There’s a reason that rapper Meek Mill texted Robert Kraft a week ago to say that Lamar Jackson wanted to be a Patriot:
Right now, there’s no market for Jackson. And there may never be.
Theoretically, teams should be lining up to give Jackson whatever he wants, like they did last offseason for Deshaun Watson. Jackson is a 26-year-old former MVP, who has won nearly 75 percent of his starts and is one of the more electric athletes in the NFL’s history.
Instead, teams are lining up to say, “No thanks.” Jackson hasn’t gotten a whiff of interest in the two-plus weeks he has been available to all 31 other teams. He’s enlisting celebrity friends such as Meek Mill to call an owner just to drum up interest.
“Lamar is a heck of a talent,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said at this past week’s NFL owners’ meetings. “But, man, we got a quarterback. And thank God we got one. So, we’re good.”
After two years of squabbling with the Ravens over his contract, resulting in the Ravens giving Jackson the nonexclusive franchise tag for 2023 ($32.4 million), Jackson announced this past week on social media that he wants out of Baltimore. He has scoffed at the Ravens’ long-term contract offers, which he has said are far below the $230 million guaranteed to Watson by the Browns last year.
Jackson is ready to move on. Except Jackson doesn’t have anywhere to go.
His cost, injury history, playing style, and questionable negotiating tactics have scared off other teams. The Ravens are the only ones that want him.
“I think Lamar believes in us and we believe in Lamar,” coach John Harbaugh said this past week. “So, it’s a monetary thing. That can be figured out.”
Not only is Jackson seeking a record contract, an acquiring team also would have to give up two first-round picks to sign Jackson to an offer sheet. A sign-and-trade could cost more in picks and/or players.
In a vacuum, Jackson would be a clear upgrade for at least a dozen franchises. But team after team said, “Thanks, but we’re good,” this past week in Phoenix.
The Panthers chose to trade up for the No. 1 pick, with general manager Scott Fitterer calling Jackson “a really expensive option. We’re focused on more of the draft picks at this point.”
Jets GM Joe Douglas said it would be “disingenuous and negotiating in bad faith” to pivot from Aaron Rodgers to Jackson. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said recently, “We couldn’t afford him.” The Raiders chose Jimmy Garoppolo, the Saints went with Derek Carr, and the Lions are sticking with Jared Goff.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said “we’re pretty set” at quarterback with Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, and Trey Lance. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said his team “absolutely” isn’t pursuing Jackson after triggering the fifth-year option for Tua Tagovailoa.
Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles, whose team had about $2 million of cap space as of Friday morning, said “it’s time for us to get under the cap” and that a Buccaneers’ offer to Jackson “would be an insult to a great player like that.” They are going with Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask.
Commanders coach Ron Rivera, whose team is up for sale, said “we honestly never did” consider Jackson. Washington signed Jacoby Brissett for $8 million to compete with last year’s rookie, Sam Howell.
It leaves only four teams that make any sense for Jackson — the Patriots, Colts, Texans, and Falcons. None seem to want him.
Neither Kraft nor Bill Belichick explicitly said no to signing Jackson, but it would be a surprise if they gave up on Mac Jones and his cheap contract ($2.07 million in 2023).
The Texans are desperate for a quarterback and some buzz after two dreadful seasons, and have two first-round picks to play with. Coach DeMeco Ryans acknowledged “we look at all options for our team,” but it appears the Texans would rather draft a younger, cheaper quarterback with the No. 2 pick (about four years and $36 million), either Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.
The Colts make sense after cycling through four quarterbacks in four years. But they also appear to be leaning toward the draft, with the chance to draft Will Levis or Anthony Richardson at No. 4.
“I look at this as a great opportunity,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said, via The Athletic. “Because if you have a rookie quarterback, you’re going to have a chance for those years to really have extra dollars to make your team better.”
And the Falcons make sense after going hard after Watson last year. Their depth chart is lacking, with only the unproven Desmond Ridder and journeyman Taylor Heinicke. Jackson would be massively popular in Atlanta as a Michael Vick 2.0, and would make the Falcons instant favorites in a weak NFC South. The Falcons are also likely out of range for the top QB prospects with the No. 8 pick.
