Bradley’s Buzz: Is there a real chance Lamar Jackson becomes a Falcon?

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Franchise quarterbacks stayed put. That was a key part of the definition – “franchise” QB, singular, as opposed to “franchises,” plural. Please note the use of past tense in those two sentences.

Tom Brady just completed his third season for a team other than the Patriots. Matthew Stafford won a Super Bowl, though not for Detroit. Russell Wilson is based in Denver, Deshaun Watson in Cleveland. Matt Ryan spent last season working for an organization not headquartered in Hall County.

Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, drafted 1-2 in 2016, were treated and paid like franchise quarterbacks. Wentz took the Eagles to the playoffs three years running, though he kept getting hurt and yielding to Nick Foles; Goff led the Rams to a Super Bowl. Their franchises tired of them. Goff was traded to the Lions. Wentz was shipped to the Colts, then to the Commanders.

Lamar Jackson isn’t Goff/Wentz. He was the 2019 MVP. He just turned 26. He has, however, missed significant time at the end of the past two seasons – five games in 2021, five plus a playoff game this time. The Ravens lost eight of those 11.

An odd vibe surrounded his latest injury. Receiver Sammy Watkins, who hasn’t worked a full NFL season since 2014, told the Washington Post that Jackson should, er, play hurt. (Because this worked so well for Robert Griffin III.) Said Watkins: “He’s got an opportunity to win a Super Bowl. I hope he hobbles back out there. … Put him out for the pass plays and don’t run him at all.”

In defense of their leader, other Ravens reported that Jackson was still limping. He took to Twitter, saying there was no chance of him playing on Wild Card Weekend. “I suffered a Grade 2 PCL strain on the borderline of a 3. There is still inflammation in my knee, and my knee remains unstable.”

He didn’t make the trip to Cincinnati. The Ravens lost. They face an offseason in which Jackson is eligible for free agency, though they could keep him by affixing the “franchise player” tag to their franchise quarterback. Negotiations for a new contract collapsed in September. He’s believed to want at least what Watson got from Cleveland – $230 million, all guaranteed. Jackson is represented by his mother.

If you had to bet, you’d put money on him sticking with Baltimore. Still, we recall that Watson recused himself from playing for the Texans long before allegations of sexual abuse became public. He wanted out of Houston. He got out of Houston. It isn’t yet clear if – or why – Jackson would want out of Baltimore.

By now, you’ve guessed where this is leading. The Falcons’ quarterback of the moment is Desmond Ridder, who has started four NFL games. He might pan out. It’s doubtful he’ll ever be as good as Jackson. The Falcons are coached by Arthur Smith, who has a deft hand with the running game. Over five seasons, Jackson has topped 1,000 rushing yards twice. (Over 13 seasons, Michael Vick topped a thousand once.)

Jackson is from Florida. He played collegiately at Louisville. As landing spots go, Atlanta should top his list. The Falcons have gifted young receivers in Kyle Pitts and Drake London, plus a 1,000-yard back in Tyler Allgeier, plus a Pro Bowl lineman in Chris Lindstrom.

The Ravens would have to mess up royally to lose Jackson. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has stepped aside, surely a move to placate the franchise QB. Asked if his team will keep Jackson, coach John Harbaugh said, “100 percent, you know, 200 percent … It’s going to get done.”

And yet: It’s not done. The longer this goes, the greater the chance Jackson says, “That’s it. Get me out of here.” Which would leave the Ravens with only bad choices: Do they slap the tag on a disgruntled quarterback, or do they work a trade and commit to starting over?

Not saying Jackson-to-the-Falcons will happen. Am saying it might.

The above is part of a regular exercise, written and curated by yours truly, available to all who register on for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes more opinions and extras like a weekly poll and pithy quotes, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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