Lamar Jackson is sitting there as a potential alternative for the New York Jets
The New York Jets are in hot pursuit of Aaron Rodgers. Woody Johnson, Robert Saleh, Joe Douglas, and Nathaniel Hackett flew out to California on Tuesday to meet with Rodgers in person.
But the Jets’ meeting with Rodgers was not the only major quarterback news in the NFL on Tuesday. The Baltimore Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, which officially puts him on the market. Jackson is free to negotiate a contract with any team, and if the Ravens decline to match a contract he signs, Jackson’s new team would owe Baltimore two first-round picks.
Should the Jets change course and pivot to Jackson?
In my opinion, while Jackson would be the Jets’ best fallback option if the Rodgers pursuit fizzles out, I think Rodgers is clearly the Jets’ best option and should remain their primary target.
Here are a few reasons why.
Mounting durability concerns
The biggest question with highly mobile quarterbacks is always their long-term durability. We’ve seen too many run-heavy quarterbacks have their primes shortened due to injuries, such as Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton.
For the first three years of his career, Jackson silenced this narrative as he did not miss any games due to injury. However, over the past two years, all of the hits Jackson has taken have started to catch up with him. Jackson missed five games in each of the past two seasons, plus a playoff game this past season.
Committing long-term to a run-heavy quarterback who is already showing signs of deterioration is a very risky move.
Three years of declining passing production
Outside of his 2019 MVP season, Jackson’s passing production is unspectacular. He’s been a league-average passer over the three years that have passed since that tremendous campaign.
Here are Jackson’s ranks out of 31 quarterbacks (min. 700 pass attempts) from 2020 to 2022:
- Passer rating: 92.5 (19th)
- Completion rate: 63.7% (25th)
- Yards per attempt: 7.3 (16th)
- Interception rate: 2.7% (27th)
- Touchdown rate: 5.4% (8th)
- Sack rate: 7.9% (26th)
Whoever commits to Jackson will be hoping they can figure out how to get Jackson back to his 2019 levels, when he had the league’s third-best passer rating (113.3) and led the NFL in passing touchdowns (36).
But that was four years ago by now. Jackson has strung together a three-year run of mediocre passing production. That’s tough to overlook.
Sure, his incredible rushing talents offset his passing woes to some extent, but as Jackson ages, his rushing skills will likely decline and he will have to lean heavier on his passing. He’s going to have to be much more productive as a passer to be a great quarterback going forward.
He has already been well-supported
With the Ravens, Jackson has already benefited from playing in a great environment throughout his career. That’s concerning as you project him to a new team, especially a struggling franchise like the Jets.
The Ravens’ defense is elite just about every year. The same goes for their offensive line. It’s a heavenly landing spot for a young quarterback.
Yes, Jackson has not been given much talent at wide receiver, but the Ravens’ offensive scheme (which was built specifically to complement Jackson’s skill set) does not emphasize wide receivers anyway. It places more emphasis on the tight ends, and there, Jackson has had one of the game’s absolute best weapons in Mark Andrews.
Plus, John Harbaugh is an excellent head coach, and the Ravens have had one of the NFL’s best cultures for a very long time. Baltimore is competitive on a yearly basis, seemingly no matter what. Winning habits are ingrained in the organization.
Greg Roman is a much-maligned offensive coordinator, but his established track record of success with getting the absolute best out of mobile quarterbacks – namely Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor – cannot be denied. Kaepernick and Taylor fell off the map after leaving Roman, and I’d be wary of Jackson suffering a similar (albeit nowhere near as harsh) decline without Roman.
Jackson was seen as a project coming out of Louisville (hence his fall to the end of the first round) and the Ravens had him playing at an MVP level by year two. They deserve a mountain of credit for their role in his rapid development.
It’s hard to imagine a place where Jackson could get more help than he did in Baltimore. If there is one, I don’t think it’s the Jets. Yes, the Jets have tremendous offensive weapons and would give Jackson his best group of wide receivers, but they also have chronic offensive line woes and would have a chance to give Jackson the worst protection of his career. Additionally, their coaching staff and overall organizational culture are also nowhere near as proven as Baltimore’s.