Yet Falcons owner Arthur Blank said his team is out on Jackson, citing him missing 11 games the last two seasons (including playoffs). Blank explained his pursuit of Watson last year as a “different player, different time,” and said, “We love what Ridder has done.”
“There’s no question he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the league,” Blank said of Jackson. “I’d say there’s some concern over how long can he play his style … He’s missed five, six games each of the last two years. Each game counts a lot in our business.”
With the franchise tag, Jackson has until July 17 to sign a long-term offer with the Ravens or another team. It’s possible that a team could show interest after the draft or closer to the deadline.
But after July 17, Jackson has two options: Play for the Ravens under the franchise tag, or sit out. It technically wouldn’t be a holdout, and the Ravens couldn’t penalize Jackson, because he wouldn’t have signed his franchise tag.
Depending on how far Jackson wants to take it, he might sit out the entire season. It’s increasingly looking like his only option for not playing in Baltimore this fall, because the 31 other teams sure don’t seem to want him.
McDaniels eagerly awaits Garoppolo
A few updates on former and current Patriots:
▪ Raiders coach Josh McDaniels is eager to coach Jimmy Garoppolo again, and also to learn from him. The two were together from 2014-17 after the Patriots drafted Garoppolo in the second round, but Garoppolo played in a completely different offense under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco.
McDaniels’s challenge is to blend some of Shanahan’s philosophies into the Raiders’ offense, instead of making Garoppolo forget everything he learned the last five years.
“I’m excited actually to learn from him and listen to him talk about the things he’s learned,” McDaniels said. “Looking forward to eventually getting a chance to sit down, where we can actually talk about football and just kind of hear from his perspective where he’s at in his growth and development, and trying to piece this thing together as we go forward.”
The Raiders are going to host the 49ers for joint practices in training camp, per The Athletic.
▪ The Broncos’ signing of backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham didn’t make major waves across the NFL, but new coach Sean Payton is thrilled to have him behind Russell Wilson.
Payton said “there was clear vision and intention for Las Vegas to re-sign him,” but the Broncos snagged Stidham from their rival for $10 million over two years.
“You get a player who is still ascending,” Payton said. “If you watch the 49er game, that’s impressive against a good defense. He was a priority for us — like, quietly — and fortunately it worked out and we were able to get him.”
▪ A quick but insightful Q & A about JuJu Smith-Schuster with Andy Reid, who is not the chattiest quote:
Q: What type of player are the Patriots getting?
A: “I love JuJu. He’s a good player. Understands the game, understands space. He’s not the fastest guy but he’s fast enough. Loves to play. He’ll do well there.”
Q: Is he good for yards after the catch?
A: “Tough, like a running back.”
Q: Did you try to bring him back to KC?
A: “You’ve got to manage all the cap stuff. We couldn’t give him what they gave him. We talked all the way through it. It’s good for him, he deserves that opportunity.”
Q: Is he good in the locker room?
A: “He’s phenomenal. He’s great. You’ll like him.”
Not much change ahead
The owners meetings were relatively boring from a rule-change perspective. The only interesting one to pass was the addition of jersey No. 0, which can now be worn by all players except offensive and defensive linemen. But there was still plenty of intrigue behind closed doors:
▪ One proposal that didn’t pass was to bring flex scheduling to “Thursday Night Football,” with Giants owner John Mara being “adamantly opposed” to it and calling it “abusive” to fans.
But while it fell short of the necessary 24 “yes” votes, it got 22, and will probably pass when voted upon again at the May owners’ meetings. And the owners did pass a rule to allow teams to play more than one game on a short week.
The NFL will likely use this year as a soft trial, perhaps flexing just one late-season game from Sunday to Thursday. If it’s successful, get ready for more Thursday flexing in the future. It’s a pain for the ticket-buying fans, but those fans aren’t the NFL’s top priority.
“We have millions of fans who also watch on television,” commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Obviously providing the best matchups for our fans is part of what we do.”
▪ The Eagles’ proposal to have a fourth-and-20 play be an alternative to the onside kick didn’t pass. But with just three successful onside kicks last season (about 4 percent, down from the target rate of 13-14 percent), the NFL is aware that the play needs serious adjustments to become competitive again.
