So this Lamar Jackson news is pretty insane right now. I've made plenty of statements so far this off-season that my preference would be a pocket QB that has the ability to move. I do not like running QBs and the injury risk they present with that part of their game.
That being said, all this talk got me thinking.
First Two Steps
Right now, it looks like there are very few (no?) suitors for Lamar. Injury history and the track record of running QBs past 30 had me uninterested in him. Should the Colts think about pursuing him, step one would be Chris Ballard and Shane Steichen analyzing Jackson's ability as a pocket QB. Can he evolve from the runner he is into a QB first, runner second. That's the only way he will be successful long-term. If their answer is yes, then we go to step two.
Stephen Holder has reported that Jackson's contract demands are a non-starter for most teams. I don't think a Deshawn Watson deal will do anything but hamstring the Colts for the future. ($64 million cap hit for the next 3 years!) Jim Irsay was very clear on how he felt about fully guaranteed contracts. I just don't see Ballard pushing for that either. If they can get Jackson into something that doesn't kill the team's cap, then we move on.
Lamar and his contract demands are the wildcard at this point. We know he turned down $133/3 in fully guaranteed money. Reports vary as to the rest of the offer and how that would have worked. We know that this episode has soured the Ravens to Lamar, maybe to the point where they are ready to move forward without him. I cannot guess at what that contract would look like, that the Ravens won't match and the the Colts cap will be happy with. Makes me glad I'm not a a cap-ologist.
So, what could getting Jackson look like?
If we get past the two large hurdles and decide to go for Lamar, what's the best way to do it? We could talk to Lamar now, get an offer sheet in place, give up the 2 firsts (1.4 and '24), and have our QB. But I think there's a better way.
What if we talked with Lamar and got all the details worked out, but did not give an offer sheet until after the draft? The offer sheet process can happen any time before July 17 and there has been no movement so far. Why not wait one more month? Then we enter the draft with 1.4 and a starting QB.
If we have a QB when we are on the clock, we have so many options!
BPA: If Will Anderson is still on the board, we could take him and have our high end pass rusher. We've all missed that! Samson Ebukam, Will Anderson, Kwitty Paye, and Tyquan Lewis as a DE rotation would be stellar. Toss in Dayo Odeyingbo. Fresh, athletic pass rushers all game long! We can hit OL, WR or CB in Round 2 and 3 and really be set before we give up our '24 and '25 1sts.
Trade Back: This is my favorite scenario! Imagine the draft goes QB, QB, Will Anderson. We are in a great position to trade back with someone who wants Jalen Carter or the 3rd QB. Moving back to 10 or so should gain us a 1st for '24. At 10 we could look at CB Christian Gonzalez or WR Quentin Johnson. Both would be huge upgrades for us at positions of need. Plus we gained back a 1st for '24.
Can you imagine: Lamar Jackson becomes a Colt for the equivalent of one 1st round pick. We get a stud playmaker on the outside or a replacement for Stephon Gilmore in the defensive backfield. We still have all our picks this year and are only really out a '25 1st round pick, which, with luck, would be in the late 20's (or 30's).
Would Lamar wait for us?
Is it too much of a risk for Ballard, who's job, it appears from the outside, is firmly on the line? It might be, but it feels like the kind of risk Ballard would take. An "I know more than you and I can play this game better than anyone else" moment.
Do we run the risk of losing Lamar to another team should they jump in before the draft? Possibly. If it happens before the draft, we still have our 1.4 to use as needed to get a QB.
The only real risk would be another team jumping in after the draft. There should be fewer QB needy teams after the draft. That should help our odds. If we truly do miss out on Lamar and didn't select a QB until late in the draft. Then we go into the season with Gardner "The Stache" Minshew at the wheel and see where the team ends up.
The season should give more answers about where the OL is and determine if/where we need fixes. Better QB play and play calling should provide those. We should also get a better read on our young receivers. If Minshew's history holds, we would also still have a high pick to use next year on a prospect that some here prefer to all the QBs this year. As much as I don't want to go through another season like last year, it might be worth it.
Why would Lamar negotiate with us and keep it silent? I see it is as final middle finger to the Ravens. This way the Ravens don't get a high pick from us to fix their QB needs and he gets to go to a team that still has much of its draft capital intact to put a good team around him. Cheap talent will be needed for a QB to win with the kind of cap hit this contract will require. You find cheap talent in the draft. If we can sell him on having the best WR room he's ever had and a chance to build in the future, maybe he plays ball.
As I said at the start, steps one and two are MUST completes before any of the rest of this happens. If Ballard and Steichen don't believe Lamar can evolve and be successful as his rushing ability and usage decreases, then we don't go for it. If Lamar demands a contract that hamstrings the organization, then we call it all off. They have a month to make that decision.