When adding a new quarterback who has been underperforming, you want to be confident that you have the right pieces to help him ascend to his maximum potential. This was true about the Jets and Derek Carr, as New York offered an overall roster that was more talented than any of Carr’s Raiders teams. It’s also true about the Jets and Rodgers, as the Jets can give him a much-improved supporting cast over the 2022 Packers and reunite him with Nathaniel Hackett, who led Rodgers to the highest passer rating of his career among any offensive coordinator he has played under.
Jackson has already been playing in a fantastic environment. That makes it difficult to picture him improving on a new team. And if he doesn’t improve off of where he was over the last three years, he is probably not leading the Jets to a Super Bowl.
Another important point regarding the Ravens is this: Throughout their entire history, they have proven themselves to be one of the smartest and most well-run franchises in the NFL when it comes to personnel decisions. If they are not sold on Jackson, it should be a warning signal to the rest of the league.
Lack of playoff success
Jets fans who clamor for Jackson over Rodgers usually point to the difference in potential longevity as their primary reason. Jackson is 26 and can be the Jets’ quarterback for years to come. Rodgers is 39 and will give the team either one or two seasons.
I can see the logic here, but what I’m more focused on is how many Super Bowl-contending seasons each quarterback would give the Jets – not how many actual seasons.
Even if Rodgers only plays two years with the Jets, you can feel supremely confident that the Jets will be legitimate Super Bowl contenders in each of those years. Heck, even if he plays one year, you can still feel very confident that he would give the franchise one season as a Super Bowl contender
Now let’s say that Jackson signs a four-year deal with the Jets. Even over four years, I’m not sold that Jackson would give the Jets more Super Bowl-contending seasons than Rodgers would.
Jackson spent five seasons with a tremendous organization in Baltimore and could not reach one AFC Championship Game. Part of that was due to his durability – a late-season injury in 2021 caused Baltimore to miss the playoffs and another late-season injury in 2022 caused him to miss the team’s Wild Card game. Part of that is due to his 1-3 playoff record with a 68.3 passer rating and 56% completion rate.
Considering his issues with durability, his alarming postseason production, and his three years of declining passing production, it’s not a guarantee that Jackson would give the Jets even just a single Super Bowl-contending season, no matter how long he is with the team.
I feel confident Rodgers will give the Jets a real shot at winning the Super Bowl in 2023. That might be the only season he plays, but I think it still gives the Jets a better shot at winning a Super Bowl than multiple years of Jackson.
Say what you want about Rodgers and his one Super Bowl ring (as if that’s something to criticize), but the guy has an 11-10 career playoff record with a 100.1 passer rating, 65% completion rate, and 45 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. He performs and wins in the playoffs.
Rodgers has made four NFC Championship Games since the Super Bowl win. No, he didn’t win any of them, but just the fact that he’s gotten that far so frequently means he is capable of giving his team a strong chance of winning a championship – and a chance is all you need. A couple of balls bounce differently, and Rodgers could have another ring or two.
Jackson should be the Jets’ fallback, but Rodgers is Plan A
Despite all of my Jackson criticism in this article, don’t get me wrong – I still think he is the Jets’ best option if Rodgers does not work out. But comparing him head-to-head against one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history? It’s not much of a debate for me. Rodgers is the Jets’ best option.
A big reason why I’d be okay with Jackson as the Jets’ Plan B despite all of my aforementioned concerns is that I think he can be had rather affordably. Jackson is going to find out on the open market that he is not worth nearly as much as he thinks he is. His contract should end up being a very fair value for all of the pluses and minuses he brings you. As for the trade package of two first-round picks, that would pale in comparison to recent quarterback trades.
Past Rodgers and Jackson, the Jets don’t have any options that are appealing to me. Going for a bridge/stopgap quarterback like Jimmy Garoppolo or Ryan Tannehill feels like a waste of time with the talent New York has on its roster. Settling for a competition between Mike White and a fringe quarterback like Jacoby Brissett is equally unappealing. I want to see the Jets take a swing. With the pieces they’ve assembled, they have a window to compete here. Choosing a bridge quarterback would be a bridge to nowhere.
Jackson, for all of his flaws, is an extremely exciting roll of the dice. He has proven there is MVP-caliber talent within him – we know that much. Someone just needs to find the right formula to help him rediscover that ceiling. I think there is a chance the Jets’ west-coast system can allow him to do that. I am a fan of Jackson’s arm talent and would be intrigued to see what he can do in a new system that asks him to do more as a passer. He throws a pretty ball and has a smooth throwing motion. I love his feathery touch, especially in the intermediate range and over the middle.
