Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback
Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

The Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson. In doing so, they opened up for business. After struggling to come to terms on an extension with their star quarterback over the past two offseasons, they signaled their intention to play chicken with the league’s other 31 teams.

Any of those teams can sign Jackson to an offer sheet, which the Ravens would then have five days to match. If they match, they keep their quarterback on the terms of that deal. If they decline, the other team has to send two first-round picks to Baltimore in return, with one coming in 2023 and the other in 2024.

Two first-round picks is the baseline for a deal, but it’s not the only possibility. If the Ravens want to negotiate more creative compensation, Jackson would sign his franchise tag and then immediately be traded to his new team for whatever deal Baltimore negotiates.

We saw this happen in the past, as an example, when the Seahawks tagged Frank Clark in 2019 and then dealt him to the Chiefs for a first- and second-round pick as well as a swap of third-rounders. Typically, when teams tag and trade their franchise players, they land something less than two first-round picks. The Ravens could land something more. A team such as the Texans might not be willing to send two first-round picks, but such a team could offer the Ravens the No. 2 pick if they’re willing to let Jackson sign his tender before a trade.

Speculation has suggested the Ravens will simply match whatever offer Jackson signs, and it might turn out general manager Eric DeCosta and the Baltimore brain trust will keep him. Given that the Ravens haven’t yet been able to come to terms with Jackson on an extension, though, opening up the bidding to 31 other teams makes it more likely Jackson will receive the sort of contract Baltimore was already loath to give the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner.

All of this opens up an opportunity to discuss something we don’t normally see in the NFL: How much should a team be willing to pay for a 26-year-old quarterback with an MVP on his résumé? Those guys almost never hit the open market, and although Jackson isn’t an unrestricted free agent, this is the closest an elite quarterback in his prime has come to that opportunity in many years.

Let’s take a deep dive into the Lamar Jackson trade universe and what happens next. I’ll run through each of the 16 teams that should have a conversation about trading for Jackson, why each should or shouldn’t make the move, whether Jackson should waive his de facto no-trade clause to make the deal and what the compensation would look like. In some cases, the easiest deal would be to sign Jackson to an offer sheet and give up two first-round picks. In others, teams might have to get creative and involve other picks or players to trade for Jackson.

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Why would the Ravens settle for two first-round picks?

First, though, let’s hit a question that has seemingly been confusing. Why would the Ravens be willing to risk losing Jackson for just two first-round picks when we’ve seen Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson land much more? Wilson netted the Seahawks two first- and second-round picks and several players, while Watson landed three first-rounders and several middle-round selections for the Texans.

It would be reasonable to argue that Jackson’s performance is worth more than that of either of those players. He’s eight years younger than Wilson. He has never missed time via suspension unlike Watson, who played just six games last season after serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault, as defined by the NFL, on massage therapists. Jackson has missed time each of the past two seasons with injuries – we’re now three years removed from his MVP year in 2019 – but Jalen Hurts’ success has proved teams can make it to the Super Bowl (and nearly win) with an offense built around the quarterback run game. Jackson is a very valuable player.

The issue is one I harp on a lot: NFL contracts and trade value aren’t about skill. They’re about leverage. The Seahawks and Texans had way more leverage than the Ravens because their quarterbacks weren’t as close to unrestricted free agency. By using the franchise tag, the Ravens are only two years from being in a position in which they would realistically have no choice but to let Jackson hit unrestricted free agency, given the onerous price of a third franchise tag. Baltimore can afford the $32.4 million tag this year and a projected $41.8 million tag in 2024, but it would be north of $60 million in 2025.

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Wilson had two years left on his deal when he was traded to the Broncos, meaning he was four years from threatening to become an unrestricted free agent. Watson was six years away. Those years matter when it comes to negotiating a new deal and figuring out how much trade value a player holds.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Jackson landed more than two first-round picks in a trade, if only because a team might use the extra capital to persuade DeCosta to do a sign-and-trade as opposed to matching an offer sheet. Since two first-round picks is the baseline for a deal, though, I’ve used that as the starting point for possible trade offers below.

NFL teams would need to send their own 2023 and 2024 first-round picks to sign Jackson to an offer sheet, but if they can negotiate a sign-and-trade with the Ravens, teams that don’t have their own first-round pick in 2023 (such as the 49ers or Dolphins) could acquire Jackson without using an offer sheet. In these cases, I would expect the Ravens to ask for something more than two first-round picks; an example might be to include a first-round pick, a second-round pick and a quarterback who can replace Jackson in the starting lineup.

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I’ll be ranking these teams in terms of whether I think they should trade for Jackson as opposed to which is most likely. I’ll start with the teams that aren’t in the discussion at all before working to the teams that should be having conversations.

Teams out of the conversation for a Jackson trade

Of the 31 other NFL teams, 15 don’t even need to bother having a conversation about Jackson. Eight have a franchise quarterback under contract on a significant deal: The Bills, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Giants, Rams and Saints are all locked into their current starters for years to come. Obviously, some of those teams are happier about their quarterback situation than others, but they’re not going to add Jackson this offseason.

Four more are living the dream of having a franchise quarterback on a rookie deal. For the Bengals, Chargers and Eagles, that dream is about to come to an end, as Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts are each about to get massive raises this offseason. They’re not trading for Jackson. Neither are the Jaguars, who are understandably thrilled about what Trevor Lawrence showed during the second half of 2022. Lawrence will be due for an extension before the 2024 season.

