It’s funny how $260 million can instantly erase months of uncertainty, anxiety, and bad feelings.
For over a year, the status of Lamar Jackson’s contract has been a huge story for the Baltimore Ravens. Every time he had a big game early in the season, it was down to his contract status. When he suffered a knee injury late in the season and didn’t return to speed, everyone wondered if the contract had something to do with the absence. Jackson had to explain his injury to those who thought he was sandblasting. He wasn’t on the sidelines for the Ravens playoff game, which led to another round of questions about his future.
Then came the franchise tag decision.
When the Ravens gave Jackson the non-exclusive tag, Baltimore was in essence inviting other teams to bid. Jackson could negotiate with any other team. But there was a shocking lack of interest in the 26-year-old former MVP, even from teams with very little in their quarterback. Enter your favorite conspiracy theory here.
And then, suddenly, all that drama was gone. Shortly after Jalen Hurts reset the market with his new deal, Jackson signed a deal that is the largest, per season, in NFL history. A new era has begun for the Ravens and Jacksons.
It will look different than the first chapter of Jackson’s NFL career. Todd Monken replaced Greg Roman as offensive coordinator. The team invested in a fine receiving room, signing Odell Beckham Jr. and drafting Zay Flowers in the first round. Jackson has never been known for throwing numbers out of the numbers range (though Better than giving credit to), and will be required to do more in the Monken scheme. Jackson said he expected Throw more and run less in the new crime. It could be a total transformation.
“Running can only take you so far,” Jackson said. via the team website. “I feel like, with this new era of teams and offense in the league, I feel like we need that. And Coach Todd Monken, what I see in his offense so far seems phenomenal.”
The Ravens have won a lot with Jackson at quarterback—they are 45-16 in games he has started—but a deep playoff run has eluded them. This offseason worked out as Baltimore had hoped. They were able to make a huge change on offense, raise the level of talent in the receiver and never lose a quarterback for whom any team could make a tremendous showing. Now is the time to take the next step.
The Crows were great under John Harbaugh. If he hadn’t coached in the same conference as Bill Belichick his entire career, we’d probably appreciate his resume more. He has led the Crows to double-digit wins nine times in 15 seasons. He has two losing seasons, one of which was 8-9 in 2021 with a six-game losing streak at the end due to Jackson missing several games. He has a Super Bowl ring. Now that the Jackson drama is over, it’s possible that Crows will be very good again.
Last season was a typical season for the Crows, at least until Jackson was injured. The defense was good and the special teams were among the best in the league. They were 8-4 in the games Jackson started, and he even managed to go 2-3 with poor replacement play in the games he missed.
Now Crows and Jackson start over. Jackson has his own MVP, a lot of records and a historic contract. He needs a Super Bowl for his legacy.
The Ravens may never have worried about breaking another NFL team’s code and signing a player with a franchise tag, but for a while it seemed like Lamar Jackson might be leaving. It’s not like Baltimore had a backup plan. But Jackson stayed, which was a huge win. The rest of the season abroad hasn’t been great, unless you like Odell Beckham’s chances of bouncing all the way back to his best form. Guard Ben Powers left for the Denver Broncos in a huge deal, and Minnesota Vikings tight end Josh Oliver was pushed out. Defensive lineman Calais Campbell transferred to the Atlanta Falcons. The only notable free agent addition was Rock Ya-Sin, who earned $4 million over the course of one year and may not solve a somewhat troubling cornerback problem. The draft was solid, with receiver Zay Flowers in the first round and linebacker Trenton Simpson in the third. A second-round pick was traded during last season to the Chicago Bears for Roquan Smith, who immediately helped improve the Ravens’ defense. But the offseason’s goal was to come to terms with Jackson, and the Ravens did just that.
Lamar Jackson is a good passer, but he’s never been a huge passer. His career high for attempts was 402. There were 17 quarterbacks who attempted at least 442 passes last season and others who would have passed 400 had it not been for the injury. Five quarterbacks have had 600 attempts. Jackson should pass 402 attempts this season, considering that new offensive coordinator Todd Monken wants to pass it more and likely play at a faster pace than his predecessor, Greg Roman. Monken will want to spread the field more often and get the ball to the team’s upgraded receivers. How Jackson adapts to a whole new approach is going to be fascinating.
