Mac Jones could take a step forward next season with Bill O'Brien as his offensive coordinator and a few more weapons at his disposal. But if you ask former Patriots edge rusher Rob Ninkovich, New England should think bigger.
Ninkovich believes the Patriots should go all-in and pay star quarterback Lamar Jackson, who the Baltimore Ravens recently placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on. Jackson is free to negotiate with other NFL teams and if another organization signs him to an offer sheet, Baltimore will have a chance to match the contract.
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New England isn't expected to target Jackson this offseason, but Ninkovich made a passionate case for why that should change.
“If you’re the Patriots, and you go and you make an attempt to get Lamar, that changes everything. Absolutely everything,” Ninkovich said Friday on ESPN's "Get Up!". “And listen, I am a huge fan of Lamar’s style of game and what it puts on a defense, the stresses. And there’s needs and wants, OK?
“A need is necessary for life. A want, it helps your quality of life. I don’t need Lamar here, but I sure as heck want to see Lamar running around with a New England Patriot on his helmet. Because if you see it out there, the Patriots instantly, instantly, become division favorites and, to me, get right back into that Super Bowl hunt.”
The AFC East looks like it will be even tougher next season with Aaron Rodgers likely headed to the New York Jets. He would join Jones, Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills), and Tua Tagovailoa (Miami Dolphins) in the suddenly loaded division.
For that reason, ESPN's Dan Graziano subtly told Ninkovich and "Get Up!" host Mike Greenberg not to rule out the Patriots considering adding Jackson.
"They're thinking about that in New England," Graziano said. " We've got to compete against Aaron Rodgers.' That's in their minds right now."
You can watch the full segment here.
It's a fun idea, but Patriots fans shouldn't get their hopes up. Bill Belichick and Co. seem content with giving their young QB a chance to prove himself in a crucial third NFL season. But on the off chance the Patriots do sign Jackson, there's little doubt it would dramatically boost their division title and Super Bowl odds for 2023.