The Seahawks are somewhere between those two universes, having signed Geno Smith to an extension Monday afternoon. Smith’s three-year deal leaves the team some flexibility to move on after one season, but if it adds a quarterback to the roster this spring, it likely would be a draft pick who apprentices behind Smith in 2023. Seattle has two first-round picks. It likely is out of the picture for Jackson.

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There’s one team left in this group. The jury is still out on Kenny Pickett as he enters his second season with the Steelers, but even if Pittsburgh wanted to trade for Jackson, I can’t imagine the Ravens would be willing to deal him to their archrivals. These two teams did link up on a trade in 2020, when Baltimore sent defensive lineman Chris Wormley to Pittsburgh, but with all due respect to the Wormley family, trading a 5-technique lineman isn’t exactly the same thing as trading away the face of the franchise. Jackson is not going to be in black and yellow in 2023.

We’re left with 16 other teams that could plausibly sit down and have a conversation in the building about whether they should get into the Jackson business. Some of them might be done with that conversation after 30 seconds, but others could and should be willing to offer the Ravens whatever it might take to add a potential Hall of Fame quarterback.

I’m going to run through those 16 teams, starting with the ones that can least justify a Jackson deal before hitting those that have the best case for making a move, and talk about why a Jackson deal would or would not make sense. Since Jackson would need to sign the tag to make a trade possible and has a de facto no-trade clause as a result, I’ll cover whether he would find each opportunity compelling. I’ll also hit what a trade could look like for each of those teams, with or without two first-round picks involved.

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Ranking best team fits for Jackson

16. Green Bay Packers

Why they should consider it: The Packers have two plausible starting quarterbacks on their roster as the new league year approaches, but neither of them is a sure thing. Aaron Rodgers is 39 years old and coming off a frustrating 2022 season. We’re still waiting to hear whether the future Hall of Famer will return to football in 2023, as Rodgers has left both the Packers and the teams waiting to acquire him in their own darkness retreat over the past month. Rodgers could retire, return to the Packers or be traded to another team in the days to come.

Jordan Love’s future also is up in the air, given that the Packers will need to decide in May whether they want to pick up the 24-year-old’s fifth-year option of $20 million for next year. Love has thrown just 83 regular-season passes, and while his numbers improved dramatically in a 21-pass sample last season, almost all of that is a product of one play – a short slant that Christian Watson took 63 yards to the house against the Eagles. I don’t think we know anything meaningful, good or bad, about what Love will be as a pro quarterback, which is a little concerning for a team that has to decide on Love as a 2024 option before he sees regular playing time next season.

Jackson is a much surer bet than either incumbent. He’s younger than Rodgers and much more experienced than Love despite being less than two years older than the Packers backup. For a team that won 13 games three times in a row before narrowly missing the postseason at 8-9 last season, Jackson would provide the sort of floor that playoff teams need from their quarterbacks. If the Packers are going to move on from Rodgers, better to move on to a guy who is 45-16 as an NFL starter than an unknown quantity in Love.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: You could argue the Packers would prefer either of their current options. Jackson was the MVP in 2019, but Rodgers followed Jackson by winning the award in consecutive seasons in 2020 and 2021. He already is comfortably ensconced in LaFleur’s offense. If Rodgers returns, the structure of his existing deal makes it likely he will be around for two more seasons. The Packers could always restructure that contract, but if he wants to play for the only franchise he has ever known, I don’t think Green Bay would kick him out to trade for Jackson.

15. San Francisco 49ers

Why they should consider it: When coach Kyle Shanahan traded up to draft Trey Lance in the first round in 2021, he was picking a player capable of fitting into the league’s most diverse set of playmakers. Every back and receiver the 49ers use regularly on offense is capable of lining up anywhere before the snap and touching the ball as a rusher or pass-catcher afterward. It’s an offense of hybrids.

The only exception in that offense was the guy who handled the ball under center, as Jimmy Garoppolo was a pocket passer with limited mobility. Lance was something entirely different, and before his right fibula injury in Week 2, it was clear the 49ers planned to use him in a similar way to how the Ravens use Jackson. Lance suffered his season-ending injury while running Bash QB Counter, a run concept the Ravens use regularly with Jackson, who would fit comfortably into the offense Shanahan appeared to be designing for his second-year starter this season.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: Lance is 22 and has started just four NFL games, so it would be aggressive to give up on him. If they were going to move on, it would likely be to open up a role for Brock Purdy, whose remarkable finish to the season ended with a torn right ulnar collateral ligament in the NFC Championship Game. Purdy’s status for the start of 2023 is uncertain, but it was clear the Niners can operate at a high level with him running the offense.

Both quarterbacks would be much cheaper than Jackson in the years to come, which is a critical factor for a team that will already need to stretch to pay its stars. Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Trent Williams and Fred Warner are already among the league’s highest-paid players at their respective positions. Nick Bosa and Brandon Aiyuk become eligible for extensions this offseason, and Talanoa Hufanga will follow next year. Can the 49ers really throw $50 million per year more into the mix with Jackson?

I also wonder if Shanahan and general manager John Lynch would be reticent to add Jackson given his injury woes in the past two Decembers. The 49ers saw two of their seasons destroyed by injuries to Garoppolo and lost all three of their signal-callers for the season in 2022. Jackson is generally excellent at avoiding unnecessary hits, but would they really want to commit to a quarterback who hasn’t been able to play after Week 13 each of the past two seasons?

Would they be a good fit for Jackson? The 49ers are a dream for any quarterback, given Shanahan’s game-calling ability and the variety of playmakers available. Jackson would slide right into the offense Lance was running before his injury. This would be an easy yes.

Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? I’m not sure they have the picks to deal. The 49ers sent their 2023 first-rounder to the Dolphins to move up for Lance and used their second- and third-round picks to trade for McCaffrey. They have three compensatory picks at the end of the third round, but they don’t have meaningful draft capital this year.

What would a deal look like? Lance would have to head back to the Ravens, but would Baltimore feel the same way about him as Shanahan & Co. did two years ago? These two teams would have to get creative. What about Lance, Aiyuk and a 2024 first-round pick to the Ravens for Jackson and a 2024 fourth-round selection? I believe the 49ers are more likely to stay put at quarterback outside of adding a veteran backup such as Matt Ryan.

14. Minnesota Vikings

Why they should consider it: The Vikings have an uncertain future at quarterback. Kirk Cousins is 34 and hasn’t exhibited the sort of ceiling teams want from their veteran signal-callers. Minnesota has contorted its cap for years to pay Cousins, something general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had no choice but to continue after joining the team a year ago.

If the Vikings can avoid one more restructure this offseason, though, Cousins will be a free agent after the 2023 campaign, leaving them with a completely blank slate under center. Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell could draft a quarterback in April, but Jackson would be a more exciting transition plan out of the Cousins era.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: Minnesota won 13 games last season, but advanced metrics suggest it isn’t close to being a Super Bowl contender and is extremely likely to decline in 2023. The Vikings were outscored by three points and finished the year as the sixth-worst team in football by DVOA. They were played off the field by the Giants, who weren’t a great team in their own right, in the wild-card round. The Vikings are closer to rebuilding than they are to meaningfully contending, and Jackson won’t single-handedly solve their problems on both sides of the ball.

The Vikings also are nearly $21 million over the 2023 cap, and that’s before signing wide receiver Justin Jefferson to what will surely be a record-setting extension this offseason. Adofo-Mensah will obviously get the Vikes cap compliant before the season, but they are not in position to add a $50 million-per-year player to their roster.

Would they be a good fit for Jackson? Who wouldn’t want to play with Jefferson? Vikings ownership also showed an openness to giving a quarterback a fully guaranteed deal when signing Cousins to a three-year, $84 million contract in free agency in 2018, although that was with former general manager Rick Spielman.

Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? It seems reasonable enough, given that the Vikings pick No. 23 in April’s draft and might like their chances of finishing in the top half of the league next year with Jackson in the fold. Adofo-Mensah sent a second-round pick to the Lions to acquire tight end T.J. Hockenson last fall, but the Vikings presumably would get some draft capital back if they traded Cousins this offseason.

What would a deal look like? Cousins has a no-trade clause, making this deal even more complicated. I don’t think he will waive that protection unless he gets an extension as part of a trade, and I’m not sure the Ravens would be excited about the idea of hitching their wagon to him as he enters his mid-30s. This probably would end up with the Ravens getting two first-round picks and Cousins for Jackson and a fifth-round selection, but there are lots of reasons these teams don’t add up.

13. Detroit Lions

Why they should consider it: The Lions are on the cusp of playoff contention after rebuilding their roster over the past two seasons. Dan Campbell’s team won eight of its final 10 games, including a last-second victory over the Packers to knock its rivals out of the postseason picture. Adding Jackson would give the Lions a quarterback with an MVP-caliber ceiling and could put them over the top in the NFC North.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: Jared Goff was one of the league’s hottest quarterbacks over the second half of the season, as his 69.7 Total QBR over that period was the second-best mark in football, trailing only eventual MVP Patrick Mahomes. Less than two years after being included as salary ballast in the Matthew Stafford deal, Goff threw 15 touchdown passes without an interception and averaged nearly 8.0 yards per attempt. It was the best Goff anyone has seen since his run to the Super Bowl in 2018, and it was better than any Jackson season since his MVP run.

Goff has two years and $52 million left on his current deal, and while he’s not going to go the rest of his career without throwing any interceptions, the Lions seem much more likely to keep him around with a new deal now than they did 12 months ago. They would need to trade him if they acquired Jackson, but given his cold-weather performance, I’m not sure he would be a great fit playing outdoors in November and December with the Ravens.

On top of that, while the Lions have two first-round picks in April, they probably need to use those picks to rebuild a defense that has ranked 28th and 29th in DVOA over coordinator Aaron Glenn’s two seasons in town. Detroit used the No. 2 overall pick on edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson a year ago, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if general manager Brad Holmes used his two first-rounders in 2023 to add more help up front and in the secondary.

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Would they be a good fit for Jackson? I think so. The Lions have one of the league’s most promising playmaking corps in Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams and D’Andre Swift. They also have a top-10 offensive line, anchored by tackles Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell. Goff went from losing his way during the 2020 and 2021 seasons to playing Pro Bowl-caliber football over the last two months of 2022. Jackson would benefit from that same sort of support.

Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? I don’t think the Lions would be willing to deal pick Nos. 6 and 18 for Jackson. The No. 18 selection and Detroit’s 2024 first-rounder would be more plausible but less valuable for the Ravens. Holmes also has pick Nos. 48, 55 and 81 in April, which could help sweeten the deal if the two sides want to negotiate something different than the two first-round picks.

What would a deal look like? It’s tempting to whip up some sort of four-way trade, but the simplest solution would be to send the 18th and 48th picks along with Goff to the Ravens for Jackson and the 122nd selection. Goff has meaningful trade value after his second-half surge, so I don’t think the Ravens could expect to land him and two first-round picks as part of a deal. Goff would serve as the short-term replacement for Jackson, and his play over the second half suggests the Ravens would be able to win in 2023. In reality, the Lions likely will stick with Goff (and/or draft a quarterback at No. 6), and the Ravens will look elsewhere.

