Reports from the NFL Combine are that the Baltimore Ravens may take an interesting route when it comes to their handling of Lamar Jackson this offseason. We all knew the team would not just let him test the market, and the obvious solution was the franchise tag. However, there may be a medium between the two where the Ravens do tag him, and he still tests the market.
Will the Baltimore Ravens really use the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson?
With a non-exclusive franchise tag, Lamar Jackson could hit free agency. If he finds a deal that he likes, the Baltimore Ravens would then have a chance to match it. If the Ravens do match the deal, then Lamar Jackson has to take the Ravens’ deal.
The key to the non-exclusive franchise tag is that if the Ravens do not match it, they will get two first-round picks back. The initial thought is that the Ravens could get more for a former MVP, but there is a wrinkle to that.
The big wrinkle is Anthony Richardson. Richardson is so much rawer than Jackson, but teams will look to run a similar offense behind him. The difference is that Richardson will make under $10M while Lamar Jackson will make over $30, and probably closer to $50. Richardson is not as good, but could the difference in money allow a team to be better off?
The likely candidates to acquire Lamar Jackson would be the Lions, Colts, Falcons, and Panthers. All of these teams are in the top ten this draft. So, any trade with a first-rounder would put the Ravens in a position to draft Richardson. This is not your standard first-round pick, and most of those first-round picks would typically be worth multiple future firsts. So, the Ravens may be getting two firsts for Lamar Jackson, but the feeling would be more like three or four, which is the price many thought the Ravens could get.
Teams will have to debate how much you pay Jackson when you could sit in the top ten and have a chance at Richardson. Does this have them lower their offers, knowing that if they do go high, and the Ravens do decline, they will trade away the shot at Richardson, and the heaps of salary cap space that comes with it?
So, the Ravens could let him test the market, and come back without a deal. The Ravens could say, see the deal we offered was not so bad. It could actually get Jackson to progress long-term talks with the Ravens altogether.
The last reality is that the non-exclusive franchise tag costs the team less overall than the franchise tag. So, Jackson would be more incentivized to get a deal done to get off of the non-exclusive tag and get an immediate payday.
A lot of things point to the Baltimore Ravens legitimately doing this. We will see soon enough.