglesJalen Hurts extension (five years, $255MM) laid the groundwork for Jackson’s, and the Ravens QB scored more fully guaranteed money ($135MM to $110MM). But Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio notes the Hurts deal jumps to $157.3MM fully guaranteed by 2025. This is because Hurts’ 2026 option bonus ($49.8MM) becomes guaranteed in stages. Hurts will see $16.5MM of that bonus become guaranteed in 2024, and $30MM of that payout locks in by 2025. These guarantees vest in March 2024 and ’25,’s Albert Breer tweets. The Eagles ditched Carson Wentz‘s contract less than two years after authorizing it, but they moved back into the QB-paying business with this megadeal.
  • Former Detroit and Washington practice squad QB Steven Montez spent the weekend in San Francisco auditioning at the 49ers‘ rookie minicamp, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The Colorado alum served as the Seattle Sea Dragons’ backup, behind Ben DiNucci, who has since signed with the Broncos. The 49ers have four QBs rostered and have not signed Montez.

Latest On Lamar Jackson Contract

Lamar Jackson officially ended his contract saga yesterday by signing the contract which makes him the league’s highest-paid player in terms of annual compensation. Further details have emerged regarding the new pact for the Ravens quarterback.

Jackson’s five-year, $260MM contract includes a record-setting $72.5MM signing bonus, along with no-trade and no-franchise tag clauses. An analysis of the year-by-year structure makes clear the commitment Baltimore is making in the first three years of the contract in particular, though its final two seasons could open the door to financial maneuvering on the team’s part to ease Jackson’s cap burden, in addition to the inclusion of a void year in 2028, which is already in place.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk details, the contract includes $135MM fully guaranteed at signing, but that figure reaches the initially reported mark of $185MM after two years. Both the 2024 and 2025 seasons contain triggers for compensation in the following campaign to become guaranteed in March, which should help ensure the former MVP remains in Baltimore through at least the 2026 season (during which $29MM of his scheduled $52MM in cashflow is due to become fully guaranteed).

However, that year marks the first in which Jackson’s cap hit spikes to $74.5MM, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley (Twitter link). The same is true of 2027, meaning the Ravens may need to restructure the pact or extend Jackson to create financial breathing space at that time. Before that point, though, the 26-year-old will see his burden on the team’s cap sheet grow incrementally. Jackson’s cap hits for the next three seasons are $22MM, $33MM and $43.5MM, respectively.

That means the Ravens will have roughly $10MM more in cap space this season than they would have if Jackson had ended up playing on the non-exclusive franchise tag, as some signs appeared to be pointing to until last week. The $32.4MM one-year tender would have left Baltimore and Jackson in a similar situation next offseason to the one they were in for the past several months, but their collective futures are now clear.

As Hensley notes in a separate tweet, the Jackson accord breaks a number of league records, particularly with respect to compensation in its first three years. While the total guarantee still falls well short of Deshaun Watson‘s $230MM, this contract still represents another new watermark for QB mega-deals as the position’s market continues its steady increase.

Lamar Jackson, Eric DeCosta Address Ravens Extension, Other Teams’ Interest, WR Moves

One of the NFL’s longest extension journeys ended earlier Thursday, with Lamar Jackson signing his five-year Ravens contract. Jackson agreed to a $52MM-per-year accord, making him — in terms of average salary — the NFL’s highest-paid player.

This concluded a strange process, one that featured the quarterback operating without an agent. Jackson requested a trade and announced this publicly, indicating he informed the Ravens he wanted out in early March. No team is believed to have expressed serious interest, though Jackson said (via ESPN’s Jamison Hensley) he did hear from clubs during his period on the franchise tag. After it became clear Jackson’s hope of a Deshaun Watson-level guarantee at signing would not come to pass, he inked the five-year, $260MM Ravens deal.

Although Jackson requested a trade, he declined to say what changed between then and his signing. While the Jalen Hurts $51MM-AAV contract would be the most obvious development between those two points, Jackson said the Eagles quarterback’s extension did not affect his. Jackson also curiously said (via’s Sherree Burress) he was not interested in other teams’ overtures, pointing out — trade request notwithstanding — he always wanted to be a Raven.

Jackson was connected to nearly half the league this offseason, but an unexpected number of teams made it clear they were not pursuing the former MVP. The lack of genuine interest — at least, at Jackson’s long-reported price point — did surprise Ravens GM Eric DeCosta, who placed the nonexclusive franchise tag ($32.4MM) on the sixth-year quarterback in March.