12. New England Patriots

Why they should consider it: Mac Jones took a major step backward in his second season, ranking near the bottom of the league in virtually every major passing category. It’s fair to pin a significant amount of the blame for that drop-off on the ill-fated decision to use Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as offensive coaches, but even the rookie version of Jones was heavily protected in terms of run/pass splits and with safe throws in obvious passing situations.

Jackson has given Bill Belichick’s defense fits in three starts against New England, posting a QBR of 79.4 while running for 223 yards and three touchdowns. His ability to flip the numbers back toward the offense in the running game has to appeal to an old-school coach such as Belichick. And like the Jets, who look back at their 2022 team and must feel like they would have been a playoff team with a competent quarterback, Jackson raises the floor for the Patriots, both now and in the years to come.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: Most people inside and outside of the building in New England considered Jones to be a franchise quarterback as recently as last September, so it would be extremely aggressive to move on after a disappointing sophomore season. The Patriots likely would want to evaluate Jones with new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien in tow before making a decision about his future after next season.

If the Patriots wanted to replace Jones, wouldn’t they just go after Jimmy Garoppolo? The former New England draftee is a free agent and familiar to Belichick. He didn’t cross paths with O’Brien and would have to learn at least some semblance of a new offense, but so would Jackson. Garoppolo also wouldn’t cost anything in terms of draft capital, which would allow the team to use those picks elsewhere.

Would they be a good fit for Jackson? No. The Patriots have an even worse depth chart at receiver than the Ravens, given that they’ll start the offseason with DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton and Hunter Henry as their three established regulars. Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor are going to be free agents, while Kendrick Bourne is a potential cap casualty. They could draft a wideout such as Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 14, but if they need to use that pick to trade for Jackson, Belichick & Co. will need to find another way to supplement their receiving corps.

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Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? It’s not likely given Belichick’s track record of drafting. The Patriots typically (and wisely) prefer to trade down to add extra picks, and while they do make deals to jump ahead in the draft, those are usually small swaps to move up a few selections and get ahead of a particular team for a player. When they desperately needed a quarterback in 2021, Belichick famously resisted the urge to move up and still landed Jones with the No. 15 pick.

Would the rules be different if the Patriots thought Jackson was a franchise-altering quarterback? Probably. I don’t think Belichick is so beholden to his philosophy that he would pass up the ability to add one, but it would have to be something close to a slam dunk.

What would a deal look like? These franchises have a long-standing rivalry over the past decade, with the 2014 playoff game in which Belichick took advantage of the referees rushing into announcing tackle-eligible formations to pick up chunks of yardage before the league changed its rules. Those plays were called “Baltimore” and “Raven,” so you can’t fault John Harbaugh for being a little angry about what happened.

I’m not sure there’s bad blood, exactly, but the Ravens aren’t about to let the Patriots get Jackson for a discount, either. The Ravens likely would want at least the 14th and 46th overall picks and the rights to Jones, who would take over as their new quarterback. New England might prefer to just send two first-round picks before trading Jones somewhere else.

11. Washington Commanders

Why they should consider it: The Commanders have been anonymous and irrelevant in NFL circles for virtually the entire Daniel Snyder era, but things have been particularly painful since losing Kirk Cousins in free agency after the 2017 season. The organization has tried to replace Cousins with Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Wentz, but none has done the trick. Its projected starter heading into 2023 is fifth-round pick Sam Howell, who made his first and only NFL appearance in Week 18.

Perhaps more importantly, signing Jackson would be a statement of intent for the organization as it reportedly negotiates a possible sale. As the Commanders approach the post-Snyder era, acquiring a franchise player such as Jackson would help get lapsed fans back into the stadium. Nabbing him from their local rivals would only make things juicier.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: The Commanders would have few qualms about trading for Jackson given coach Ron Rivera’s public chase for a veteran quarterback a year ago, but would the Ravens really be willing to trade Jackson within the DMV? The Commanders and Ravens have deeper rivalries with their divisional foes than they do with each other, but it would be devastating for Baltimore fans to see Jackson move an hour down I-95 and rejuvenate a moribund franchise.

Would they be a good fit for Jackson? I’m not sure. The Commanders have a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver in Terry McLaurin, but the players around him haven’t yet broken out. Jahan Dotson flashed at times in his rookie season, and Brian Robinson Jr. should be better as he’s further removed from the gunshot wound he suffered before the season, but it takes a lot of projection to peg this offense as exciting heading into 2023.

The Commanders upgraded at coordinator by convincing Eric Bieniemy to leave the Chiefs, but there are legitimate questions about whether Jackson would want to join the franchise. What happens, say, if Jackson decides to become a Commanders player and Snyder decides not to sell? Jackson might not have any personal animosity toward the team owner, but there’s nearly a quarter-century of evidence suggesting the only way Snyder runs a football team is into the ground.

10. Tennessee Titans

Why they should consider it: After a frustrating 2022 season culminated in a second-half collapse, the Titans appear to be undergoing a major shift. They’ve replaced general manager Jon Robinson with Ran Carthon of the 49ers and cut Taylor Lewan, Robert Woods, Zach Cunningham and Bud Dupree. Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill are both entering the final year of their respective deals and could be next to leave. Tennessee once beat the Ravens in Jackson’s MVP season and lost in Jackson’s only playoff victory the following year, but it might not look much like the team we see in 2023.

