The Baltimore Ravens put the nonexclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson on Tuesday, preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent this month but allowing him to negotiate with other teams.
The deadline for teams to apply the franchise tag was Tuesday. The Ravens were always expected to use it if they didn’t reach a long-term deal with Jackson first. The main question was whether they'd use the nonexclusive tag or the exclusive one.
Baltimore could have prevented Jackson from negotiating with anyone else by using the exclusive tag, but that could have cost significantly more. Instead, Jackson would make $32.4 million if he plays this season on the nonexclusive tag.
Before that happens, Jackson and the Ravens can keep negotiating, and other teams can join in the bidding as well. Baltimore would have a chance to match any agreement between Jackson and another team, and if the Ravens chose not to match, they’d receive two first-round draft picks in return.
“There have been many instances across the league and in Baltimore when a player has been designated with the franchise tag and signed a long-term deal that same year," general manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement. "We will continue to negotiate in good faith with Lamar, and we are hopeful that we can strike a long-term deal that is fair to both Lamar and the Ravens. Our ultimate goal is to build a championship team with Lamar Jackson leading the way for many years to come.”
The Dallas Cowboys used the exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Dak Prescott in 2020. A year later, they reached a long-term deal with him. Kirk Cousins is another quarterback who played on the franchise tag fairly recently. He did it his final two seasons in Washington before joining the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.
So now the saga between Jackson and the Ravens enters its next phase. Josh Allen, the other star quarterback drafted in 2018 with Jackson, signed a long-term deal with Buffalo two offseasons ago. Jackson, on the other hand, entered last season — the final year of his rookie deal — still without an extension. His contract status didn’t seem too disruptive last offseason — he participated in mandatory minicamp and training camp — but there’s no telling how the next few months will go.
There obviously is some risk involved with using the nonexclusive tag, especially for a player of Jackson’s caliber, but it could resolve this deadlock sooner. If Jackson is able to find a deal he likes from another team, the Ravens could either match it or take the draft picks and allow him to leave.
Jackson, who doesn't have an agent, is one player who should pique the rest of the league's interest, even at the cost of two first-round picks, and his availability to any degree could shake up NFL free agency, which opens later this month.
Jackson was the 2019 NFL MVP, and his dynamic passing and running make him one of the game’s most unusual stars. At age 25, he already is one of six quarterbacks in NFL history with 10,000 yards passing and 4,000 rushing. His 12 games with at least 100 yards rushing are an NFL record for a QB.
Jackson has been hurt at the end of the past two seasons, and the Ravens haven’t reached the AFC championship game with him, but his impact on their offense is massive. If he remains with Baltimore, he’ll have a new coordinator after the Ravens hired Georgia’s Todd Monken.
NOTES: Baltimore also announced Tuesday that it had hired Dennard Wilson as defensive backs coach. He coached defensive backs with the Philadelphia Eagles the past two seasons.
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