The quarterback carousel has become an annual tradition for the NFL offseason. Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo headline the free agent class, while Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson could be moved via trade. The Falcons will certainly be in the market for a quarterback, but it’s not yet clear for what kind.
There are plenty of high-level backups available to sign in free agency if Atlanta chooses to bring in competition to training camp for Desmond Ridder. There is also the off-chance Arthur Smith, Terry Fontenot, and Arthur Blank go big game hunting for the second offseason in a row.
Last year, the Falcons made a real run at Deshaun Watson but were ultimately outbid by the Browns, who gave the highly controversial quarterback a precedent-setting, fully guaranteed contract. In this cycle, the club has been most connected to Lamar Jackson, and oddsmakers see Atlanta as the most likely landing spot if he leaves Baltimore.
Updated top odds for next team (if they leave current) from @betonline_ag:
— Jaime Eisner (@JaimeEisner) February 14, 2023
There are really only two paths for the Falcons to land the former MVP because he’s not leaving in free agency. A non-exclusive franchise tag would allow Lamar Jackson to negotiate a deal with a new team, potentially the Falcons. The Ravens would then be able to match that new contract offer or refuse and be rewarded with two of Atlanta’s first-round picks.
In that scenario, Baltimore would seemingly be gambling on another franchise not being able to eclipse their mark in contract negotiations. Lamar Jackson is reportedly seeking a deal in the neighborhood of Deshaun Watson’s fully guaranteed $230 million contract. Jackson already declined a six-year offer with $133 million fully guaranteed, which would be more than Russell Wilson and Kyle Murray’s respective guarantees. ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported that Jackson could’ve earned over $290 million with an average annual value exceeding Wilson’s $48.5 million AAV, which he declined.
It’s possible a team like the Falcons could exceed the Ravens’ current offer, but you’d have to think Baltimore is making a fair offer. The Ravens are a world class organization that doesn’t usually nickel and dime its most prominent players. Hell, the club has built its entire offense around Lamar Jackson; there’s no way the Ravens will move him, right?
Stranger things have happened, and the Falcons seem motivated to land an elite quarterback. Atlanta was already willing to part ways with many draft picks and a lucrative deal before Cleveland swooped in and gave Watson an unprecedented contract. One would think they’d be willing to do it again with Lamar Jackson.
The non-exclusive tag route could result in Jackson testing the waters to really capture his market value and falling back to the Ravens. It is risky, though. It limits the haul Baltimore could receive in any potential trade. Cleveland sent Houston three first-round picks, a third, and a fourth for Watson. Denver sent Seattle three players, two first-round picks, two second-rounders, and a fifth for Russell Wilson. That’s a lot more than just two first-rounders.
An exclusive franchise tag would enable the Ravens to ensure Jackson doesn’t negotiate with other clubs, but that could be exactly what Baltimore wants for the reasons I explained already. It will be an exciting offseason, regardless.
Photographer: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire
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