Ravens wanted Lamar Jackson to test market on non-exclusive franchise tag: 'It was the best thing for Lamar'
The Ravens made a calculated decision to offer Lamar Jackson the non-exclusive franchise tag and allow him to speak with other teams, while holding out hope he would return.
Two months after tagging their franchise QB, he officially signed on the dotted line on his new extension with Baltimore that makes him the highest-paid QB in the league.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta explained on Thursday the team wanted Jackson to test the market and see what his value might be by not placing the exclusive franchise tag on him. He said the Ravens spent a lot of time deliberating over which tag to place on Jackson before going the non-exclusive route.
"In the end, we just kind of felt like it was the best thing for Lamar to have the opportunity to kind of get a sense of what was important to him and he could have conversations if he wanted with other teams to see what his value might be, and he could get a chance to talk to other coaches or GMs if he wanted to to kind of get a sense for the landscape," DeCosta said.
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Done. Deal. pic.twitter.com/Ptr1LFovPb— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) May 4, 2023
Baltimore's GM described the exclusive tag as "binding" and emphasized the value of testing the market.
"Free agency is a chance for players to go out and kinda see what their value could be potentially," DeCosta said. "And that was the decision that we made hoping that we would be sitting here today, that at some point over the coming months — we had our moments — but over the coming months we would have a chance to negotiate again and get a long-term deal done, which proved to be the case."
At least publicly, the market for Jackson seemed to fizzle out almost as soon as it began. On March 3, it was revealed Baltimore would be using the non-exclusive tag on the 2018 NFL MVP. But almost immediately, reports began to emerge of all the teams that would not be pursuing Jackson — despite him representing a clear upgrade over all but a select few NFL quarterbacks. It led to a concern among some that the league might be colluding against Jackson, who reportedly was seeking a contract similar to Deshaun Watson's fully guaranteed $230 million deal.
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Jackson said other teams reached out, but that he "really didn't care about other teams."
"I just really wanted to get something done here. I wanted to be here like man, OK other teams cool, but I want to be a Raven," Jackson said. "So I really wanted to get this done before anything before my time up and branch off somewhere else, I really want to finish my career here, win a Super Bowl here."
Ultimately, DeCosta and Jackson both got what they wanted. The gamble by DeCosta to let Jackson test the market paid off as the team's franchise quarterback is coming back. Jackson, meanwhile, signed a five-year, $260 million contract that has an average annual value of $52 million that makes him the league's highest-paid signal caller.
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And along the way, Baltimore has helped give Jackson some more weapons. The Ravens signed Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholar, and drafted Zay Flowers in the first round to build up the receiving room around Rashod Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews.
All that is giving Jackson some lofty expectations for his first season under the new deal.
"I told someone like man I want to throw for like 6,000 yards with weapons we have. I'm not an individual award type of guy or stat watcher, I just want to do that because no one ever done it and I feel like we have the weapons to do it," Jackson said. "I just can't wait to get rolling."