On Tuesday, about an hour before the NFL’s 4 p.m. deadline for franchise tags, the first domino of Lamar Jackson’s pivotal offseason fell.
After two years of unsuccessful negotiations, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on his franchise quarterback. Jackson can now negotiate a long-term deal with other teams starting next week, while the Ravens can match any offer sheet he signs. If they don’t, they’d receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.
If Jackson’s drawn-out contract talks with the Ravens have signaled anything about his next move, it’s that a quick and tidy resolution is unlikely. Here’s a look at what’s ahead for Jackson, DeCosta and the Ravens’ offense this offseason — and potentially the regular season.
Wednesday: Start of new league year
Jackson can start to negotiate with other teams and sign an offer sheet, provided that that team has a first-round pick in 2023 and 2024. (The Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns currently do not have a first-round pick in April’s draft.)
If Jackson does sign an offer sheet, the Ravens would have five days to match the offer. If the Ravens decline to match the offer, they would receive the two first-round picks as compensation.
Jackson also becomes eligible to be traded at the start of the league year, provided he’s signed his franchise tag tender. (Meaning the teams without a first-round pick this year could still attempt to acquire Jackson via trade.)
With Jackson’s $32.4 million tag now on the Ravens’ books, the team has to be under the $224.8 million salary cap by the start of the league year.
March 26-29: NFL owners meetings
Officials from the Ravens and other teams will meet in Phoenix to discuss league matters. At last year’s owners meetings, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti indicated that the team was unlikely to offer Jackson a contract similar to the fully guaranteed deal that quarterback Deshaun Watson had received from the Cleveland Browns just days earlier.
“To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking,” he said, “and it’ll make negotiations harder with others. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to play that game, you know? We shall see.”
April 17: Start of offseason workouts
Teams with returning head coaches, like the Ravens, can begin voluntary offseason workouts. The Ravens’ program will be their first under new strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Elliott, who replaced Steve Saunders last month. (Saunders was the subject of intense criticism from former players after an NFL Players Association report ranked the Ravens’ strength program last in the league.)
April 21: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets
If the Ravens place a tender on restricted free agent Tyler Huntley, Jackson’s backup, another team could sign Huntley to an offer sheet. The Ravens would have until April 26 to match the offer. If they placed a second-round tender on Huntley, the Ravens would receive draft pick compensation from his new team for losing him.
April 27-29: NFL draft
Four quarterbacks — Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson — are expected to be taken in the first round, if not in the top 10. The Ravens have just five picks in the draft, including the No. 22 overall selection.
After the draft, teams with a first-round pick in 2024 and 2025 can sign Jackson to an offer sheet.
Late May to early June: Organized team activities
Jackson skipped the Ravens’ voluntary practices last season for the first time in his career, later saying that he’d asked “my guys” if he could work out in South Florida and that he “just wanted to stay away and just grind.” While no live contact is allowed at OTAs, quarterbacks can take part in seven-on-seven, nine-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills, giving Jackson his first opportunity to work extensively with first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken and new Ravens teammates.
June: Mandatory minicamp
Jackson attended the Ravens’ minicamp last year. But until he’s under contract, he’s under no obligation to report for team activities.
July 17: Deadline for tagged players to sign an extension
If the Ravens and Jackson can’t agree to a long-term contract by the deadline, Jackson would have to play out the season in Baltimore under the franchise tag. He could also hold out. The Ravens would be barred from finalizing an extension until next offseason.
Late July to August: Training camp and preseason
Rather than “hold in” and use his leverage to negotiate a deal last season, Jackson reported to training camp and practiced with the Ravens. But if he doesn’t sign his tender or an extension with the team this summer, Jackson could sit out camp and the preseason and avoid substantial fines. Any prolonged absence would hamper Monken’s installation of the Ravens’ offense.
September: Start of regular season
If a potential holdout lasts into the regular season, Jackson would forfeit game checks for as long as he refuses to sign the Ravens’ tender. His cap hit would also fall with every game he misses.
Mid-November: Deadline to sign tender or offer sheet
Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, Jackson has to sign his tender by the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season. If he doesn’t, he’d be barred from playing in the 2023 season. That Tuesday also marks the deadline for Jackson to sign an offer sheet from another team. The Ravens would then have another five days to match.