Lamar Jackson, one of two unanimous MVPs in NFL history (along with Tom Brady), announced on Monday that he requested a trade from the Ravens in early March.
You'd think half the league would be knocking Baltimore's door down to pursue arguably the greatest dual-threat QB in NFL history, who is just 26 years old. Instead, we are living in a bizarro world where the only news coming out is teams essentially eliminating themselves from the Jackson sweepstakes.
History has shown you need a top-10 QB to win a Super Bowl. The only QBs to win a Super Bowl in the last 20 seasons that aren't top-10 caliber (arguably) were Nick Foles (2017 Eagles) and Joe Flacco (2012 Ravens). Both won with wild postseason heaters that were major outliers to their career performance.
Jackson is as close to a sure thing as you'll ever find available on the QB market. As my colleague Jeff Kerr documented this week, his first five seasons are full of mind-blowing statistics.
Even if owners are colluding against Jackson, like it was suggested by NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, it's surprising that more teams aren't willing to break rank and make a lucrative investment in Jackson.
After all, the Browns, probably the most QB desperate franchise in recent NFL history, invested three first-round picks and $230 million guaranteed in Deshaun Watson.
The teams who have reportedly bowed out of contention for Jackson may not have experienced QB misery quite like the Browns, but certainly have question marks at QB that make their decisions even more baffling.
Here's at least one fact on each of those franchise's quarterback pasts:
The Falcons tried to trade for Watson last year despite his sexual misconduct allegations. Watson also tore his ACL twice since his freshman year at Clemson.
The Panthers have the fewest touchdown passes (63) and most interceptions (71) of any team in the last four seasons. Their starting QBs over that span include Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Will Grier, Teddy Bridgewater, PJ Walker, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. They have the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, probably a better excuse than any other team.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders replaced Derek Carr with Jimmy Garoppolo (perhaps temporarily), who has missed 31 games in the last five seasons. Carr, the team's all-time passing leader, never won a playoff game with the Raiders.
The Commanders may be the closest franchise to the Browns in terms of dysfunction and quarterback desperation. Their all-time touchdown passes leader (Sammy Baugh) last played in 1952. They haven't made a conference championship game since the 1991 season, and have been riding the QB carousel ever since. That's especially true lately. The Commanders have had an NFL-high 12 different starting QBs since Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings in the 2018 offseason.
The Dolphins have been riding the QB carousel ever since Dan Marino retired. They have the longest active drought in the NFL without a Pro Bowl QB season (1995). Tua Tagovailoa was a Pro Bowl snub in 2022, but also suffered two documented concussions. A Jackson homecoming to south Florida could have been justified.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were one of six teams to use four different QBs last season, including playoffs. The other five all lost 10-plus games (Panthers, Jets, Rams, Cardinals, Bears). In other words, this is still a championship roster a QB away from winning a Super Bowl.
Sure, San Francisco went all in trading up for Trey Lance, and Brock Purdy impressed last season, but imagine Jackson with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.
The Lions appear set with Jared Goff, who looked like a franchise QB in the second half of 2022. But, let's not forget, this is a Lions team with one playoff win in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Their QB for that win was Erik Kramer.
New York Jets
The Jets have not had a franchise QB since Joe Namath. Their only QB with 30 touchdown passes in a season is Ryan Fitzpatrick. They had the worst passer rating of any team in the NFL last season. Aaron Rodgers turns 40 in December, so it seems foolish they wouldn't consider a 26-year-old Jackson.
New England Patriots
It's hard to poke holes in the Patriots QB history, but Tom Brady isn't walking through the doors anytime soon (at least I don't think). "The last 25 years" is a legitimate reason Patriots fans should be optimistic, but my counter to that is this fact. The Patriots have a losing record (43-44) under Bill Belichick with starting QBs not named Brady
One reason against acquiring Jackson isn't as convincing
There are many facts and reasons why those teams should be interested in Jackson. You can also poke holes in one of the primary facts used to justify lack of interest in Jackson, highlighted by Falcons owner Arthur Blank:
"Looking at it objectively I'd say there's some concern over how long can he play his style of game. Hopefully a long time ... but he's missed 5, 6 games each of the last two years. Each game counts a lot in our business."
Blank has a point, to an extent. Jackson's season-ending injuries in the last two seasons are somewhat of a red flag. So is the fact that he's the most hit QB in the league since he was drafted.
The biggest reason Blank's comments are an overreaction, though? Any potential suitor would likely be interested in signing Jackson for a deal around five years, or through his age-30 season. They presumably wouldn't be expecting him to win Super Bowls in his 40s like Brady.
It's completely reasonable to expect Jackon's game would age just fine over the next five years.
Jackson has the fifth-most rush yards in NFL history. If you look at the top-10 list all time, quarterbacks who you would mostly consider as elite dual-threats, everyone on that list made a Pro Bowl in their 30s with the exception of Cam Newton.
|Most Career Rush Yards by QB||Age of Final Pro Bowl|
It's even more telling when you zero in on the only four QBs with more career rushing yards than Jackson. Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Randall Cunningham. The group's decline in terms of starts and other production measures were relatively insignificant from their early 20s to late 20s, but much more noticeable in their 30s.
Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Randall Cunningham average season by age
|Age 21-25||Age 26-30||Age 31+|
That shouldn't scare away a Jackson suitor, who once again would be most concerned with his production in the next five seasons or so. Not to mention, Jackson's game could evolve to lean more heavily on his passing prowess if he had a true No. 1 wide receiver, something he's never had.
This evidence only makes this situation more perplexing. The pursuit of Jackson should be simple. But, apparently, it is very, very complicated.