If Tennessee is going to try to retool around a talented young defensive core, there’s nothing wrong with the idea of locking in a solution at quarterback by trading for Jackson. Cutting Tannehill would free up much of the cap space needed to acquire him. Third-round pick Malik Willis didn’t show much in his rookie season, so there won’t be much standing in Jackson’s way. Given the run-heavy approach of the Titans’ offense with Henry, they could continue to play that way, only with Jackson shouldering a significant portion of the rushing workload.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: If the Titans really are looking at their roster as a rebuilding situation, sending out multiple first-round picks to acquire a quarterback who’s about to make $50 million per season doesn’t really add up. Carthon needs to come up with a post-Tannehill solution at quarterback, but that solution seems more likely to come from the draft than it does from a conference rival.

With a roster missing a half-decade of first-round picks who either went elsewhere or flamed out, the Titans probably aren’t in position to trade away more draft capital. Their last first-round pick to play his way into a second deal with the organization is Lewan in 2015. Jeffery Simmons will break that streak when he signs a new contract, but they need to add more first-round picks to their roster.

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Would they be a good fit for Jackson? I don’t think so. The Titans have some promising second-year playmakers in Treylon Burks and Chigoziem Okonkwo, but it would take some projection for those two to match the Baltimore duo of Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews. The offensive line is also a work in progress after cutting Lewan, with four-year starter Nate Davis also hitting free agency. If they release or trade Henry, they’ll be down to just one player from the starting offensive lineup that played against the Ravens in the 2020 playoffs.

Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? Unclear. We don’t know much about Carthon’s philosophy as he starts his career as a general manager. His 49ers traded three first-round picks to move up for Trey Lance, but that was for a rookie quarterback as opposed to a veteran like Jackson, and it wasn’t with Carthon making the final call.

What would a deal look like? The Ravens likely would want the baseline deal of the No. 11 overall pick and that 2024 first-round pick from the Titans, especially given how Tennessee is turning over its roster. I’m not sure Tannehill has much trade value given his $27 million base salary in 2023, although the Ravens could pursue him as a Jackson replacement after he gets cut.

Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

9. Houston Texans

Why they should consider it: No team has more draft capital over the next few years than the Texans, who have Cleveland’s first- and third-round picks in 2023 and its first- and fourth-round selections in 2024. Houston has been a league laughingstock after going 11-38-1 and cycling through coaches without settling on one like a Netflix menu over the past three years, but the move to hire DeMeco Ryans on a six-year deal suggests it is ready to commit to the future.

Trading for Jackson would accelerate that rebuild and revitalize the franchise. Houston picked up a haul of draft picks for Deshaun Watson, but turning those picks into Jackson would be a much more exciting move and get it another quarterback in his prime. With the Colts and Titans in transition, trading for Jackson could even accelerate the Texans into a divisional race with the Jaguars in the AFC South.

If they can’t get the quarterback they want by virtue of winning their way out of the No. 1 overall pick, trading for Jackson would be a healthy alternative.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: The Texans aren’t one player away from competing, even if that player is a franchise quarterback. With the No. 2 pick, they’ll be in position to land no worse than their second-most favorite option at quarterback, and that passer will make peanuts over the next four seasons. Jackson is likely to be better than a project such as Anthony Richardson (Florida), but is he better than Richardson, a 2024 first-round pick and more than $40 million in money to spend on the roster every season over that time frame?

Would they be a good fit for Jackson? Ryans is a well-respected young coach, and Bobby Slowik is the latest offensive mind to study under Kyle Shanahan before running an offense, but this Texans attack needs work. Brandin Cooks has agitated for a trade over the past year and might get his wish this offseason. John Metchie hasn’t played as a pro after the second-round pick was diagnosed with leukemia last offseason, while Nico Collins and Brevin Jordan haven’t produced with limited quarterback play. Laremy Tunsil gives the franchise an anchor at left tackle, but he also will be a free agent in 2024.

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Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? General manager Nick Caserio could afford to trade those picks and still feel comfortable with his draft capital, but it depends. Would the Texans trade pick Nos. 2 and 12 in 2023 for Jackson? Never say never, but that seems like a lot. Would the Ravens take Cleveland’s picks in 2023 and 2024? Maybe, but they would probably prefer the 12th pick and Houston’s 2024 first-rounder.

What would a deal look like? The dream scenario for the Texans would be to hold on to the No. 2 overall selection and trade the 12th pick as the focal point of a package for Jackson, which would allow Houston to either trade down (and recoup some of the draft capital they sent to the Ravens) or use that pick on Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. They can’t do that if they sign Jackson to an offer sheet.

Would the Ravens be willing to settle for one first-round pick if it were the No. 2 selection? Landing there would give the Ravens the ability to directly draft Jackson’s replacement, whether that becomes Bryce Young, Will Levis, C.J. Stroud or Richardson. Most advanced draft models would suggest picks later in the first round and early in the second round are more efficient selections after accounting for cost, but the Ravens might not be able to land a quarterback with those selections. It’s a fun idea, but the Texans probably would prefer to hold on to the No. 2 pick and send No. 12 and a 2024 first-rounder to Baltimore.

Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

8. Chicago Bears

Why they should consider it: The Bears are left with a difficult decision with the No. 1 overall pick. It’s worth a full article in its own right, but there’s no right answer. If general manager Ryan Poles keeps Justin Fields, he can trade the top pick for a massive haul, netting multiple first-round picks for a rebuilding roster. If he uses the pick on a quarterback, Poles will get a smaller return for Fields and four years of a promising passer on a rookie deal instead of the two remaining for Fields.

There’s a universe in which the Bears can have some version of their cake and eat it too. Trading for Jackson would cause them to deal away significant draft capital, but Chicago would be able to immediately recoup what it lost (and likely more) by shipping off the top pick to the highest bidder if it doesn’t send that pick to the Ravens. Jackson won’t be cheap, but the Bears have plenty of cap space, and he’s a much more reliable option than Fields or whichever quarterback they would take at the top of the draft.

