Detroit Lions have to consider an offer sheet for Lamar Jackson

Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports /

With a price pretty solidly set now, the Detroit Lions have to consider what an offer sheet for Lamar Jackson would look like.

It was not surprising the Baltimore Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Lamar Jackson on Tuesday. They weren’t going to give him a fully guaranteed deal he may be seeking, so if nothing else it allows a market price to be set. The Ravens can match any offer he gets, or get two first-round picks.

Much is being made of the fact Jackson has missed the end of the last two seasons injured, with some controversy about it last season. But the way contract negotiations had been going, with vague reports of offers being made by the team, Jackson may have drawn a line at playing at far less than 100 percent healthy. Suddenly, his 2019 MVP campaign feels like a very long time ago.

In the wake of the tag news, teams jumped to tell reporters they weren’t going to pursue Jackson. Teams without a first-round pick this year, most notably the Miami Dolphins in this context, can’t negotiate with Jackson until after the draft.

So the list of Jackson suitors is getting shorter, at least theoretically, and it could be a fruitless pursuit with the Ravens able to match. Enter the Detroit Lions.

The Detroit Lions have to consider an offer sheet for Lamar Jackson

There’s an angle and sentiment out there that says giving an offer sheet to Jackson and not getting him would wreck the relationship with a team’s current quarterback. Frankly, I don’t care about making Jared Goff mad if I’m the Lions.

In any hypothetical trade for Jackson, two first-round picks was an easy baseline.  With an offer sheet the Ravens didn’t match, or couldn’t match if it’s structured a certain way, two first-round picks is the cost outside of the contract. The Lions would keep one of theirs in 2023, giving up No. 18, and a pick that’d be lined up to be in the 20’s in 2024.

In terms of a contract for Jackson, let’s dive in to that.

He’s not getting a fully guaranteed deal like Deshaun Watson did, because no team takes its cues from the Browns. So let’s say a five-year, $230-$240 million dollar offer sheet for Jackson–$46-$48 million per year. Let’s even say five years, $250 million is possible. The structure wouldn’t have to have big salary cap hits, be fully guaranteed and/or have untenable outs on the back end. You’d be going all-in on a 3-to-4-year window, with a 26-year old quarterback who has massive upside.

The price to extend Goff is going up in the wake of the New York Giants paying Daniel Jones. It feels like $45 million per year is likely in new money average, covering 2025-2027 and Goff’s current deal woul probably be changed to give him a raise this year and next. Taking into account the last two years of his deal and a hypothetical three-year extension, dollar-for-dollar it may not be markedly different to have Goff or Jackson under contract and under center the next five years.

So tell me, within the context of fairly close cost over the next chunk of years, would you rather have Goff or Jackson as your quarterback? You’d take Jackson every time, or you’re delusional if you say you’d take Goff without question.

The Lions being a possible suitor for Jackson is all over the place, including betting odds in at least one place, and it’s easy to forget they can release or trade Goff with reasonable financial implications this offseason.

The Lions’ ceiling with Goff as the quarterback is limited, say a playoff win or two (yes I know he’s been to a Super Bowl). The ceiling with Jackson is reaching a Super Bowl, if not winning it.

It’s not often a quarterback who is in his prime is available, even in the fashion Jackson is as what practically amounts to being a restricted free agent. Sometimes you have to go against your grain to reach maximum payoff.

The Lions have to be considering what an offer sheet for Lamar Jackson would look like for them. And with that, there’s a chance they pony up with one and get him.

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