If, as it appears, the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson won’t be working out a new contract before the end of the 2022 season, what happens next?
Here’s a look at the various options and deadlines that will apply in 2023, if the two sides do indeed get through the season without a new contract.
First, the Ravens and Jackson will have an opportunity to negotiate a long-term deal through the deadline for application of the franchise tag, on March 7 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Second, absent a deal, the Ravens will have to decide by March 7 at 4:00 p.m. ET whether to apply the franchise tag and, perhaps more importantly, whether to apply the non-exclusive or exclusive version of it.
The non-exclusive tag for 2023 will likely be in the range of $32 million. That approach would allow another team to sign Jackson to an offer sheet. The Ravens would have five days to match. If they don’t, they would get two first-round draft picks as compensation.
The exclusive tag would keep Jackson from talking to other teams. But it would be expensive — the average of the five highest quarterback cap numbers as of April 21. Subject to new deals and renegotiations, that number likely will be in the range of $46 million for 2023.
The Ravens also could apply the transition tag, which would entail a lower salary than the franchise tag for 2023 (roughly $29 million or so) and only a right to match with no compensation.
After a tag is applied, the Ravens and Jackson would have until July 15 at 4:00 p.m. ET to finalize a multi-year deal. After that, they’d have to wait until the conclusion of the 2023 regular season to sign a long-term deal.
In 2024, Jackson would get a 20-percent raise over his 2023 compensation, if he’s tagged again. For a non-exclusive tag of roughly $32 million, that’s $38.4 million. For an exclusive tag of $46 million, it would be $55.2 million. Again, a July 15 deadline would apply for a long-term deal.
In 2025, Jackson likely would become a free agent, since the franchise tag would entail a 44-percent bump over 2024. That’s $55 million under the non-exclusive tag and nearly $80 million under the exclusive tag. They also could use the transition tag in 2025, at a 20-percent increase over his 2024 salary.
Jackson could choose to play on a year-by-year basis. That would put him at (with the non-exclusive tag) $93.4 million over three years. With the exclusive tag, the three-year payout would be $124.2 million.
Baltimore’s offer would need to be compared to the year-to-year amounts. Assuming the Ravens don’t want to risk losing him, Door No. 1 means $124.2 million over the next three years.
To get that, of course, Jackson will have to stay healthy and continue to play at a high level. The Ravens could walk away at any time, if they want.
Jackson isn’t required to go along, of course. He could request a trade. He could hold out. He could finagle a situation in which other teams line up to trade for him and to pay him, like Deshaun Watson did.
Regardless, at some point he’ll have to negotiate a long-term deal, with someone. Unless, of course, he suffers the kind of injury that causes no one to want to pay him a market-level contract.
That’s the biggest risk he’s taking by not doing a long-term deal now. Given the way he plays the position, it’s a risk that needs to be taken seriously.