Nothing about Lamar Jackson’s contract situation has unfolded in the expected way. The only reliable expectation for the coming weeks, then, is that the unexpected should be expected.
A #PFTPM listener asked this question today: Is there a scenario where Lamar Jackson could sit out 2023?
It’s not unprecedented for a franchise-tagged player to skip an entire season. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell did it in 2018, laying the foundation for a trip to the open market in 2019 -- since a re-application of the tag would have counted as a third application of the tag, and a dramatically higher tender (basically, top-end quarterback money).
For Jackson, not many dominoes must fall before it gets to the point at which he’d have to decide whether to sit out the season.
First, the two sides don’t work out a long-term deal before March 7, the deadline for application of the tag. That’s likely if not definite at this point.
Second, the Ravens apply the franchise tag. If they apply the exclusive version of the tag, Jackson would play for the Ravens or no one, barring a trade. If he’d sit out the year, he’d likely give up $40 million or more for one season of football.
If the Ravens apply the non-exclusive tag, the tender would be much lower -- $32.416 million. He’d have the opportunity to entertain offers from other teams. He’d find out whether another team is willing to give him the five-year, fully-guaranteed contract that the Ravens won’t. If no one can get him signed to an offer sheet, or persuade him to agree to a contract he’d sign as part of a trade, he’d then revert to the Ravens under the one-year tender.
So what would he do? He could skip all of the offseason program, training camp, and the preseason without financial penalty. He could show up not long before the start of the regular season and get the full $32.416 million.
Or he could just decide to not play for that amount, kicking the can into 2024, and perhaps persuading the Ravens to trade him. Or he should sit out a second year and then become a free agent in 2025, if the Ravens aren’t willing to tag him a third time.
Regardless, at some point Jackson will have to sign a contract with someone. He’ll have to accept the best offer someone will make. And unless he takes the best offer the Ravens make by March 7, there’s a chance he’ll find out what other teams will, or won’t, do.
If not one will give him what he wants, Lamar may eventually have to decide whether to play for $32.416 million -- or not play at all.