While that near-miracle will dance around in their heads in the short term, the Ravens have a long-term problem to try and find a solution for, too: A second contract for Lamar Jackson.
The 2019 NFL MVP concluded his rookie deal this season and has long been awaiting a lucrative extension that hasn't come. With the franchise tag at its disposal, Baltimore's surely the favorite to enjoy Jackson's talents in '23 and beyond, but NFL odds wait for no one.
We've got the odds for Lamar Jackson's next team — if not the Ravens — and a few highlighted suitors, below.
Lamar Jackson next team odds
|Team (if not the Ravens)||Odds|
|New York Jets||+250|
|Las Vegas Raiders||+750|
|New England Patriots||+900|
|San Francisco 49ers||+1,500|
|New Orleans Saints||+1,500|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+1,500|
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of January 17, 2023.
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Lamar Jackson's contract situation at a glance
Before we dive into some of the favorites to land Lamar Jackson's services, we should discuss how we got here. It's incredibly rare for any starting-caliber quarterback to become available, never mind one with the accolades and ability of Jackson. Yet, we are heading down that path and the current standstill can be attributed to two factors:
The franchise tag
The tag is the biggest weapon the Ravens have right now and the reason that Baltimore isn't in an outright panic, as it theoretically affords them two more years of team control. It is also, however, a sizable roadblock to any starting point in negotiations between the Ravens and Jackson, who doesn't have an agent.
Should Baltimore tag Jackson, it would be with the exclusive tag, which is a greater number than the typical tag (which is the average of the Top 5 QB salaries). That tag would come in at around $45 million for 2023 — a fine cap hit for a QB — but would then balloon to roughly $54 million in '24, with a consecutive tag 120% of the previous year's.
So, any contract presented to Jackson would have to have a starting point of $100 million fully guaranteed in the first two seasons. Otherwise, there's little incentive for the QB to sign long-term instead of playing on back-to-back tags and then hitting the market, as Kirk Cousins did on his way out of Washington.
In a vacuum, $100 million over two years for a franchise quarterback is negligible. For a Ravens team trying to contend, swallowing that cost — and an APY of $50 million over the remainder of the contract — could prove too much.
Deshaun Watson's contract
The contract 31 owners have spent months stewing over is of particular issue in Baltimore. In giving Deshaun Watson a $230 million fully guaranteed contract, the Browns didn't just outbid the rest of the league but risked a new precedent in the form of fully guaranteed deals for quarterbacks.
It's already bitten the Ravens once, with Jackson reportedly turning down their preseason offer of $250 million, with $133M guaranteed, over five years before negotiations ended. That refusal was down to wanting a fully guaranteed deal, as Watson received. And why shouldn't he?
Jackson is Watson's peer, from an NFL sense, and has accomplished more with an MVP to his name. After several teams lined up to morally bankrupt themselves en route to landing Watson last summer, there should be no doubt that Jackson would receive a similar deal if he hit the open market.
Favorites to sign Lamar Jackson
New York Jets (+250)
It's easy to imagine Jackson reinvigorating Gang Green, bringing a swagger back to the Jets' quarterback position not seen since Joe Namath was poolside before Super Bowl III — or at least since their fleeting love affair with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Equally easy is the fit. New York can create as much cap space as it would feasibly need to fit a new deal for Jackson under the cap, has no shortage of weapons on offense, a reliable offensive line, and a ready-to-contend defense.
Add in a massive market like New York and a head coach players love in Robert Salah, and the Jets appear to be an awesome destination for Lamar.
Atlanta Falcons (+350)
One of the runners-up in the Watson sweepstakes last year, Atlanta would surely get back on the QB trail in pursuit of Jackson should the opportunity arise. Marcus Mariota's one-year stint was cut short, while rookie Desmond Ridder certainly didn't show enough to prohibit the Dirty Birds from upgrading.
Jackson would no doubt see the appeal in an offense already featuring Kyle Pitts and Drake London with plenty of flexibility. Not for nothing, Falcons owner Arthur Blank has incredibly deep pockets and has never hesitated from acting aggressively and spending.
Las Vegas Raiders (+750)
From a team perspective, Vegas needs a new quarterback with Derek Carr on the way out, and Mark Davis would no doubt love such a splash after years of being lukewarm on Carr. (Whether he would have the cash to actually land Jackson is another question).
Carolina Panthers (+750)
For all the reasons the Falcons are rightfully among the favorites for Jackson, so too are the Panthers. They came up short in their pursuit of Watson last year (and Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford the year prior) but hardly found a solution in the meantime.
Owner David Tepper has overseen an ill-fated quarterback carousel in recent years, seeing the end of the Cam Newton era, Teddy Bridgewater's underwhelming tenure, the misguided trade for Sam Darnold, and then, finally, Baker Mayfield's brief stint.
One gets the sense Tepper isn't going to rest until he lands that franchise-altering quarterback, and he certainly has the required capital to land this one.
Washington Commanders (+900)
So, let's just come right out and say it: This destination is entirely contingent upon new ownership. There's no way Jackson chooses to play under Dan Snyder for this organization, and there's no way Snyder would pay up for it.
However, should say, the deep-pocketed owner of Amazon take control of the franchise, that outlook could change quickly. What better way to signal a new era of football in Washington, for a once-proud franchise, than to take your DMV rival's quarterback?