But throwing Jackson into a brand-new system like the west-coast is undoubtedly a huge risk, even if the upside is high. Jackson very well might struggle in the west-coast system. It’s possible that Baltimore had the perfect system for him, meaning 2019 was his ceiling (when he was healthy and he hadn’t been figured out by the league yet) and the guy we saw from 2020-22 is the best he can be going forward. If that is the case, the Jets’ system would reveal the flaws that Baltimore was hiding, making him worse than he was in Baltimore.
There’s elite-level potential with Jackson. That’s why I have him ahead of all the other options whose ceilings come nowhere remotely close to his. However, there is also an abundance of red flags with Jackson, and that’s why I’d much rather see the Jets take their chances with the proven superstar Rodgers, even if it’s only for one year.
I read Rivka Boord’s post yesterday and she referred me to this post. No question, this post makes great points. My two nightmares (current ones anyway) are that Rodgers is truly unsure of what he wants to do and may end up with one final victory tour with the Packers; and that Lamar will realize (as this article sagely points out) that the Ravens are his best environment for him and the best long-term bet to win a Super Bowl or the market for him was not as robust as he anticipated or the Ravens match any offer sheet he receives.
Last night I heard on NFL Radio Mike Tannenbaum being interviewed by Bill Polian and Bill Lekas. Mr. Polian put the odds of Rodgers joining the Jets as better than 50%-50%. Generally, commentators like him have better insight than the average fan does so it was reassuring. I also can’t shake the thought of a backfield of Lamar and Breece with Lamar throwing to Garren Wilson and Elijah Moore. As with Jets fans, hope springs eternal. Jim
I don’t disagree about Jackson, but I do disagree with you on a lot of other points…
I disagree the Jets’ window is so short as the next 1-2 years, how viable they would be as a super bowl candidate this year, and the idea of wasting the window.
In fact, I want to argue that bringing in Rodgers does waste the window, since I think the math tells us this core will have to be dismantled as rookie contracts expire.
Look at this team right now–they have a longer window than you make it seem. Before we were spoiled by a mirage of a 6-3 start, what us fans have today is beyond our wildest hopes, with one very, very critical exception…Zach. As fans we wanted a QB that would lead us to the playoffs this year, further develop, and help us challenge for a championship in 24+.
That is still the timeline that makes the most sense for the Jets. 2023 is not going to be their year, even with Rodgers. 2024? Rodgers may retire, but even if he doesn’t, what corrections will the Jets be able to afford to make with Rodgers’ taking up a quarter of the cap? I mean, if I’m being honest 2024 probably does offer a lot of potential with restructures and whatnot, but that’s if Rodgers doesn’t retire, doesn’t turn into a pumpkin, and can still find the doorknob in the dark, and I suppose most importantly for me, 2025 is a dark hellscape of draft projection that starts in September.
My thought–if you don’t want to waste this window, wait for the quarterback that is a perfect fit, and keep your resources liquid until you find him…although…
Maybe all of this is being discussed, the Packers will restructure him to take on money that makes his contract reflect fair market value, the Jets can find a developmental QB for the next two years, and it can all work out.
I know this is not popular but I believe Zach is the developmental QB for the next 2 years. Like you I’m trying to figure out the money and who needs to go for cap reasons. Clearly, they need to sign Q, adding Rogers probably means they don’t have money for someone like Rankins. Also, the popular thought is Davis gets cut to open up $10 million but I don’t see signing Rogers and releasing him as productive. Everybody keeps saying, if the defense can repeat last season, but do they do that without Lawson?
I think Rogers will need to restructure for sure.
My question to you is, if it’s not Rogers, who would you like? I for sure don’t want Jackson.
I’m in the low-mid veteran salary camp. Implement a new offense strategy for Wilson to execute with whoever fits the new look between White\Dalton\Heinicke\Wentz\Bridgewater\etc and true competition for the role.
“My question to you is, if it’s not Rogers, who would you like?”
I have to answer that two ways–the ‘right’ way, and then the probable way. The issue is the Jets’ leadership team probably sold a line to ownership about being a quarterback away for reasons unknown but likely inspired by self-preservation. A frank evaluation of the season that just was would not have led to that conclusion. They literally have 4 starting spots (not even counting Whitehead’s spot) they need to replace on defense alone this off-season, 4 starting spots on the offensive line, countless holes on special teams and for depth, and no cap space. Calling that a quarterback away is malpractice, and the line from the beginning should have been, “We’re going to continue to build the team with the best talent we can find and we’ll consider a veteran QB to lead them if the right one becomes available.”