Was I surprised? Probably a little bit, but in the end, every team has to look at who they are, how they’re built, what’s important to them,” DeCosta said, via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. “I always feel like one of the advantages to free agency is when you have a guy on your team, you know exactly who he is, you know how he’s wired, you know what’s important to him. Other teams don’t know that, you know?

Through either early reports or direct denials of a pursuit, the Dolphins, Jets, Patriots, Colts, Texans, Titans, Commanders, Lions, Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Seahawks were linked to being against going after Jackson. The Raiders instead signed Jimmy Garoppolo to replace Derek Carr, who signed with the Saints ahead of unrestricted free agency. Jackson said Thursday he will continue to represent himself, though he noted (via The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec) agents did court him this offseason.

A player of Jackson’s abilities being available at 26 would seemingly have enticed QB-needy teams, but a few spoke out against the lofty guarantee Jackson was reported to be seeking. After Hurts’ deal followed other post-Watson QB accords in being far from fully guaranteed, the Ravens finalized their Jackson re-up. Still, the AFC North team was prepared to match almost any offer that emerged.

We respected his position and his feelings, but we were still having a tougher time,” DeCosta said, via Florio, of the Jackson talks. “But in the end, we felt like our deal, that the deals that we had made, we felt they were credible deals, we felt they were strong deals, and we felt like we were in a position to, not that we could match every single deal, but we felt like we would be able to match most deals and that if a team were willing to do a deal that we couldn’t match would be very hard for that team to do that type of deal. Not impossible, but very difficult.”

Jackson’s full contract numbers have not surfaced, but CBS Sports’ Joel Corry reports the extension comes with a record-setting $72.5MM signing bonus, which breaks Dak Prescott‘s previous standard. The contract comes with $80MM in 2023, Florio tweets, adding the first three years are guaranteed. This deal also includes a no-trade clause and a clause that prevents a 2028 franchise tag, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones adds.

Russell Wilson‘s $124MM still represents the NFL’s second-highest full guarantee, with teams successfully managing to make Watson’s Browns pact a leverage-based outlier. Considering how much full guarantees came up during the Jackson negotiations, it will be interesting to see how close to Watson the three-time Pro Bowler landed here.

The Ravens have added Odell Beckham Jr. and first-rounder Zay Flowers to their receiving corps. While DeCosta also said (via Florio) he had probably done a poor job of assembling a quality receiving corps around his run-oriented QB, Jackson said he did not mandate the team sign OBJ and trade for DeAndre Hopkins. Linked to making such a request, Jackson confirmed (via Zrebiec) he asked DeCosta if the team had room for the wideouts. Even as his trade request still stood, Jackson helped recruit Beckham to Baltimore.

Jackson plans to report to Ravens OTAs at some point and said (via CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson) he began to feel all the way back from his PCL injury in April. After reports indicated Jackson would be back well before season’s end, the Ravens kept ruling out their QB — to the point it became a controversial topic. Jackson has failed to complete each of the past two seasons, inviting questions about his durability and how his play style would hold up in the long run. Some connected the longer-than-expected absence to Jackson’s contract uncertainty. With this in the past, via Jackson receiving full clearance to return, the 2018 first-rounder has spoken with new Baltimore OC Todd Monken.

With this rather eventful piece of business behind them, the Ravens will try and build a playoff team in a conference that has gained strength this offseason. Jackson will obviously be the top determinant in Baltimore being able to qualify for a fifth postseason bracket in six years.

Lamar Jackson Signs Ravens Extension

MAY 4: The NFL’s new top salary is now official. A week after agreeing to terms, Jackson signed his Ravens extension Thursday. This pact is worth $52MM on average. While the full details have yet to emerge, the Ravens — after a two-plus-year negotiating journey — have the former MVP signed through 2027.

APRIL 27: All eyes are on this weekend’s draft at the moment, but the situation between the Ravens and Lamar Jackson remains one of interest. A breakthrough on an extension for the quarterback could be on the horizon; Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reports (via Twitter) that “major progress” has been made on talks for a new deal. Per multiple reports, a deal is, in fact, in place.

The Ravens have confirmed that a five-year extension has been agreed to, while Ian Rapoport of NFL Network adds that it has a value of $260MM (Twitter link). That will make Jackson the league’s highest-paid player. CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets that the pact includes $185MM guaranteed.

