The Ravens are hoping to keep Lamar Jackson in Baltimore for at least another year, and they've taken the first step ahead of the NFL's tag deadline.
Baltimore placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on its quarterback, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday, per a source.
Jackson's tag will cost the Ravens $32.416 million in 2023, and they'll have until July 17 to reach a multi-year extension with the 2019 AP NFL Most Valuable Player before that number becomes permanent.
"Having not yet reached a long-term deal with Lamar Jackson, we will use the franchise tag," Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement announcing the tag on Tuesday. "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. 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 Ravens will be hard at work to strike a deal before that date, but a bigger potential issue is the non-exclusive nature of the organization's chosen tag.
Jackson is still free to negotiate with other teams in free agency. Should he sign an offer sheet from another organization, Baltimore will have five days to decide to match it or bow out. The Ravens therefore run the risk of being outbid and losing their franchise piece for two first-round draft picks in return.
One team that will not be in on the Lamar Jackson Sweepstakes, however, is the Falcons, as Good Morning Football's Peter Schrager reported on Tuesday that Atlanta does not plan to pursue the QB.
Baltimore could have prevented other teams from edging their way into negotiations, but it would've taken an exclusive tag that's worth roughly $13 million more in 2023 at $45 million.
Things will remain tricky for Jackson and the team, with splurging, QB-needy teams in free agency presenting one hurdle and the extension deadline providing another.
But a tricky road is a well-traveled one for Jackson and the club.
The Ravens had been negotiating an extension ahead of last season but didn't come to an agreement before the QB's Week 1 deadline. In September, it was reported that Jackson turned down a contract that exceeded Russell Wilson's $49 million per year in key areas, and in February, NFL Network Insiders reported Jackson wanted guaranteed money in line with Deshaun Watson's fully guaranteed $230 million pact with the Browns.
Jackson took the world by storm as a rookie in 2018, becoming the starter for a Baltimore team that was treading water at 4-5 during the bye week before going 6-1 to reach the postseason.
Then, Jackson won MVP in 2019 after leading the league in passing touchdowns (36) and setting a QB single-season rushing record (1,206 yards). The Ravens reached the postseason a third straight year under Jackson in 2020, and the dual threat earned his first playoff win, but Baltimore failed to advance beyond the Divisional Round once again.
The last two years have taken some of Jackson's shine, however.
Compared to Jackson's 62 TDs, 15 interceptions and 106.6 passer rating from 2019-2020, he's had a 33-20 touchdown-to-interception ratio with an 88.9 passer rating in the past two years, which have ended with Jackson missing five games each season due to injury.
Whether due to his nagging injuries and subsequent lack of recent team success or Jackson's reduced efficiency, the contract divide between the team and its QB has now culminated in the non-exclusive franchise tag.
It's the first step toward Jackson staying in town for 2023. Now the Ravens' clock is ticking again on extending that stay by either agreeing to a new contract with Jackson on their own terms or matching an offer sheet should he sign one from a another team.