The Bears are early in a rebuild, but is there any team in the league more desperate for a franchise quarterback? They have had their quarterback post an above-average adjusted net yards per attempt just nine times in 53 years since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 (with a 250-attempt minimum). They’ve never had a quarterback post an above-average mark in back-to-back seasons over that stretch. Jackson has done that three times in his four full years as a starter, let alone considering what he offers as a runner.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: Chicago is a couple of years away from having the sort of infrastructure needed to get the most out of Jackson. It has its pick of the quarterbacks in April’s class and its own mobile quarterback in Fields, who might develop into Jackson if the team ever gets him more help. Like the Texans, are the Bears really better off paying Jackson $50 million a year than they are to go with a quarterback who will cost a fraction of that amount and better align with their rebuilding time frame?

Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

7. Miami Dolphins

Why they should consider it: It’s unclear whether the Dolphins will pick up Tua Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option after he suffered a series of concussions during the 2022 season. Doing so would guarantee Tagovailoa $23.2 million in 2024, even if he’s unable to play because of an injury. Declining the option would leave Miami struggling with the same dilemma the Giants face with Daniel Jones, only with a player who has been much better when healthy.

Jackson would be a more certain option for a Dolphins organization that hasn’t had a steady star under center in the 21st century. Landing Jackson would be a box-office draw for an ownership group that’s made decisions with the hopes of filling seats in years past. It would draw a premature end to the Tagovailoa era in Miami, but the franchise might not be ready to commit to its presumptive quarterback of the future given his unfortunate injury history.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: Tagovailoa was a more productive quarterback than Jackson or just about anybody else when healthy last season, as he led the league in most efficiency metrics. Playing with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle helped, but it isn’t as if backups Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson produced like Tagovailoa when they were on the field.

Even if the Dolphins went year to year with Tagovailoa by declining his fifth-year option and using the franchise tag in 2024 and 2025, they would still end up paying him only $96.7 million over the next three seasons while maintaining flexibility if he got injured. Jackson projects to earn $150 million over that same time frame.

Would they be a good fit for Jackson? It would have to be Jackson’s dream destination, right? He grew up in South Florida and played high school football north of Miami. He would get to play with superstar wide receivers Hill and Waddle in an offense that was devastatingly explosive at its best a year ago. Coach Mike McDaniel would need to install some quarterback run concepts into his rushing attack, but if Shanahan could do it for Lance, it seems likely his former assistant could do it for Jackson.

Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? Well, here’s the problem: The Dolphins don’t have two first-round picks to deal. Miami forfeited one first-round pick for tampering and sent their other first-rounder to the Broncos for Bradley Chubb. Miami has an extra third-round pick and its first-rounder in 2024, but it’s going to be tough for the franchise to make a competitive offer to the Ravens with draft picks, and they can’t do an offer sheet.

What would a deal look like? The Dolphins would need to get creative. Would they send Tagovailoa to the Ravens? Would the Ravens be willing to guarantee that fifth-year option given his medical history? If Miami sent Tagovailoa, its second-round pick in 2023 and a first-rounder in 2024 for Jackson and a midround selection, that would seem fair to me, but a lot would depend on whether the Ravens think Tagovailoa is a long-term option under center.

Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Why they should consider it: The only quarterback under contract for the Buccaneers is 2021 second-rounder Kyle Trask, who has nine career pass attempts. Todd Bowles’ team fielded a veteran roster designed to win now around Tom Brady, so the hope would be that Jackson could coax another division title or two out of the remaining core. As we get closer to the top of this list, the need for Jackson becomes more and more obvious.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: The Bucs are $57 million over the 2023 cap, which is a problem because they need to be cap compliant in a week. They could restructure a few deals to create cap space – and they’re already expected to release Leonard Fournette and Cameron Brate – but there’s not a lot of room for a quarterback in Jackson’s tax bracket.

Would they be a good fit for Jackson? Everybody loves to play in Florida, and while it would be on the opposite coast from Miami, Jackson would reap the benefits of playing in a state without any income tax. Like would be the case with the Dolphins, he would get to play with a great one-two punch at wide receiver in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Tampa Bay’s offensive line has been excellent in the past when everyone is healthy, although Donovan Smith struggled badly last season and was just released.

Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? Tampa Bay hasn’t typically been aggressive in using its top picks to move up for players or acquire veterans during Jason Licht’s reign as general manager. It has made small moves up to grab Tristan Wirfs, which worked great, and Roberto Aguayo, which did not. With that being said, I don’t think anybody in this organization wants to enter 2023 with Trask as the unquestioned starter.

What would a deal look like? If the Bucs wanted to avoid sending two first-round picks to the Ravens for Jackson, they could include a significant player by adding Godwin, which would help create cap space at the cost of losing a star receiver. At 27, Godwin would be worth more than a first-round pick in a possible trade, but it likely would take Godwin and a first-rounder to get Jackson to Tampa.

Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

5. Las Vegas Raiders

Why they should consider it: The only quarterback under contract for the Raiders is undrafted free agent Chase Garbers, who posted a passer rating of 78.0 playing against (and alongside) third-stringers during the preseason. They likely will bring back Jarrett Stidham after his impressive start against the 49ers in December, but he’s likely to serve as the backup to a veteran or a highly drafted rookie.