The latter number is believed to be the total guarantee, per The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (on Twitter). For total guarantees, Jackson now sits in second — behind only Deshaun Watson. The Browns quarterback’s fully guaranteed deal remains an outlier, an outcome the Ravens — and other teams — have pushed for since it happened. In terms of per-year average, however, Jackson’s $52MM now leads the league.

This news comes shortly after ESPN’s Jamison Hensley tweeted that he had been told “good news [is] on the way for the Ravens,” which can now be presumed to be a reference to Jackson negotiations. The process of arriving at a long-term pact has been a long and arduous one, but inking the former MVP will of course mark a major milestone for the franchise.

Jackson, 26, has been eligible for a new deal since January 2021, but one has not appeared to be close at any given time. Guaranteed money — especially in the wake of Cleveland’s 2022 Watson contract — has often been mentioned as a sticking point in Jackson’s situation. The latter has turned down several offers, including one with a reported $175MM in guarantees. That September proposal, per’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter), included a $50MM-per-year average, which would have tied Aaron Rodgers‘ league lead at the time.

Jackson has been linked to wanting more than the $230MM in fully guaranteed compensation that Watson received in his historic deal. That became a nonstarter for the Ravens and everyone else. However, the QB market has seen a number of sizable pacts signed since Watson’s; each included far less than 100% in guarantees. The most recent of those is the extension signed by Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, which averages an unprecedented $51MM in annual compensation. Rapoport tweets that once the Hurts pact was in place, the Ravens upped their offer to Jackson; that effort has brought talks across the finish line.

Jackson will now be tied to the Ravens through the 2027 season, as this megadeal will take the place of his franchise tag. The Ravens’ decision to place the non-exclusive tender on him last month put them in position to have him on a much less expensive price tag in 2023 ($32.4MM compared to $45MM). However, it opened the door to other teams being able to negotiate an offer sheet or a tag-and-trade agreement, moves which would have been franchise-defining for Baltimore and an acquiring team.

Despite Jackson’s age and statistical success, no suitors emerged to pry him away from the Ravens. Injuries in each of the past two seasons and his unique skillset (which relies heavily on the run game) represented red flags for teams, along with the enormity of any deal which would be necessary to acquire him. Most teams which would have been in the running to sign the Louisville alum have the potential to add a rookie passer tonight, which will give them a cost-controlled signal-caller for years to come.

As a result, the expectation has remained that Jackson would end up signing a deal of some kind in Baltimore. The addition of wideout Odell Beckham Jr. whom Jackson helped recruit — pointed further in that direction. As some have speculated, the nature of the latter’s deal could even open up the possibility of the Ravens pursuing DeAndre Hopkins, someone the team has frequently been linked to both before and after signing Beckham. The Ravens also discussed Courtland Sutton with the Broncos. In any case, the passing game in Baltimore should have more upside than it has in recent years.

After Joe Flacco helped lead the Ravens to their Super Bowl XLVII victory, he was rewarded with a franchise-record extension. The same has now taken place with Jackson, as he and the team will look to avoid the controversy which emerged later into the Flacco pact regarding his standing amongst the league’s highest-paid QBs. The stage is now set, meanwhile, for other young signal-callers (namely Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert) to continue negotiating monster deals of their own this offseason.

Latest On Odell Beckham Jr., Lamar Jackson

The Ravens held newly signed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.‘s introductory press conference today, in which Beckham spoke for nearly 40 minutes on what brought him to Baltimore, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. During Beckham’s introduction to Charm City, the media even got a short update on the situation surrounding quarterback Lamar Jackson from both Beckham and general manager Eric DeCosta.

The biggest headline from Beckham pertained to the former MVP as Beckham confirmed that he had received no assurances that Jackson would be back at quarterback. Beckham told reporters that “the goal was to come (to Baltimore) and have that possibility to play with (Jackson).” He said he would let DeCosta take care of business but made sure to stare straight down the cameras and say, “Lamar, if you’re watching, I would love to get to work with you.”

Beckham spoke to the other factors that lured him to Baltimore, citing team owner Steve Bisciotti as having played a big role. Bisciotti reportedly reached out to Beckham and said all the right things. Between Bisciotti, his former offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and some recruitment from Jackson and other players, Beckham claims it wasn’t money that drew him to the Ravens but a true belief from both parties that he was a piece that could help them win.

