Now that Super Bowl LVII is over, the 2023 offseason upon us, hope springs eternal once again for fans of all 32 NFL teams.
The Baltimore Ravens had a disappointing end to their 2022 season as superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the final six games of the year (including their season-ending loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild card round) with a grade two PCL sprain, and the team struggled to tread water in his absence.
As long as Jackson is on the Ravens, the team will have a chance at winning the Super Bowl: a DraftKings Maryland promo code is available for the Ravens for the next season and as of right now, the Ravens are tied with the Los Angeles Chargers with the seventh-best odds (+2200) to bring home the Lombardi Trophy in 2024.
The Story of the 2023 Offseason: Prepare for Trade Talks Galore
With a nerve-wracking offseason ahead as general manager Eric DeCosta attempts to come to terms with Jackson, the unanimous league MVP in 2019, on a new contract, those initial odds could swing wildly in either direction.
It’s obvious that the Ravens are an entirely different team without Jackson at the helm: since drafting him in 2018, Baltimore has a 45-16 record in games that Jackson starts, compared to an 8-13 record without him.
While there are valid concerns about Jackson’s long-term viability as a starter (he’s missed five games with injuries in each of the past two seasons) that doesn’t mean the Ravens should cut ties with him: take their 2-8 record in those ten games without him as evidence as such.
The two sides were reportedly far apart—to the tune of nine figures, no less—as they negotiated during the 2022 season: the Ravens offered him an extension in the ballpark of five years, $250 million, but weren’t in the same stratosphere when it came to guaranteed money: Jackson allegedly wanted $100 million more in guarantees than Baltimore was willing to offer at first pass.
Even if the Ravens don’t have any intentions of trading Jackson (any team trying to swing him away from Baltimore would need to give up a king’s ransom in players and draft picks to even get DeCosta to pick up the phone), trade talks are sure to begin, if only as a high pressure negotiation tactic.
During a season-ending press conference, head coach Jim Harbaugh expressed his optimism that the two sides will be able to find a middle ground.
“200 percent. There’s no question about it…Lamar Jackson is our quarterback. He’s been our quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “I love Lamar, Eric [DeCosta] loves Lamar, and it’s not gonna change in the future.”
This comes after reports that Jackson and the Ravens weren’t happy with each other: allegedly, Baltimore wanted him to play through the pain on his injured knee, despite the fact that a Grade 2 knee strain is only a step away from becoming a season-ending ligament injury. Jackson was unwilling to risk his long term livelihood to do so.
The Ravens are almost certain to give Jackson the franchise tag when the window to do so begins on February 21, giving him a guaranteed $32.4 million deal (the going rate for quarterbacks) for the 2023 season. They’ll then have until the middle of July to work out a long term deal in place of the tag.
What the Ravens decide to do this offseason will depend heavily on how negotiations with Jackson play out. His salary on the franchise tag would place them directly against the salary cap, which could motivate them to trade him if talks go south.
If worse comes to worst and the two sides can’t come to an agreement, DeCosta will have to decide how he wants to replace Jackson: whether it’s trading up for a player like Bryce Young or CJ Stroud, mailing it in for the upcoming season and tanking for a top pick in 2024, or using the added cap flexibility to shore up their roster.
A nerve-wracking offseason lies ahead for Ravens fans, with the future of their franchise quarterback at stake.