Column: Why the Raiders should go all-in for Lamar Jackson

Mar 10, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: 3:04 pm
Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens prepares to snap the football during the NFL g...
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 13: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens prepares to snap the football during the NFL game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on September 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Ravens 33-27 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The sport of football has evolved so much over the past 150 years, even more so since the NFL & AFL merged in 1966. But one thing has stayed the same: The importance of a franchise quarterback.

As we’ve all seen countless times, having the most important position figured out can take a rebuilding franchise to a contender in a matter of a few games. We just saw it this season, with Patrick Mahomes leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a second Super Bowl title in four years. Hell, the New York Jets last won a Super Bowl in 1969, when Joe Namath was running the show in the Big Apple.

The point is: A franchise QB solves more problems than we realize.

This is why I find the Lamar Jackson dialogue so baffling.

If you’ve been living under a rock, the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson have been in a contract dispute for the better part of two years. With less than a week to go until free agency, the Ravens decided to use the franchise tag on its’ QB. The interesting part is they placed the non-exclusive tag on Jackson.

The tag works in a few ways, mainly as non-exclusive and exclusive.

If the latter is applied, Jackson gets a one-year deal with more than $45 million guaranteed. He can not negotiate with any other team unless the Ravens approve of it.

The former is a bit different, seen as a restricted free agent in a way. Jackson will still get a one-year deal guaranteed, but the money is reduced to $32 million. Additionally, Lamar can now negotiate with other teams in hopes of finding an offer sheet to his liking. The Ravens can match any other thrown his way. And if they don’t, they’ll receive two first-round picks in return.

Makes sense? Cool.

While a franchise talent getting the non-exclusive tag is surprising in its own right, the real question is why so many teams are out on him.

Since the tag was applied Tuesday, several teams have reported taking themselves out of the race, including the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Commanders and Miami Dolphins. All three of those are teams with a need for any signal-caller, yet they don’t seem interested in Jackson.


Could it be because of injuries, missing 12 games the past two seasons? Could it be the contact requests, asking for a fully guaranteed deal similar to Deshaun Watson a year ago (probably)? Regardless, Lamar Jackson seems to be the lone man out of the never-ending race for high-level QBs, causing some to question the league’s integrity.

Collusion or not, something smells off about his whole situation with the former league MVP. And for that reason (and MANY others), the Las Vegas Raiders should zig where the rest of the NFL zags by going after Lamar Jackson this spring.

Here’s how they do it & why.

The Financials

With the release of longtime starter Derek Carr, the Raiders currently have about $40 million in cap space in the offseason. Jackson’s contract could be in excess of that, reaching a $50 million cap hit for a season or two. The key here will be restructuring current deals, and trying to get off of the dead cap.

Las Vegas has more than $29 million in dead cap this season, spanning from contracts that previously featured for the team. Linebacker Cory Littleton accounts for almost $10 million, while Carr and Carl Nassib are on the books for more than $10 million as well.

I’ll admit that I don’t know the full logistics of the salary cap, but after watching the New Orleans Saints find ways to sign players to massive extensions, I’m pretty sure the Raiders’ front office can make it work long-term.

Another key will be adding more talent on the defensive end for the Silver & Black, ranking among the worst teams defensively for a few years. General manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels know the defense has some holes to fill in the secondary, so if Jackson’s contract can fit under the cap comfortably, they’ll make it happen.

If they can’t, the negotiations won’t get that far with the Ravens QB.

I expect the former to happen, especially with the AFC West only getting better heading into 2023. And at the price of only two first-round picks, Mark Davis should feel confident about a return on investment.

The Fit

Fun fact: The Baltimore Ravens have drafted eight wide receivers since 2018, the same year they drafted Jackson. Despite that, the Ravens’ WR corp has ranked last in receptions (9.4 per game) and yards (112.9 per game) in that timespan.

The point is: Get Lamar Jackson some damn help and watch him work.

That’s exactly what the Raiders would be getting if he joined Las Vegas, who have a plethora of talent on offense. Instead of Mark Andrews, Jackson gets to throw to Darren Waller. Instead of Rashod Bateman & Devin Duvernay, Jackson gets the combo of Davante Adams & Hunter Renfrow. That should alleviate some of the completion percentage “issues” that get brought up with Lamar.

Additionally, McDaniels is great at designing offensive schemes that mesh well with personnel. Working with Cam Newton in New England, McDaniels can create a hybrid offense tailored specially to Jackson and his talents. And with talent on the offensive line, and out wide, Lamar should find plenty holes to run through in Silver & Black.

On and did I mention Josh Jacobs, the league-leading rusher in the NFL last season? Yeah, Lamar would have him too, creating a backfield of pure terror for opposing defenses.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Las Vegas wouldn’t be thrilled to add a player like Jackson, making them an instant contender in the AFC. It really just comes down to whether will they pull the trigger and will Mark Davis spend the money.

That remains to be seen.

Why the Raiders should do it

As soon as the news broke that Jackson would be under the non-exclusive tag, reports surfaced that Las Vegas was out of the race. I didn’t buy it and neither did other journalists, with conflicting reports coming out thereafter.

As I said, I don’t buy that the Raiders aren’t interested in Lamar Jackson, especially after the season they just had.

Releasing Derek Carr from his contract, Las Vegas is finally free to pursue better options under center. And with the division getting better by the day, can the Raiders afford to be mediocre next season? Can Josh McDaniels afford to have another cumbersome season as head coach?

Probably not, which is why Jackson to Las Vegas makes so much sense.

Mark Davis finally gets the dual-threat QB that he and his father, Al Davis, were searching for years ago. This makes up for the Ja’Marcus Russell blunder (okay maybe not fully but you get the point). Adding a talent like Jackson makes Las Vegas appealing for many different reasons, especially with Lamar’s phenomenal track record off the field as well.

And if it doesn’t work out, so be it. At least Las Vegas took a risk and tried to make some noise with a big move. Settling for bridge QBs like Jimmy Garoppolo is such a lateral move for a franchise about to be left in the desert if they don’t act fast. Justin Herbert & the Chargers are only getting better, and Patrick Mahomes & the Chiefs keep winning rings. Hell, even the Broncos got freaking Sean Payton to be their HC.

The Raiders have always been an outlier organization from the rest of the NFL, so why not be the villains one more time? End the collusion (or whatever is keeping Lamar from getting paid), and sign your QB of the future Raiders. He’s there for the taking. You can’t draft quarterbacks anyway, so why not give up two first-rounders for a top-five already established talent?

With all that being said, please, for the love of God Raiders, sign Lamar Jackson. Getting a former league MVP, entering his prime at 26, with a chip on his shoulder. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Stay locked in at Sactown Sports for all things NFL & Raiders


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Column: Why the Raiders should go all-in for Lamar Jackson