So the Watson contract did bite the Ravens. Biscotte is one of the richest owners in the NFL and he can’t muster up the courage/money to give a top 5 QB a fully guaranteed contract. The Haslams did that for a top 10 QB who was under a large civil cloud.
We hear that Carolina (the richest owner in the NFL) and Atlanta (one of the richest owners) are not interested in pursuit of Jackson? Crazy. The Browns have been without a top tier QB since the 1980’s. The idea that a team wouldn’t make the effort to get Lamar Jackson is stunning.
Atlanta and Carolina are two teams that should be all in for Lamar. The Falcons have a rich owner, lots of cap space, no established QB, decent offensive talent, a weak division and they have to compete for fans (unsuccessfully) with the two time NCAA champion Georgia Bulldogs. The Panthers lack cap space but also have a wealthy owner, no established QB, a strong defense, play in the same weak division and need to create more fan excitement. To go with Ridder and Darnold respectively is beyond foolish.
Washington and Las Vegas have also indicated that they are not in the market and it makes some sense as the Commanders are about to see a change in ownership and the Raiders are a cash poor franchise. Neither team would be able to pony up the guaranteed money to support a Jackson contract.
Of the other QB needy teams that might be candidates I think that Tampa Bay with their terrible cap situation is unlikely.
So who would be the favorites? The Jets if they can’t get Aaron Rodgers? The Texans with a lot of cap space? The Colts who could end their annual search for a QB? The Titans who need to transition from a King Henry offense? The Patriots who need to charge up the offense and seem to have soured on Mac Jones? The Lions who might be poised to take over dominance of the NFC North?
If we assume that teams near the cap can always find a way to create enough cap space for the first year of a five year contract then all of the above teams can swing it financially if their owner is willing to (a) spend the cash and (b) guarantee the full contract. All of the above teams have a first round draft choice this year and in 2024 to compensate the Ravens.
Which teams are the most likely and why:
Colts: Pro-They have $12M in cap, play in a weak division where one team (Jax) has a very good QB while the other teams do not. They have decent weapons on offense and a promising defense. The new HC came from the Eagles with a lesser version of Jackson at QB.
Con-Will their owner be willing to lock up a guarantee? They are in position at #4 to draft one of the top rookie QBs for a five year run at a much lower cost.
Titans: Pro- The Henry focused offense has about run its course. Tannahill showed last year that he can’t carry a team. The defense remains stout and the division is weak enough that they can compete without doing a rebuild.
Con- Is ownership willing to lock up a guarantee? Are they willing to change team DNA from a conservative rushing and defense focus to a more wide open offense?
Jets: Pro-They are in the big apple with a very good defense and solid offense. Their division is extremely competitive with Buffalo, Miami and New England and they stand no chance without a good QB.
Con- Is ownership willing to lock up a guarantee? They need cap space. They seem to think that they can get Rodgers for 2 or 3 year run.
Patriots: Pro- They don’t measure up within the division under the current offensive system. Jackson would elevate them to a severe threat to Buffalo’s current dominance. The defense is solid. Their owner would be willing to spend the money and provide for the guarantee.
Con- Lacking weapons for the offense. Currently have a QB on rookie deal that would need to be traded (to who?).
Texans: Pro- They have lots of cap space. Southern team that might appeal to Jackson’s desires. The division is weak with only Jax having a good QB and Jackson would make them instantly competitive. They need a spark as the last four years have been depressing to the fan base.
Con- They are in position at #2 to draft one of the top rookie QBs for a five year run at a much lower cost. They are lacking a strong defense and have limited weapons of offense. Ownership has been making terrible decisions for years and would they be willing to provide the guaranteed contract?
Lions: Pro- A top tier QB would elevate their offense to be very productive. The division is of mediocre talent now and trending down so the team could become dominant into the near future.
Con- Currently have an expensive, effective QB. Jackson might not fit the culture the the HC has been building. Is ownership willing to lock up a guarantee?
Will Baltimore match an offer?
I imagine that any offer will be structured to make it unappealing to the Ravens. That would make it a fully guaranteed five year deal with a no trade clause. The fully guaranteed part is the reason that they haven’t signed him to an extension. The no trade clause would prevent the Ravens from a sign and trade scenario to recover more than the two first round draft choices.
My best hope would be that Atlanta and/or Carolina come to their senses and compete for Jackson. He’d be in the NFC and only play the Browns every 4 years. As a resident of the South I’d get to see him play frequently. The relative lack of top QBs in the NFC would make either team a Super Bowl contender every year.
Failing that I would bet on either the Colts or the Titans.