The Atlanta Falcons have reportedly emerged as a logical contender to trade for star quarterback Lamar Jackson this offseason should the Baltimore Ravens decide on moving him, as "multiple people" around the NFL told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
"Good running game, an offense that could be friendly to Lamar while helping him grow as a passer, big receivers with a catch radius, which he needs due to accuracy issues, young regime on an improving team looking for a quarterback solution," an NFL scouting director told Fowler. "Not sure if that's their plan, but it would make some sense."
While the Falcons drafted Desmond Ridder in the third round of the 2022 NFL draft and also have the No. 8 overall selection in this year's draft—a pick they could potentially use on a quarterback prospect—the chance to upgrade with a player of Jackson's pedigree would be hard to pass on.
Fowler reported that teams also see the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins as "good fits who might have interest," though the fact that they play in the AFC could be a hang-up for the Ravens.
"I don't think Baltimore wants to deal him in conference and have to see him on the field," a high-ranking AFC executive told Fowler.
Granted, the Ravens would have to want to trade him for anything to happen. The first step in that process would be using the franchise tag, assuming long-term extension negotiations stall out.
Per Fowler, people in the Ravens organization "believe coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta are sincere when they say publicly they are all-in on Jackson as a Raven, in both the short and long term. And some executives around the league believe the same thing."
"They've built their entire offense around him, and I don't see them rebuilding," an AFC executive told ESPN.
However, the situation between Jackson and the Ravens has reached a fascinating inflection point. Franchise quarterbacks and former MVPs rarely reach an offseason where they could either be a free agent or the team would need to use the franchise tag to retain them.
When Jackson tweeted about his own injury status before the playoffs this season, while Harbaugh abstained from speaking publicly about it beyond a series of non-updates, it certainly raised some eyebrows around the NFL.
Namely, why hadn't Harbaugh more forcibly come out and said Jackson still wasn't ready to play in an effort to support his quarterback publicly?
"That is absolutely how things are done, except for if your last name is Harbaugh, right?" an NFL executive told The Athletic's Mike Sando. "That is what him and his brother do, and there is one more guy who handles business like that—he wears cutoff-arm sweatshirts with hoodies, and his name is Bill Belichick."
"Harbaugh is a power coach," that executive added. "It's like it is 1983 and you're going to get the kid to come back by saying he is an important part of the team and it's not a serious injury, but that doesn't work in today's NFL. He tries to make it coy and tricky, but he wants to exercise power over players, just like the college coaches he comes from and admires."
Call it another wrinkle in what has become an ongoing saga.
Jackson leaving the Ravens would easily be among the biggest stories of the offseason, though the team figures to do everything in its power to avoid such a scenario.