As we explained on Sunday, it makes sense at this point for quarterback Lamar Jackson to force the Ravens to apply the franchise tag. Thereafter, the two sides will have until July 15 to do what they haven’t been able to do to date — finalize a multi-year deal.
Here’s the more important question. Will the Ravens offer Lamar Jackson the same deal they offered last August? Will they offer more? Or will they offer less?
From Jackson’s perspective, he passed on $133 million guaranteed at signing plus additional injury guarantees that surely would have become full guarantees this month and made $23 million for 2022. The money he could have made last year is gone. The full guarantees are gone. The injury guarantees that would have vested this month are gone.
At a minimum, Lamar should ask for a full Mulligan. “Give me what I would have had if I’d accepted the offer I rejected last August, minus $23 million.” If Jackson would make that specific request, would the Ravens honor it? Or would they say, “Sorry, the circumstances have changed”?
Regardless of the specific terms or the structure (and we still don’t know the full terms of what the Ravens offered), the Ravens will need to at some point make their best offer. Most assume it will be better than the offer that was made last year. That may not be a given.
One of the major factors will be the tag the Ravens apply. If they choose the exclusive level, Jackson will be in line to make $99 million over the next two years, and average of $49.5 million per year. That would become the starting point for a long-term contract, regardless of whatever the Ravens offered a year ago.
If they opt for the non-exclusive tag, the calculation becomes a lot less complicated — and a lot cheaper for the Ravens. At that point, however, someone else may do the negotiating for the Ravens, getting Jackson to sign an offer sheet that the Ravens could then match.
There are many ways the dominoes can fall between now and September. As explained on Monday’s PFT Live, there’s a not-implausible chance that Jackson could end up sitting out the entire season, if the Ravens use the lower offer and Jackson doesn’t sign a long-term deal with anyone.
The first domino falls by tomorrow, when the Ravens pick a franchise tag and apply it. While there will be many questions still to be answered, that first move will pick one of two very different lanes for player and team.