Lastly, Beckham discussed perhaps the biggest item of concern for the upcoming season: his health. After sitting out all of the 2022 season due to his ACL injuries, Beckham was hesitant to commit to attending organized team activities this offseason, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports. He minimized the importance of OTAs, indicating that his main focus was returning to the field on Sundays.

Pertaining to Beckham’s performance on Sundays, we finally have some details on the $3MM of incentives in his new deal. According to Florio, Beckham can earn an extra $1MM for each of three categories: receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. For receptions, the incentive progresses as follows: $250,000 for 30 receptions, $500,000 for 40, $750,000 for 50, and $1MM for 60. For receiving yards, the incentive progresses as follows: $250,000 for 250 yards, $500,000 for 500, $750,000 for 750, and $1MM for 1,000. For receiving touchdowns, the incentive progresses as follows: $250,000 for three touchdowns, $500,000 for five, $750,000 for seven, and $1MM if he catches nine scores or leads the team in receiving touchdowns.

We got some comments from DeCosta, as well, in the press conference today. The fifth-year general manager explained that the team had been in talks with Beckham since last October. The team sent assistant wide receivers coach Keith Williams to Beckham’s workout in March and talked to Beckham at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.

“This was the guy that we felt could help take us to the next level,” DeCosta told the media. “We’ve had lots of players come back from this type of injury and flourish over time.” He continued, “We went into it knowing we were the underdogs (to the Jets), and…sometimes the underdog wins.”

In reference to Jackson, DeCosta claimed that he hadn’t spoken with the quarterback since signing Beckham but has communicated with Jackson since his trade request and franchise tagging, declining to relay any details.

“Lamar’s in our plans; we love Lamar,” DeCosta said. “Our feelings about Lamar have not changed one bit since the end of the season. We’re hopeful still that we’ll get a long-term deal done. He’s the right player for this team to lead us to where we want to be. I think the locker room knows that, the organization knows that. I think the fan base knows that. So it’s ongoing. But I can’t think of a situation where we wouldn’t think that our best team is with Lamar Jackson on the team in September.”

Even past Jackson’s participation in the recruitment of Beckham to Baltimore, Jackson and Beckham further commingled after the Ravens signed Beckham on Sunday night. The two went out to dinner together in Miami before being seen at a club later that night. Many viewed Beckham’s addition to the team as a positive step towards Jackson’s return to the Ravens. While that hasn’t been guaranteed, Beckham sure hopes he has Jackson throwing passes to him in 2023.

Lamar Jackson Helped Recruit Odell Beckham Jr. To Ravens

While no official word has come out regarding Lamar Jackson withdrawing his trade request, Sunday night provided an interesting indication regarding the former MVP’s expectations on this front. Odell Beckham Jr. passed on a potential partnership with Aaron Rodgers — after doing so in 2021 as well — to play for a Ravens team not on great terms with its quarterback.

Beckham probably has a good idea who Baltimore’s 2023 starter will be. Jackson actively recruited the eight-year veteran wideout to Maryland, according to’s Ian Rapoport (video link). An understanding exists, upon Beckham signing, it will likely be Jackson targeting him next season.

Although an offer sheet — potentially one after the draft — could shake up this situation, no team has made any indications it will consider that expensive path. Jackson continues to seek Deshaun Watson-level guarantees, which has thus far been a non-starter. As it stands now, Jackson should be expected to remain with the Ravens in 2023. How this OBJ addition came together — just before the longstanding free agent was to visit the Jets — lends more weight to Jackson realizing he is unlikely to change teams this year.

Only three players (Le’Veon Bell, Dan Williams, Sean Gilbert) have ever skipped a season while on a franchise tag. Jackson’s tag price ($32.4MM) is in another financial stratosphere compared to those players’ compensation. His unpredictable odyssey since becoming extension-eligible in January 2021 aside, the sixth-year passer should never have been viewed as a legitimate candidate to sit out a season. The Ravens have now given Jackson his highest-profile wideout.

Baltimore pursued DeAndre Hopkins and Courtland Sutton in trades, and the team should not be considered out of the mix to further add to its receiver mix early in the draft. Baltimore, which also signed Nelson Agholor to a lower-cost deal, has done extensive homework on this year’s top-graded wide receivers. Jordan Addison and Quentin Johnston have visited the team, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba will do so. The Ravens have used first-round picks on receivers in 2019 (Marquise Brown) and 2021 (Rashod Bateman). The draft has been the primary avenue for this run-heavy team to bolster its receiving corps, but the $15MM guarantee given to Beckham — one that appears much higher than the Giants or Jets were proposing — finally lured a marquee free agent.

