The Baltimore Ravens applied their franchise-player tag to quarterback Lamar Jackson on Tuesday. They opted for the nonexclusive version of the tag, which limits Jackson’s mobility in free agency but does not take him off the market entirely.
Jackson, a former league MVP, would earn $32.4 million for the 2023 season under his one-year deal. But he may continue to negotiate to attempt to strike a long-term deal with the Ravens.
He can negotiate with other teams when the NFL’s free agent market opens next week and can sign an offer sheet with another team. If that occurs, the Ravens could retain Jackson by matching the other team’s offer sheet, or they could receive two first-round draft choices from that team as compensation for allowing the quarterback to leave.
That could be an attractive option to quarterback-needy teams, given that Jackson’s status as an established NFL star could merit such a price tag. But any team willing to make such a trade for Jackson also would have to be willing and able to agree with him on a new contract, which the Ravens have been unable to accomplish.
The Ravens elected not to use the more expensive exclusive franchise tag, which would have prevented Jackson from negotiating with other teams and signing an offer sheet with another franchise. The exclusive tag could have given Jackson a one-year deal worth as much as $45.2 million, although that figure could have been lowered once any contract revisions involving other NFL quarterbacks were factored into the calculations.
“Having not yet reached a long-term deal with Lamar Jackson, we will use the franchise tag,” Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement. “There have been many instances across the league and in Baltimore when a player has been designated with the franchise tag and signed a long-term deal that same year. 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.”
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Jackson, 26, is coming off a second straight injury-plagued season for the Ravens. He played in only 12 games in each of the past two seasons. He is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and was the NFL’s MVP in 2019 in his second pro season.
He played the 2022 season on the fifth-year option of his original rookie contract after he and the Ravens were unable to agree before the opener to a long-term extension. Jackson was reported to have been seeking a fully guaranteed contract like the five-year, $230 million deal quarterback Deshaun Watson received last year from the Cleveland Browns.
The Ravens, amid anger from owners of other NFL franchises about the Watson contract, were unwilling to meet those demands. Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray both signed lucrative contract extensions last summer that were not fully guaranteed.
Jackson’s negotiations with the Ravens have been complicated by the fact that he is not represented by an agent. He has handled his own negotiations, with assistance from his mother and guidance from the NFL Players Association.