“I would say overall there’s not an appetite yet to have the onside kick go away,” said Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee. “I think what people would rather talk about is alternatives to try and get the rate of recovery up.”
▪ The Rams’ proposal to allow coaches’ challenges for roughing the passer penalties received little support. The NFL allowed challenges for pass interference for the 2019 season and it was a disaster.
“It is a dramatic and almost drastic change of officiating, taking it from the field and taking it up to the booth,” McKay said. “So, it wasn’t a long discussion and then we voted, and it did not pass.”
▪ There was no vote on the rugby-style push-play that the Eagles popularized in 2022, but the debate around it was contentious. One head coach told the Globe he was against the play because “it’s not football.” The competition committee is also worried about the injury risk on the play, though it doesn’t have much data. The restrictions on pushing were taken out of the rulebook in 2005.
“We did not think it would become a strategy, and here we are,” McKay said. “The committee is definitely split on the play and whether the play should be legal or not legal. We’ll certainly look at all the injury data.”
What a sight to see
A few sights from three days at the owners’ meetings at the Arizona Biltmore: Odell Beckham Jr. giving Jets coach Robert Saleh a big hug after a meeting on the back lawn that also included Beckham’s agent and Jets GM Joe Douglas … Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh palling around and sitting next to each other for the annual coaches’ photo … The Chiefs’ Clark Hunt casually trolling his fellow owners by wearing his massive Super Bowl LIV ring … The presence of Joe Judge, who apparently is still a major figure for the Patriots despite last year’s struggles as quarterbacks coach. The owners’ meetings are attended by the highest-ranking members of an organization … A group photo between general managers John Lynch, Ran Carthon, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, and Martin Mayhew, and head coaches Kyle Shanahan, Mike McDaniel, DeMeco Ryans, and Saleh. All eight were with the 49ers from 2017-19 … Robert Kraft, Jonathan Kraft, and Heisman the shih-poo (“Heizzie” for short) practically sprinting to their luxury SUVs at the end of the meeting.
One sign that Daniel Snyder is on the verge of selling the Commanders? The team only signed two big-ticket free agents, and deferred the signing bonus payments. Defensive tackle Daron Payne’s $28 million bonus is paid out $7 million on May 12, $9 million on Sept. 15, and $12 million on April 1, 2024. Offensive tackle Andrew Wylie’s $8 million bonus is paid out $1.5 million on May 12, $2 million on Aug. 4, and $4.5 million on April 1, 2024. Let the next guy pay for it … Switching Sunday Ticket from DirecTV to YouTube TV could affect thousands of bars and restaurants around the country. But the NFL and RedBird Capital announced the formation of EverPass Media, a new platform that will distribute Sunday Ticket to commercial establishments … The departure of DirecTV means that the NFL will only have one RedZone Channel, hosted by Scott Hanson. Raise a glass to Andrew Siciliano, the first and only host of the original RedZone Channel on DirecTV from 2005-22 … The experiment with the guardian caps last year during training camp with linemen, tight ends, and linebackers was so successful that running backs will be required to wear them this year, and players will have to wear them throughout training camp and into the regular season. The NFL said it saw a 52 percent reduction in concussions among players who wore them last August … Interesting quote from Raiders owner Mark Davis, who implied that GM Dave Ziegler struggled in his first year on the job, and seemingly took a swipe at Belichick and the Patriots. “Dave is young and never been in this position before,” Davis said, via The Athletic. “It takes time to learn all the tricks of the trade. I think the people he confides in might not be giving him the full picture because it’s so damn competitive. But he’s going to be doing great.” … The owners voted to have just one roster cutdown day at the end of training camp, and it is going to be a madhouse, with 1,184 players becoming available on one day … With games in London and Germany thriving, and future sites in Paris, Madrid, and elsewhere being considered, it may not be long before the NFL has permanent teams in Europe and an international division. “In London, where we’ve been for a long time, and now in Germany, we’re making sure we’ve got the stadium partners, the governmental partners, and the fan support to sustain that possibility,” the NFL’s Peter O’Reilly told FrontOfficeSports.
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.