The Raiders have a win-now core of playmakers with Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller and franchise-tagged running back Josh Jacobs, so it would be a surprise if coach Josh McDaniels didn’t seriously consider adding a veteran quarterback to get the most out of his big four. Vegas tried to add Adams to help compete in the fury of the AFC West a year ago without succeeding, but Jackson would be a much more significant upgrade.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: There’s an obvious link between McDaniels and Jimmy Garoppolo, who is likely to leave the 49ers in free agency after six seasons in the Bay Area. (After two years of expecting Garoppolo to leave, only for the veteran quarterback to stick around, I’m keeping that “likely” in the mix until he actually signs elsewhere.) Garoppolo learned his craft under McDaniels in New England, and the Raiders obviously have a need for his services.

Again: Jackson is a better option than Garoppolo, but it’s about more than the skills of these respective quarterbacks. Jackson will make about twice as much as Garoppolo and require the Raiders to trade away multiple first-round picks, while Garoppolo would join for free. Given how many top-100 picks from the Jon Gruden era are either on the bench, on another team, or out of football altogether, this team needs to stop trading away picks and start replenishing its roster with cost-controlled talent.

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Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

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Would they be a good fit for Jackson? The Raiders have one of the league’s best sets of playmakers and play in a state with no income tax. McDaniels’ track record as a coach and offensive mind away from Tom Brady is pretty lousy, but Jackson would have plenty of help if he went to Vegas.

Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? One of the first moves McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler made last offseason saw the Raiders deal away their top two picks in the 2022 draft to the Packers for Adams. One trade doesn’t mean they would make the same move again, but it’s clear the former Belichick apprentices are willing to package significant draft capital to get the veteran players they want.

What would a deal look like? The Ravens likely would be perfectly happy to take the No. 7 overall pick and a 2024 first-rounder for Jackson, at least relative to the other teams that might offer them two first-rounders to sign Jackson to an offer sheet. There’s a decent chance those picks turn into two top-10 selections.

One other option would be to include Waller, who was once a Ravens draftee before struggling with addiction and falling out of football. Waller has been able to rebuild his career and turned into a star after joining the Raiders, but they could clear out cap space and help save draft capital if they sent Waller, 31, away as part of a Jackson deal. He is owed just under $13 million per season on the four remaining years of his deal. He would form the best tight end duo in football with Andrews.

Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

4. Indianapolis Colts

Why they should consider it: Years of searching for an Andrew Luck replacement appears to have taken a toll on team owner Jim Irsay. I don’t need to detail everything that went down over the past few years, but the Colts started last season as one of the league’s most stable franchises and ended it as the wrong kind of wild card.

Irsay has indicated he wants a long-term solution at quarterback and already has hinted toward an interest in Alabama’s Bryce Young, which can only do wonders for the Colts and general manager Chris Ballard as they try to negotiate a trade up from No. 4 to No. 1. If they strike out and don’t think they can land a quarterback they love, a logical Plan B might see them try to acquire Jackson from the Ravens.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: If the Colts are going to trade away draft capital, you might make the case they’re better off moving up in the draft to get the quarterback their owner really wants. Assuming Irsay sees Young as a franchise quarterback on Jackson’s level, there’s a real financial benefit to going after him, given that he’ll make less over the next four years than Jackson will make in the first season of his new deal. That’s a lot of money to fill the holes Indianapolis has elsewhere on this roster.

Would they be a good fit for Jackson? Schematically, yes. The Colts hired away Shane Steichen, 37, from the Eagles to serve as their new coach. In Philadelphia, Steichen helped oversee an offense that combined the quarterback run concepts Jackson has thrived with in Baltimore with a more diverse RPO game and creative passing attack. The hope would be that Jackson thrives in the same offense Jalen Hurts ran a year ago.

The personnel situation isn’t quite as enthralling. The once-dominant offensive line the Colts sported at the beginning of Ballard’s tenure looked ordinary and overmatched last season. Indy badly needs a left tackle. Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor, who both broke out in 2021, took a step backward last season. Rookie Alec Pierce looked promising in 2022 – and there’s hope Indy’s standouts look better amid a more settled and reliable offensive structure – but this isn’t exactly an exciting situation for a quarterback to enter into at the moment.

Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? Irsay would probably trade a half-dozen of his guitars for a quarterback, let alone two first-round picks. Ballard likely would prefer to avoid sending the No. 4 overall pick as part of an offer sheet for Jackson, but that might just be the price of doing business.

What would a deal look like? If the Ravens are going to take two first-round picks for Jackson, the best offer they’re likely to get would come from the Colts. There’s a chance they land two top-five picks as part of that deal (if Indy bottoms out in 2023). If they’re ready to move on from the 2019 MVP, the No. 4 pick would be a huge building block as Baltimore GM DeCosta plans out the team’s future.

Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

3. New York Jets

Why they should consider it: Well, you saw Zach Wilson last season. It’s clear the Jets intend to acquire a veteran and could move on from the embattled 2021 No. 2 overall pick this offseason. If they don’t land Aaron Rodgers, Jackson would be the most notable alternative available. It’s not quite as sordid of a history as the Bears’, but with apologies to Chad Pennington’s 2002 campaign, there are Jets fans approaching 50 years of age who haven’t seen a dominant season from their quarterback. At some point, you might go all-in to try and erase the psychic pain of your fan base.

The Jets had a championship-caliber defense from Week 3 on, ranking among the league leaders in most metrics. Many of their core players will return in 2023. For fans, the logic is simple: Upgrade at quarterback and this is a playoff team. Unless the defense totally collapses, I’m not sure I disagree.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: They could … give Wilson another shot. I’m not sure that would go over well. Both general manager Joe Douglas and coach Robert Saleh have attempted to publicly suggest that they still see Wilson as a valuable part of the organization and a potential starter in the future, which would seem to hint toward going after a veteran who will eventually cede the job back to Wilson. If Jackson comes into town, he’s not giving the job back anytime soon.