So what I would do now is revise the off-season plan to that. It does not appear the right veteran will shake loose, so the Jets are now left to figure out what QB they want to develop. If they truly believe in Zach, then they probably believe the coaching changes they’ve made are a good start. Likely they recognize there are too many issues with Zach’s game and approach, which leads to what QB should we be developing? You want to go all in on CJ Stroud or Anthony Richardson? You think a day three guy like Tune or O’Connell has promise? You want to trade for Malik Willis (with the obvious Tennessee connection)? Figure out what QB you want to develop (and if its not Zach figure out how to get him off the roster) and then bring in literally whomever to compete with Mike White and let’s go.
But what’s probably going to happen is they have to make good on the promise to Woody of a veteran quarterback, which means Rodgers or Garoppolo. My sincere hope is they have defined a line they can’t cross for Rodgers, with that line being understanding how they can choose to extend any ’22 rookie they wish, they won’t cross it, and Woody won’t force it. There is reason to believe that because Garoppolo has been talked up as an option, his appearances in championship games makes that believable, and leadership might be able to sell to ownership that Garoppolo is the better fit for two years while they develop the QB they really want. So while I personally would sign any fringe starter and a developmental guy before Garoppolo, I kind of hope it’s Garoppolo at this point because I don’t see Douglas and Saleh satiating Woody with anything less.
Good discussion. I’m with you Matt on the “right” way.
You are 100% correct in saying they are not even close to a “QB away.” I’ve been saying that for a long time. I do like the Jimmy move and if you’ve seen any of my posts I think he’s is actually the best option. But, I am honestly intrigued by Rogers. More than I thought but I agree they have to find a way to do it without having to blow the young core up once they hit second contracts.
I do believe they like Zach as a project, and honestly I don’t like any of the QB’s in this year’s draft. When the possible #1 overall pick is 5’10”, 195lbs playing weight (not combine) that’s a bad QB class. I don’t care how many games he won in college.
Imagine they make the Rogers trade, and rework the contract to make it bit more friendly. Let’s say Zach is the developmental guy, at least for the time being since there doesn’t seem to be a better option. Then this COULD work. Truth be told I’m not a huge Mike White guy. Yeah, he did some nice things but he did fail to get them in the end zone, and his record as a starter just isn’t that good. Yeah, I know he got killed with the ribs, and also got hurt the year before but that’s sort of the point with him. He seems to be one of those guys who in a pinch can win a couple of games if he needs to fill in for 3 games or so but the longer he plays the more likely his shortcomings are exposed.
I don’t think it’s ONLY the Jets’ decision makers who feel there needs to be a QB change, clearly the team was frustrated with the situation last year, and I don’t think running it back with White, Zach and a potential rookie would go over well in the locker room. Clearly, they needed to do something. The WR’s weren’t happy, and the defense wasn’t happy. I think you are a bit too hard on Joe and Saleh. You make good points but I don’t think hanging at 7-10 or even 9-8 is a step forward.
You are right there are holes and the positions you pointed out all make sense. Every team has holes, even winning teams. I think they can live with Whitehead another season if they filled the FS hole. I also think Laken will bounce back considering this is basically another contract year for him. I’m also not done with Becton. I know he’s been hurt, but he doesn’t have a long injury history in college, and he may have just grown up enough to keep himself in shape and avoid those injuries. Let’s say he comes back and is a good player, not great. Then it’s like adding 2 starting players to the OL with him and AVT. I think the biggest hole on the OL is center. They need a “QB of the OL”, and someone who can lead. McGovern just wasn’t that guy. They will need to resign Rankins or that will be a huge hole. They also need to resign the OLB’s. So, while I agree with you on the holes I don’t think they are as gaping as you described.
All of that said, I see a path where Rogers is the right guy. I would be fine with Jimmy, the fan base will go wild if that happens at this point. I think either guy is an upgrade for them. I don’t see that bringing in another developmental guy makes sense with this group. Isn’t Jimmy a “fringe guy.” I guess, who would be a “fringe guy” for you? Mariota?