Trades, Signings for Ravens to Maximize Lamar Jackson's Contract Year

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 9, 2022

Trades, Signings for Ravens to Maximize Lamar Jackson's Contract Year

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    Lamar Jackson (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

    The Baltimore Ravens announced Friday they weren't able to reach an agreement with quarterback Lamar Jackson on a contract extension ahead of the 2022 NFL season.

    Jackson, who's represented himself in extension talks, will earn $23 million in the final year of his rookie contract. He'll be eligible for free agency at season's end, but the Ravens also hold the option to use the franchise tag.

    "Despite best efforts on both sides, we were unable to reach a contract extension with Lamar Jackson," Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. "We greatly appreciate how he has handled this process and we are excited about our team with Lamar leading the way. We will continue to work towards a long-term contract after the season, but for now we are looking forward to a successful 2022 campaign."

    In August, Jackson confirmed he set a Week 1 deadline for discussions about a new deal.

    "Yeah, we coming up to it. It's coming up. Season's coming up," the 2019 NFL MVP said. "We're going to be good for the season."

    Baltimore kicks off the regular season Sunday when it visits MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Jets.

    Let's analyze a few moves—there's a clear theme among them—the Ravens' front office could make to help bolster the team's chances this year before Jackson's contract becomes the main focus again next offseason.

Sign WR Will Fuller or T.Y. Hilton

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    Will Fuller (Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    One theme of Jackson's tenure in Baltimore, which began as a 2018 first-round pick, is that he's never possessed a particularly deep or talent receiving corps at his disposal.

    That's continued this year with Rashod Bateman, who tallied 46 catches and one touchdown as a rookie in 2021, set to serve as the team's No. 1 wide receiver. Bateman has a lot of upside, but he isn't an established top target like so many star quarterbacks have available.

    The Ravens do feature tight end Mark Andrews, one of the best in the league at his position, but that's different than having a Justin Jefferson or Ja'Marr Chase as a go-to weapon.

    Baltimore isn't going to find that level of player available right now, but adding some depth behind Bateman and fellow projected starter Devin Duvernay would be helpful.

    In terms of a quick impact, Fuller and Hilton are the two best options available in free agency.

    Fuller was limited to a pair of appearances with the Miami Dolphins in 2021 because of injuries, including a broken thumb that landed him on IR, but he was putting together a monster season with the Houston Texans in 2020 before getting suspended for a violation of the league's performance-enhancing policy.

    The 28-year-old Notre Dame product tallied 53 catches for 879 yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games for the Texans two years ago.

    Hilton's volume faded over his final few years with the Indianapolis Colts, including just 23 catches in 10 games last year, but he's a former No. 1 target and vertical threat who topped 1,000 yards five times in his first seven years.

    Either one would represent a low-risk addition in the season's early weeks.

Sign WR Odell Beckham Jr.

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    Odell Beckham Jr. (Harry How/Getty Images)

    Beckham is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the Los Angeles Rams' Super Bowl win in February, which is why the season kicked off Thursday night without him on a roster.

    OBJ joked on Twitter before the game, which saw the Buffalo Bills score a 31-10 win over the defending champions, he may join the winning side:

    Odell Beckham Jr @obj

    Whoever wins Thursday !!!!! 😈 😭 😉can’t wait … to all the boys goin into the season! May God bless u wit peace of mind and physical strength to endure the season. God watch over all my brothers this year let them shine and stay healthy !! LUV

    So far there's no indication anything is actually in the works with the Bills, though.

    Meanwhile, the Ravens could offer Beckham the opportunity to slot in as potentially their top target when healthy. It's unclear when he'll be ready to play, though ESPN's Adam Schefter reported it likely won't be until Thanksgiving.

    Based on that timeline, OBJ could help Baltimore during the stretch run of the regular season and potentially the playoffs on what will likely be a one-year deal. A high-volume role working with Jackson would put him in position to land a better contract next offseason.

    Beckham, a three-time Pro Bowler, may wait until closer to his return date to pick a team so he understands who's a contender and where his involvement would be at its highest, but the Ravens are a great fit on paper.

Trade for New York Giants WR Darius Slayton

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    Darius Slayton (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Looking ahead, the Ravens could wait until closer to the Nov. 1 trade deadline to make a splash at wide receiver.

    That would allow the team to see whether it's in contention, if Beckham is a realistic target and just how necessary another wideout is if it wants to contend in the loaded AFC.

    While it'll be weeks before the trade market truly starts to develop, Slayton is a name that stands out because of the Giants' depth on the outside.

    The fourth-year receiver is likely stuck behind Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and Wan'Dale Robinson in the battle for targets from Daniel Jones.

    If that quartet is still healthy as the deadline draws closer, New York could look to move Slayton for an upgrade elsewhere on the roster.

    Slayton has recorded 124 catches for 1,830 yards and 13 touchdowns in 43 appearance for the Giants. While they aren't groundbreaking numbers, it's enough to believe he could be an upgrade for the Ravens.

    All told, calls for Baltimore to upgrade its pass-catching group will grow louder if the Jackson-led aerial attack gets off to a sluggish start over the new few weeks.

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