Beckham, Bateman, Agholor and Devin Duvernay represent the top Ravens receivers. Three of these players missed all or part of last season due to major injuries. Beckham, of course, sat out the 2022 season due to his Super Bowl LVI ACL tear. Bateman missed much of the campaign due to a broken foot; a Duvernay foot injury ended his season in Week 15.

The Ravens have until July 17 to extend Jackson, who will otherwise be attached to the tag salary. Baltimore could trade Jackson after that date, leading to the three-time Pro Bowler playing for another team on the tag. But scant indications have come out the Ravens are planning to go elsewhere. The Ravens are hosting Anthony Richardson next week, Cameron Wolfe of tweets, and may be looking into other quarterbacks in the draft, Jeremy Fowler of notes. GM Eric DeCosta left the door open to a first-round passer being in play, but the Beckham addition makes that already-unlikely scenario less realistic.

Arthur Blank Denies Falcons Were Serious On Deshaun Watson, Addresses Lack Of Lamar Jackson Interest

Most of the reporting done regarding last year’s Deshaun Watson sweepstakes revealed the Falcons were set to land the then-embattled quarterback via trade, but the Browns’ $230MM fully guaranteed contract won out. Arthur Blank‘s stance now is the team was not especially close to acquiring Watson.

Asked about the differences between the Watson pursuit and the Falcons joining the rest of the QB-needy or borderline QB-needy teams in avoiding Lamar Jackson, Blank said staff conversations led the team to view Watson as a poor fit.

I think we explored the one last year, which is what our responsibility was,” Blank said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter. “We didn’t explore it deeply, deeply. We spent some time on it from a legal standpoint, personal standpoint, value standpoint on the player and a variety of things. Soon after we got into exploring, we decided it wasn’t a very good match.

… I think Lamar’s situation, and I don’t really want to spend a whole lot of time talking about players on other clubs, but Lamar’s situation, I think is very different. A different player. Different time.”

The Falcons joined the Browns, Panthers and Saints as meeting the Texans’ trade price, and a report the day Houston agreed to send Watson to Cleveland indicated Atlanta was “very close” to acquiring the Georgia native. Watson had narrowed his list to the Falcons and Saints — before the Browns’ contract offer — and the quarterback was believed to be recruiting Jarvis Landry and Leonard Fournette to Atlanta. That report and others later in the year viewed Watson as being Atlanta-bound were it not for Cleveland’s historic guarantee structure — one that has altered Jackson’s path.

The Texans only permitted the four finalists to meet with Watson had they offered satisfactory trade compensation, pointing to Atlanta being much farther down the Watson road compared to Blank’s assessment. The Browns’ Watson agreement has directly impacted the Ravens’ Jackson talks, with the former MVP long being connected to asking for Watson-level guarantees. No other quarterback is tied to a guarantee north of $124MM, and teams have attempted to make the Watson accord an outlier. Thus far, franchises’ efforts have been successful.

The Falcons drafted Desmond Ridder a few weeks after missing on Watson, and they are committing to the third-round pick as their 2023 starter. With Atlanta having not made the playoffs since 2017 and Ridder far from a sure thing, Blank’s club would seem to be one of the most logical Jackson suitors. No team has emerged as a suitor, and Blank alluded to Jackson’s run-oriented skillset as one of the reasons for the Falcons’ current stance. Jackson’s recent injury history (11 missed games since 2021) is believed to have affected teams’ interest levels, though his contractual demand has long been viewed as the main impediment.

Looking at it objectively, there is some concern about whether or not he can play his style of game for … how long can that last,” Blank said. “I’m not sure. He’s only 26. Hopefully a long time for his benefit or anybody that he’s signed with. But he’s missed five to six games each of the last two years. This is not like baseball and basketball where you’re playing 82 or a 182 games, or whatever baseball is now.”

Blank confirmed Arthur Smith, GM Terry Fontenot and Falcons CEO Rich McKay looked into Jackson. Blank was not involved in the evaluation. While Blank called Jackson “one of the top quarterbacks in this league,” the Falcons will stand down on an expensive pursuit and go with Ridder. The four-year Cincinnati starter worked as the Falcons’ first-stringer in four games last season. Ridder completed 63.5% of his passes, threw two TD passes and no INTs, but averaged just 6.2 yards per attempt.

