Lamar Jackson’s contract situation is beyond bizarre. The unrestricted free agent was essentially told by the Baltimore Ravens to prove another team would give him the guaranteed money Jackson is seeking on the open market.
Jackson does not have an agent. Preseason negotiations stalled and half a year later, Lamar was officially given the nonexclusive franchise tag. If you didn’t know any better, Jackson was a backup quarterback.
On social media Tuesday, several teams — not officially, but from national reporters — who needed a quarterback eliminated themselves from the Jackson sweepstakes. It was unlike anything we’ve seen and felt like there was collusion involved.
Some players had different reactions:
Lol I can tell none of y’all have never played against Lamar Jackson!!!
— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) March 8, 2023
Why are all of these teams so publicly “out” on Lamar Jackson, an MVP winner in his prime at the most important position in the entire NFL?
What am I missing here?
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) March 7, 2023
Sure, there’s a correlation to Jackson not having an agent and him not being able to strike a deal with Baltimore. But it’s more of a reaction to Deshaun Watson’s guaranteed demands.
How does this tie into the 49ers? Technically, there’s a way for San Francisco to acquire Lamar. On the surface, you have to send Baltimore two first round draft picks, one in 2023 and 2024, if you sign Jackson to an offer sheet and they decline. As we know, the 49ers are without a first round draft pick in this upcoming draft.
It’s the NFL, so there’s always a loophole. Teams can negotiate a deal with the Ravens where Jackson signs his tag and gets dealt immediately. This would occur post draft.
Leave it up to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell to sort out this wackiness and explain how Jackson would fit with the 49ers:
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.
You can see where this is headed.
Barnwell gave reasons why the Niners should and shouldn’t consider a potential 49ers proposal. The argument against acquiring Jackson is due to the youth at quarterback as well having Trey Lance and Brock Purdy on rookie deals:
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?
In this hypothetical, the 49ers would almost assuredly have to offload one of their bigger contracts. If not, Paraag Marathe has his work cut out for him.
Here’s what a possible deal could look like for both sides:
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.
Lance is guaranteed to be a part of the package. It’s the other piece that I’d struggle to part ways with. Would you rather move on from Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel? For me, it’s the latter, especially with Christian McCaffrey under contract.
And while this seems far-fetched, the 49ers ranked No. 15 out of 15 teams in Barnwell’s rankings, this is a team that doesn’t leave any stone unturned.