Baltimore Ravens Offseason Preview: What to do About Lamar Jackson?

The Baltimore Ravens’ next game is more than six months away, but their fans will have plenty to discuss in the meantime, with an active offseason likely. On Sunday, Jan. 15, the Ravens lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Wild Card round.

Maryland online sportsbooks won’t know what to do with Baltimore once next season’s Super Bowl odds are posted. The franchise is mired in a tug-o-war with its marquee quarterback on a contract extension. It seems apparent that the team can only advance so far with an imbalance of great defense and ho-hum offense. Baltimore’s offense is playing like it’s 1979 in a 2020s world.

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Before the 2022-23 season, oddsmakers priced the Ravens at +2200 to win the Super Bowl. That number crept down to +1200 by Week 12. But that number could be much, much higher next season unless Baltimore improves this team before September.

5 Biggest Questions for Ravens This Offseason

To Franchise Tag Lamar Jackson, or not?

Easily the biggest story facing the Ravens is the same story that dominates player movement in the league. Jackson, a former MVP, finished the season on the injured list for the second straight year. He hasn’t improved that much as a passer. Yes, he can run the football and perform plays that few can in the NFL. But, what has that gotten this team? The Ravens are 1-4 in the playoffs in the Jackson era, including the disheartening loss Sunday with his backup on the field.

Jackson reportedly wants a big contract with 100% guaranteed money. The Ravens, like most employers, hate the word “guarantee,” especially in regards to a QB who plays like a running back and has an injury history.

The team could franchise tag Jackson, and owe him tens of millions of dollars, but Jackson and the front office would need to agree on terms, and Lamar could always hold out. The Ravens seemed to think LJ was healthy enough to play last week if he wore a brace. Jackson erred on the side of safety: either for his leg or his future earnings.

No less authority than ESPN predicts Jackson is finished in Baltimore. But, others are reporting that Baltimore still believes Jackson can lead them to a Super Bowl. This drama will overshadow everything else this offseason.

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Scrap Run-Centric Offense?

If Jackson comes back under any terms, the Ravens will be making a decision to continue an offensive attack centered on their quarterback’s lower body, not his shoulder. That’s not really a blueprint for winning a championship in pro football, but maybe the Ravens think they can buck the trend.

An alternative would be to scrap the offense, bring in a new offensive coordinator, and ask Jackson (or his successor) to operate in a modern passing attack. Since his MVP season, Jackson has had a 59-29 TD-INT ratio. That’s not good enough in a league in which downfield gains through the air are needed to compete. Baltimore has an 18-16 record the last two years, despite having a top-five defense. Something has to change with the O.

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Focus on Defense or Offensive Playmakers in the NFL Draft?

Baltimore holds the 22nd pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Given the anemic performance of its passing attack, you may think the team will target a receiver. But here’s the rub: the Jackson Dilemma impacts this too. If the Ravens franchise tag Lamar, that may limit the money the team has, and may lead to roster moves that change their draft strategy.

Several mock drafts predict the Ravens will grab WR Jalin Hyatt from Tennessee, for what that’s worth.

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Trade up in the NFL Draft?

Here’s a scenario that would really shake things up. Suppose the Ravens fail to bring Jackson back; would they trade their 22nd pick and package players or later picks to MOVE UP in order to draft a quarterback? Alabama’s Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud of Ohio State, and Will Levis of Kentucky are projected to be the first three QBs to go on Day 1 of the draft.

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How to Narrow the Gap in AFC North?

It’s now been three seasons without a division title for the Ravens. Once upon a time, the team fancied itself as a model franchise that wished to build a tradition of competitiveness in the order of the Steelers. But, other than hanging their helmets on defense every year, the Ravens are no Steelers yet, as it pertains to control of the division and consistency.

The Bengals are now the bullies on the block, and as we can see by one of the coldest handshakes in recent memory, that irritates the hell out of John Harbaugh. The head coach, his staff, the front office, and the players must improve to compete with the Bengals, who have a youthful quarterback who looks like he might do to the AFC North what Aaron Rodgers did to the NFC North for a decade.

AP Photo/Terrance Williams

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes has written three books about sports. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He enjoys writing, running, and lemon bars. He lives near Lake Michigan with his daughters and usually has an orange cream soda nearby.