It’s official: Lamar Jackson is ready to leave the Ravens. Weeks after Baltimore used the non-exclusive franchise tag on the star quarterback, allowing the former MVP to negotiate with other teams in free agency, Jackson revealed Monday that he in early March.
Both sides had long maintained publicly that they preferred a long-term partnership despite a failure to actually finalize a new contract. Ravens coach John Harbaugh even suggested Monday he’s still confident Jackson will be under center in 2023. And technically Baltimore still controls Jackson’s rights through this season; it can match any outside offer the QB might get under the tag, or collect two first-round draft picks to let Jackson join a new club.
But now that the Pro Bowler has gone public with a desire to play elsewhere, it’s potentially only a matter of time until the Ravens entertain trade inquiries. It’s possible, if not probable, Baltimore could net more than two first-rounders — the compensation for letting him walk via free agency — by selling him via a traditional trade.
With that said, which teams are most likely to pursue Jackson? Here’s our take:
11. New York Jets
If only they hadn’t already (unofficially) married themselves to Aaron Rodgers. Technically, yes, they could bow out of the Rodgers sweepstakes, and they might be smarter for it, betting on a former MVP at age 26 rather than one going on 40. General manager Joe Douglas even has an extensive history with the Ravens to fuel potential trade talks for Jackson. But with a playoff-ready roster and Rodgers already publicly invested in a move to New York, they’re all but out of the running.
Before moving up for the No. 1 pick in the draft, they courted Derek Carr, suggesting they’re at least a little bit willing to consider the veteran route. Teaming Jackson up with known QB whisperer Frank Reich — and an underrated supporting cast on both sides of the ball — would be a solid gamble in a winnable division. But they’re surely sold on going the rookie route at No. 1, where they’ll have their choice of the top prospects.
Like the Panthers, they’re logical candidates to stand pat and use their top draft pick (No. 2) to address QB, especially after once again adding so many one-year Band-Aids in free agency. Odds are, regardless of which prospect goes to Carolina at No. 1, new coach DeMeco Ryans will inherit a tantalizing rookie signal-caller. But with an extra first-rounder at their disposal, maybe they’d be interested in adding more of a sure thing; Ryans didn’t rule out the possibility after hearing of Jackson’s trade request.
Kirk Cousins proved more resilient than usual under Kevin O’Connell in 2022, but he’s entering a contract year and has proven, with his resume and reputation as a play-action pocket passer, that he . Amid an overhaul of older, expensive veterans, young GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah feels like the kind of executive to to a play-maker like Jackson, especially if Minnesota isn’t well-positioned to draft a top prospect. Adofo-Mensah has publicly pondered Cousins’ future, and the Vikings have an elite weapon in Justin Jefferson to pair with such a dynamic QB.
They like Jared Goff well enough to retain him as a veteran placeholder/mentor, and they’re decently positioned to add his successor at the top of the 2023 draft. But with extra picks from their previous Matthew Stafford trade, which obviously brought Goff to town, they’re also capable of exploring a big veteran splash. Imagine Dan Campbell’s energy paired with Jackson’s natural electricity on an ascending roster in a potentially wide-open NFC North.
ESPN and NFL Media previously reported that Atlanta will not be pursuing Jackson, but common sense says they should — and might reconsider. They still have a fair amount of cap space, they only added Taylor Heinicke at QB in free agency, and they may be picking too late in the first round (No. 8 overall) to secure one of this year’s top prospects. A year after pursuing Deshaun Watson, coach Arthur Smith is going into his third season atop the staff without any discernible QB future.
Few franchises are quicker to explore the veteran QB market, and while they added Jacoby Brissett on a modest deal to compete with 2022 rookie Sam Howell, they’re still sorely lacking for an electric talent under center. Coach Ron Rivera hit his peak in Carolina utilizing a mobile QB in Cam Newton. They’d offer Jackson at least one premium weapon in Terry McLaurin, as well as close proximity to his existing Baltimore community. And they’re not extremely suited to draft a QB early, either.
Tom Brady is retired “for good,” the Bucs aren’t fully pivoting to rebuild mode after three straight playoff runs, and Jackson would still have top weapons like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, not to mention while playing in his sunny home state. Yes, they’re financially strapped, but that hasn’t stopped them before. And the low-cost investments in Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask shouldn’t prohibit them from considering a much bigger swing at the position.
Ryan Tannehill is under contract, but he’s very expendable after a disappointing injury-riddled season in which GM Jon Robinson was exiled. A full-on rebuild figures to be in the cards as franchise favorites like Derrick Henry are shopped, but with Mike Vrabel always in the playoff hunt, perhaps a veteran swing is still in the cards. New GM Ran Carthon was part of the 49ers front office that gambled on Trey Lance’s athleticism in the 2021 draft, perhaps making them a stylistic fit for Jackson’s run-heavy approach.
Bill Belichick has gone on record praising Jackson as MVP-level material, and he reset the offensive structure after 2022’s failures, reuniting with coordinator Bill O’Brien and staying mum on incumbent QB Mac Jones‘ long-term job security. At 70, Belichick is surely ready to make a win-now pivot after three lackluster post-Tom Brady seasons. After doubling down on a run-heavy, short-area approach by adding guys like James Robinson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki in free agency, the last piece of the puzzle could be a blockbuster QB addition.
Everyone, including and especially team ownership, knows they’ve gotta stop with the veteran QB carousel. But Jackson would represent a splashy long-term investment at just 26. GM Chris Ballard and new coach Shane Steichen might rather take advantage of their draft positioning (No. 4 overall) to secure a young gun on his rookie deal, allocating other resources to the supporting cast. But since the Panthers’ jump to No. 1, they could be forced to embrace more of a raw, developmental option assuming polished passers like C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young are already off the board. That makes Jackson’s proven NFL talent all the more appealing.