A better argument might be that the Jets should keep their job available for Rodgers, whose future as an NFL quarterback and/or a Packers player remains in question. Rodgers likely would cost less than Jackson, both in terms of draft capital and financial commitment, although the four-time MVP is 13 years older. New York’s decision to hire former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to take over that role tells us its first priority has been to get Rodgers.

Would they be a good fit for Jackson? The Jets have an exciting young receiver in Garrett Wilson, but the rest of the group isn’t quite as compelling as fans might hope. Breece Hall and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker are coming off season-ending injuries. Tackle Mekhi Becton has played one game in two years and fallen out of favor with the organization. Elijah Moore failed to build on a promising rookie season and requested a trade last year. Free agent addition Corey Davis took two years to top 1,000 yards and could be a cap casualty.

There’s a universe in which the right quarterback comes to town and takes everyone to another level, but the Jets have major questions at tackle and are more promising than established in the playmaker spots.

Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? The intense chatter surrounding a Rodgers deal suggests the Jets would be willing to deal at least one first-round pick for a veteran quarterback. I don’t think Douglas is desperate to trade away draft capital, but given how good New York was on defense a year ago, it would be hard to rule out anything if it meant a significant upgrade at quarterback.

What would a deal look like? The simplest scenario would see the Jets sign Jackson to an offer sheet and send the No. 13 overall pick in 2023 and a first-rounder in 2024. They could try to reduce the cost of the deal by including Moore, who might need a change of scenery after a frustrating 2022. The Ravens could try to get Wilson in the deal to develop him as a reclamation project, but Wilson would probably fetch only a mid-to-late-round pick if New York included him in the package.

Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

2. Carolina Panthers

Why they should consider it: Since taking over as Carolina’s owner, David Tepper has repeatedly attempted to acquire an impact quarterback. None of those moves has been successful, with the Panthers striking out in their pursuits of Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. They did manage to strike deals for Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, but those were trades deposed coach Matt Rhule would surely love to take back. They also traded up for Matt Corral in last year’s draft, and Corral is the nominal QB1 in Carolina at the moment.

Picking at No. 9 overall in the April draft, the Panthers likely are too low to stay put and land their preferred option at quarterback, given that as many as six of the eight teams ahead of them could draft a signal-caller. They could trade up, but one alternative would be to package their first-rounders and go for another established solution in Jackson.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: You could argue the Panthers aren’t even a quarterback away from being a meaningful contender, given that they ranked 28th in DVOA last season. After trading picks for Darnold, Mayfield and Corral, this organization might want to hold on to its selections and give the third-rounder a chance to win the job before making a more significant decision in 2024.

If the Panthers are going to make a trade, they might be better off moving up from No. 9 to Nos. 5 or 6 and grabbing a quarterback there. The chances of C.J. Stroud falling there are a lot better than they are of that same passer being there at No. 9.

Lamar Jackson trade: Ranking NFL team fits for Ravens quarterback

1. Atlanta Falcons

Why they should consider it: After two years in the cap wilderness, the Falcons are finally in position to take a swing. General manager Terry Fontenot has cleared out more than $67 million in space, and with a wide-open NFC South, Atlanta can credibly hope to compete for a division title if it has a great offseason. Coach Arthur Smith’s offense quietly ranked among the league’s best despite starting Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder at quarterback, and its young core should only be better in 2023.

Why they shouldn’t consider it: The Falcons might want to get a longer look at Ridder, who started the final four games of the season after being drafted in the third round last year. He looked overmatched in a debut loss to the Saints, but Ridder was better over the three ensuing contests, posting an above-average 54.5 QBR while winning a pair of games. Those victories admittedly came against Cardinals and Buccaneers teams with nothing to play for and backup quarterbacks in the game for some or all of the contest, so it might be worth taking those numbers with a grain of salt.

ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported that the Falcons aren’t intending to pursue Jackson, which would be a shame. Obviously, given that I have them as the best possible fit, I love the idea of Jackson going to the Falcons. It seems likely they’ll move forward with Ridder or another quarterback under center in 2023.

Would they be a good fit for Jackson? I love the fit. Smith featured Mariota’s ability to run in the offense a year ago, with Mariota averaging seven carries and 34 rushing yards per contest. It wouldn’t be a stretch to insert Jackson into an expanded version of that role. From Week 9 on, Tyler Allgeier averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 79 rushing yards per game, and he would give Jackson some help in the backfield.

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With the line taking a step forward after the improvement of right tackle Kaleb McGary – who’s now a free agent – Jackson should be protected when he drops back. The big question is whether Jackson and Smith can coax big plays out of Drake London and Kyle Pitts in the passing attack. Pitts was much better in 2021 without London than with the big wideout in 2022, and London played his best football after Pitts was sidelined by a right knee injury. Having used consecutive top-10 picks on pass-catchers, Fontenot clearly was preparing to build an offense for his quarterback of the future.

Would they be willing to trade two first-round picks? The Falcons sorely need to add players to their front seven, but unless they think Ridder is a franchise quarterback in the making, it would be reasonable for Fontenot to package his next two first-rounders to go get Jackson.

What would a deal look like? The Ravens might try to make a move for cornerback A.J. Terrell after the 2020 first-round pick took a step backward last season, but given Atlanta’s cap space, this would likely be an offer sheet and a deal involving two first-round picks. The Ravens would inherit the No. 8 pick in 2023 and have the possibility of landing another top-10 pick next year, while the Falcons would have a viable path toward their first winning record since 2017.

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