Ridder’s rookie contract runs through 2025, and it will help Atlanta build its roster. Although Ridder will need to prove worthy of being a player good enough to build around, the Falcons came into free agency with a top-three cap-space figure. This standing came after the team ate a dead-money record from the Matt Ryan trade ($40MM) and also took on dead-cap hits from the Julio Jones and Deion Jones swaps.

During Blank’s run as Falcons owner, the team has authorized three big-ticket quarterback contracts — Michael Vick‘s 2004 extension and Ryan’s second and third accords. It appears Blank, whose team certainly appears to have been close to acquiring Watson last year, would like to build around a rookie deal for a while.

We just came out a period of time … last year we set a record for the most dead money in the history of the NFL,” Blank said. “In my 21 years as an owner, we had close to the least amount of cap room than we’ve ever had before. This year, we had a healthy amount of cap room. Not very much dead money, a little bit, not much.

Having compensation at 25% or so tied up in one player, we’ve lived through that. It definitely can put a lot of restraint on your ability to round out a roster and to have the depth on the roster given 17 games and the nature of this game, it still a contact sport … we need to build a team.”

Ravens Will Consider Round 1 QB; Team Made Offer To Baker Mayfield?

Tyler Huntley remains in place as the Ravens’ backup quarterback, but the team did not tender its two-year QB2 on the second-round level. Baltimore giving Huntley the low-end tender would not lead to compensation if the former UDFA signed an unmatched offer sheet.

As Huntley goes into a contract year, the Ravens pursued other options for either a backup QB or insurance against a Lamar Jackson departure. The team made an offer to Baker Mayfield, per An ESPN report in March indicated Baltimore looked into Mayfield and Jacoby Brissett. Mayfield signed with the Buccaneers, Brissett with the Commanders.

The Ravens faced Brissett last season, during the journeyman’s Deshaun Watson fill-in stop, and matched up with Mayfield for four seasons. Brissett signed a one-year deal worth $8MM ($7.5MM guaranteed); Mayfield inked a one-year, $4MM pact ($4MM guaranteed). Mayfield’s contract includes performance incentives. Each player will navigate in-house competition from inexperienced options — Sam Howell and Kyle Trask, respectively — but will be favored to win those jobs, unless a bigger name lands in Washington or Tampa.

Passing on a Ravens offer is logical for a quarterback hoping for a starter path. It cannot be assumed Jackson, despite his having issued a trade request March 2, will be gone. No team besides the Ravens has shown interest, and Ian Rapoport of adds (video link) the sides have talked recently. Jackson and the Ravens spoke around 10 days ago, which was around the time the former MVP made his trade request public. The Ravens have until July 17 to sign Jackson to a long-term deal, though the sides remain far apart on guarantees. Jackson having a clear route back to Baltimore, however, would naturally lead less accomplished passers elsewhere.

Many bridge- or backup-level QBs have landed gigs since free agency started, but a few notable names have not. Teddy Bridgewater remains available, as do Carson Wentz, Mason Rudolph, Matt Ryan and 11-year Ravens starter Joe Flacco. Of course, Ryan and Flacco — each 2008 first-round picks — would be going into their age-38 seasons and are on clear declines. Bridgewater, who is preparing for his age-31 campaign, would be a better option. Wentz, 30, is open to continuing his career as a backup, but three teams have jettisoned the former No. 2 overall pick over the past three offseasons. The one-time MVP candidate would make for a polarizing insurance option.

Jackson has stuck to his guns as a self-represented player in search of Watson-level full guarantees ($230MM). The Ravens have offered Jackson $133MM guaranteed — in a deal that included a $175MM total guarantee that would have shifted to a full guarantee early in the contract — but that proposal is no longer believed to be on the table. Still, it should not be expected Jackson will pass on a $32.4MM franchise-tag salary.

Since the franchise tag was introduced in 1993, only three players — defensive linemen Sean Gilbert (1997) and Dan Williams (1998) and running back Le’Veon Bell (2018) — have skipped a season and passed on a tag paycheck. All three secured multiyear deals the following year — Gilbert and Bell from different teams, while the Chiefs circled back to Williams — but it is the extraordinarily rare path to take for a tag recipient. Jackson would have until Week 10 to report Then again, Jackson has passed on collecting franchise-QB money in each of the past two years. His 2021 route was perhaps more notable, as Watson’s Browns guarantee had not yet entered the equation.

