Plenty of NFL teams have gone out of their way to find arguments for why they haven't pursued 26-year-old, former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson this offseason after the Baltimore Ravens put him on the non-exclusive franchise tag. There are also many strong counterarguments to the excuses, and Jackson's former Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman (2019-2022) provided perhaps the biggest one out there against his longtime quarterback: his play style and injury-risk level.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, whose team has decided to operate with 2022 third-round pick Desmond Ridder and former Washington Commanders passer Taylor Heinicke as their quarterback room for 2023, picked at Jackson's style of play and durability to explain the lack of a pursuit. Blank's Falcons notably pursued Deshaun Watson last offseason, making his comments ring somewhat hollow since Watson has had two ACL tears in his football career while Jackson has zero major injuries on his resume.
"Looking at it objectively, I'd say there's some concern over how long can he play his style of game," Blank said. "Hopefully a long time ... but he's missed five, six games each of the last two years. Each game counts a lot in our business."
Yes, Jackson has missed 10 of his last 22 possible games played since the start of the 2021 season including the playoffs because of injury (bone bruise in ankle in 2021 and sprained PCL tendon in knee in 2022) after missing none due to injury during his first three seasons from 2018-2020. However, as Roman pointed out in a column for The33rdTeam, both of those injuries came while dropping back as a passer, not racing out in space as a runner.
"[Lamar] Jackson was such a master of avoiding hits, and honestly, he was safest when he was out in space on the move because he was in control as opposed to in the pocket with his eyes downfield, hoping somebody doesn't run into the back of his legs," Roman said. "The few times he got injured were behind the line of scrimmage, looking to make a throw down the field. But it never was an issue when he was running out in space. That's pretty counterintuitive to what many people believe to be true. It comes back to the specific player, and their style when they run. [Josh] Allen [a member of Jackson's 2018 draft class] will run some defenders over, so there's some hard contact at times."
Three-time First Team All-Pro and current New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu, echoed Roman's comments on Wednesday, directly refuting Blank's explanation as to why the Falcons aren't interested.
This man got hurt twice inside the pocket. I’ve never seen anyone tackle him with a heavy hit in space, his game is special and rare. I have never seen this guy take a hit when running and not get up immediately(he owns a mean stiff arm. When he hurt himself it was inside pocket. https://t.co/3BtGJEpVPF— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) March 29, 2023
Since Blank has made it abundantly clear he prefers a pocket passer, then that's even more of a reason for Jackson to be a desirable pickup because he has been better throwing inside the pocket instead of on the run.
Lamar Jackson career passing inside pocket vs. outside
|Inside Pocket||Outside Pocket|