Lamar Jackson is a free agent this offseason as the 26-year-old's rookie contract with the Baltimore Ravens has run out. The two sides failed to agree to a long-term extension despite what feels like years of discussion. Jackson wants huge money, but after missing five games in each of the past two seasons he's going to need to lower his expectations.
Jackson is a former NFL MVP, but he hasn't reached those heights since his award ceremony in 2019. His rushing yards have come down year-by-year and he's not effective enough as a passer to get the top quarterback money he's looking for.
In 12 games during the 2022 season, Jackson completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 2,242 yards, with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His completion percentage ranked 26 among qualifying quarterbacks, and he was 23rd in yards per attempt (6.9), while his passer rating (91.1) ranked 16th and his QBR (59.2) ranked ninth. So things were mostly bad despite a solid QBR.
Jackson also rushed for 764 yards and three touchdowns on 6.8 yards per carry in 2022. His rushing attempt numbers continue to drop and should keep doing so as he ages. His passing skills have not improved to make up for his diminished rushing ability.
The Ravens claim they want Jackson back. It's almost certain the team will franchise tag him, but there's a twist there. If they hit him with the exclusive tag it would cost them about $40 million. If they use the non-exclusive franchise tag it will cost around $33 million. With the non-exclusive tag, another team could sign Jackson. But here's the rub: the team signing him would owe the Ravens two first-round draft picks if Baltimore didn't match the contract.
From reports over the past year, we know Jackson wants a deal similar in structure to the contract Deshaun Watson received from the Cleveland Browns. Essentially a huge money contract that's fully-guaranteed. The Ravens aren't going to do that.
Jackson would have a market if he hit free agency, but it won't be the kind he's looking for. Teams would be interested but given his reliance on his legs and the knee injury he suffered that ended his 2022 season, everyone would be wary of committing too much for too long. As stated, Jackson hasn't developed enough as a passer to be able to make for diminished running ability. He's a complete wild card as a free agent.
The most likely solution is the Ravens exclusively tagging Jackson and working out a long-term deal. But if that's going to happen, Jackson has to realize he's not going to get what Watson, Kyler Murray and others have.