Discussing the draft (and only the draft, as Jackson questions were declined; Ravens officials did not mention his name) Wednesday, Ravens GM Eric DeCosta said (via’s Albert Breer) the team would consider a quarterback. While this may not be the full truth, as DeCosta deferred to the team’s draft board including QBs with first-round grades. But DeCosta added more than four passers in this draft can be “significant quarterbacks in this league.” The Ravens have scheduled an Anthony Richardson meeting. As of now, Richardson is the only QB the franchise is using a “30” visit on, Rapoport adds.

Ravens Offered Lamar Jackson $175MM In Total Guarantees; Deal No Longer On Table

Offseason No. 3 of the Ravens-Lamar Jackson contract story has produced the biggest headlines, which include franchise tag and a trade request. But this saga’s second year included the clearest picture of Baltimore’s offer.

Long reported to have offered Jackson $133MM fully guaranteed, the Ravens proposed the former MVP a deal with $175MM in total guarantees. The $42MM injury guarantee would have shifted to a full guarantee early over the course of the contract, Albert Breer of reports. An additional $25MM — present in the fourth year of the contract — would have become guaranteed in Year 3 of the deal, Breer adds. Overall, that 2022 offer topped $290MM over six years. The $175MM in total guarantees would have topped Russell Wilson ($165MM) for second in the league.

The year-out guarantees helped move the Patrick Mahomes Chiefs extension past the goal line in 2020, and while that 10-year agreement is an outlier and rather team-friendly, the two-time MVP has protections via the advanced rolling guarantees. Mahomes joins most of the league’s franchise QBs in having signed an extension before his fourth season. Jackson joins Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins in not doing so. Prescott, however, had a deal in place by this point in his career; he signed his Cowboys extension in March 2021. Jackson has played five seasons; no resolution is in sight.

Perhaps more importantly, given the time that has passed since the 2022 offseason — when the Ravens proposed the $175MM guaranteed ahead of the Jackson-imposed negotiation deadline — Breer adds this deal is no longer on the table. The Ravens remain in fairly good position, even after their disgruntled QB’s trade request emerged, as no team has shown much interest in authorizing the monster guarantee he seeks. Baltimore has also been open to a Cousins-style short-term accord that would come fully guaranteed, per Breer, who adds Jackson is not set against one type of structure.

Cousins signed a three-year, $84MM Vikings contract in 2018; that deal helped accelerate the QB market after it had moved slower in the years leading up to that point. Jackson indicated the Ravens have offered him a Cousins-like deal — a $133MM fully guaranteed pact over three years — but the self-represented passer turned it down. Jackson, 26, has continually been linked to seeking a contract in the Deshaun Watson full guarantee neighborhood ($230MM). With no other QB tied to more than $125MM in full guarantees, Jackson and the Ravens have a substantial gap to bridge.

Jackson’s refusal to use an agent in these negotiations has generated scrutiny, and the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora notes it has contributed to the sixth-year star being in this position. Since Jackson entered the league in 2018, Mahomes, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Josh Allen and Kyler Murray have signed big-ticket extensions to lock in windfalls before their fourth seasons. Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert may join them this offseason. Watson earned unusual leverage to sign two deals before his sixth NFL campaign. Jackson played on his rookie salary in 2021 and the fifth-year option in 2022, putting him significantly behind his peers in earnings through five seasons. An agent might have helped prevent that outcome, and La Canfora adds some around the league believe a certified rep might also help provide clarity regarding the gridlock that has formed since the Ravens gave Jackson the $32.4MM non-exclusive tag.

The Ravens remain on solid footing with Jackson in part because teams have lined up to say they are not interested, closing doors early. These paths might not remain barricaded all the way through the July 17 tag deadline, but they are presently closed. Jackson’s playing style has caused concerns about a short career, according to one executive assessing the Ravens’ offseason (via The Athletic’s Mike Sando). Despite Jackson missing 10 regular-season games from 2021-22, his 727 carries lap the field among QBs through five seasons. Cam Newton‘s 599 are second. Another exec added that if the pass-oriented Mahomes were in this position, he would have 30 guaranteed offers.

Jackson’s injuries over the past two seasons and guarantee demands have frozen his market. The Ravens, meanwhile, want to bring back the former Heisman winner to play in new OC Todd Monken‘s scheme. A team’s draft not unfolding as planned might entice a post-draft offer sheet from another team, but for now, the Ravens are his only known suitor.