Breakdown of BetMGM odds
The odds are like crows hovering around a double-digit win. Odds of winning 9.5: more than -150, less than +115. At 10.5 wins: over +115, under -135. I’m lukewarm about any of those numbers but certainly wouldn’t be motivated to take any less. Crows are hard to bet on. Their track record is strong. If you really think Lamar Jackson thrives on a new, faster offense, the MVP bet on him at +1400 is good. I’m not quite sure what to make of the crows, but I don’t suppose they’ll be bad.
Take Yahoo Fictional
From Scott Pianowski of Yahoo: Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews have Yahoo ADPs that are slightly above the national averages. I think the early Yahoo creators got this right.
The Ravens offense got a new voice, and offensive coordinator Todd Monken, at the perfect time. Both Jackson and Andrews have the chops to speed up their respective positions — Jackson did so during the 2019 MVP year, while Andrews turned the trick in 2021 — but you don’t have to. To pay dearly for that height. If Baltimore has had regular injury luck for 2023, we’re talking about a serious championship contender.
“I realize some fantasy players have been going cheap at quarterback and tight end for many years, but that strategy has been less profitable in recent seasons. I’m in transition, too; I’m now willing to consider using bigger chips to fill those one-start positions, with the goal of Getting the first place scorer. Regular exposure to both Jackson and Andrews is a priority for me as I compile my mid-summer rosters.”
Stats to remember
Justin Houston led the Ravens with 9.5 sacks last season. It is not signed. Justin Madubueki and Calais Campbell are tied for second with 5.5 sacks. Campbell went on to be the Falcons’ roster. The Ravens are tied for fifth in the NFL with 48 sacks, a tribute to defensive coordinator Mike McDonald, who was in his first season with the team. But there are no elite players in the list. Maybe McDonald can scheme another 48 sacks, or maybe someone like 2021 first-round pick Odafe Oweh or 2022 second-round pick David Ojabo can emerge as a 10-sack player. But this is a major issue that the defense must respond to.
Which receiver would be Lamar Jackson’s favorite?
Tight end Mark Andrews has been the focal point of the Ravens’ passing game for years, and he should have another great season. But this offense promises to engage audiences more broadly, and the Ravens have three candidates to emerge as the top choice. Odell Beckham Jr. is an interesting wild card. His short time with the Los Angeles Rams was so productive that it becomes plausible that his only problem with the Cleveland Browns was really Baker Mayfield. But Beckham tore his ACL in the Super Bowl with the Rams and sat out all last season while he recuperated. Did he lose a step in his thirties? Former first-round pick Rashod Pitman has had occasional appearances, including a 108-yard game against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 last season, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy and stay consistent. Zay Flowers was an intriguing first-round pick, an athletic slot receiver who does everything he should to make an impact right away. Although he is still a beginner. They can all have three beautiful seasons, but Crows need at least one.
best case scenario
Lamar Jackson played a specific type of offense that maximized his running ability and throwing mostly to midfield, and he’s been very successful at it. What if opening the offense opened a new level for a player who’s been dominant for most of his NFL (and award-winning college) career? The Ravens were 9-4 at one point last season and looked like a Super Bowl contender before Jackson was hurt and had a long and controversial layoff. They can get back to that level with Jackson healthy and happy. The foundation is laid for Crows to be very good. If Jackson fits the new offense well, they’ll be a Super Bowl contender.
Todd Monken is a good offensive coordinator. Lamar Jackson is a phenomenal quarterback. But what if Monken’s plan and Jackson’s talents don’t fit in? It was Jackson on offense that highlighted what he does best as a centre-back. If this fits poorly between the scheme and the player, it will cause the crows to return. They will have to learn how to adapt, which is not easy during the season. And few teams rely on quarterbacks more than the Ravens. If Jackson struggled, so did they. There are some other questions, like cornerback, passing rush and maybe even offensive linemanship, that would be exacerbated if Jackson didn’t look like his natural self.
crystal ball says…
Crows are reliable. They are always good. They haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 2012 season but they’ve been competing in most seasons. I’m not sure Lamar Jackson’s new offense gets them over the hump right away, but he’ll be good again. So are crows. I just prefer the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North, and the other teams in the AFC as a whole. The Ravens will once again be one of the NFL’s best teams, possibly a playoff team, and will still be looking for that deep run with Jackson.
Other team previews
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