Lamar Jackson Conundrum: Deciphering Decisions By Falcons, Commanders, Titans To Not Engage Talented QB

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PHOENIX — The decisions by multiple NFL teams to commit themselves to unproven or, in some cases, unremarkable quarterbacks while believing Lamar Jackson is not a fit is something of a head scratcher.

We’re talking about the Washington Commanders, Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans here. You can call them the anti-Jets. They’re teams that see a top quarterback on the free agent and now trade market and are deciding to stick with their unproven or unremarkable quarterbacks.

These teams are turning their back on an opportunity to even engage with Jackson, who is a non-exclusive rights franchise player and has asked to be traded from the Baltimore Ravens.

All this while apparently committing to …

  • Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett in Washington.
  • Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke in Atlanta.
  • Ryan Tannehill and Malik Willis in Tennessee.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Reasons Some NFL Teams Are Not Interested In Lamar

We’re limiting the scrutiny to those three teams because others that have been questioned about their lack of Jackson interest have presented good reasons for not going that route.

“We were $55 to $60 million over the cap at the start of this,” Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles said when asked why his team didn’t try to replace Tom Brady with Jackson.

The Bucs instead signed Baker Mayfield to a one-year contract worth $3.43 million or thereabouts. (No misprint, I meant $3.43.)

The Dolphins would be a logical landing spot for Jackson. He’s from Pompano, about 40 minutes from Hard Rock Stadium. He still lives in South Florida in the offseason. He grew up a Dolphins fan.

But it makes no sense for that team to try to replace Tua Tagovailoa, who comes with durability questions, with Jackson, who comes with durability questions. It makes no sense for the Dolphins to give up premium picks they don’t currently have in the coming draft. It makes no sense for them to do all this while paying about three times what they’ll pay for Tagovailoa over the next two years.

That’s the reason the Dolphins have privately and publicly committed to Tagovailoa.

But the Commanders and Howell over Jackson?

“Yeah, you know what, I’m not gonna get into Lamar specifically, but I will talk about free agency in general,” said Commander general manager Martin Mayhew. “You know, so there’s literally hundreds of guys that are free and we probably end up making serious contract offers or having serious discussions with somewhere between 10-20 each year.

“So there are a ton of talented players that could help us that we don’t end up talking to for various reasons. And Lamar falls into that category.”

Commanders have decided better to save money than win with Lamar Jackson.
Washington coach Ron Rivera. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

Commanders Building Project Flawed

Why is Jackson in that category? The Commanders believe they’ve seen something in Howell in practice and OTAs and maybe that eventually shows up on a game day. We’ll see.

But the more signficant reason the Commanders chose Howell and Brissett over Jackson is money.

Always money.

“We’re in position right now where we can sign guys because of the quarterback situation,” coach Ron Rivera said. “We have Jacoby with his contract and have Sam on a rookie contract. We have a moderate hit from that position which allows us to do some of the things that we did.”

Rivera added the low salary and cap number the team currently enjoys from the quarterback position gives the Commanders, “a real good opportunity this year to roster build. To bring people in and put them in position. A lot of it has to do with the quarterback numbers between the guys that we have right now.”

So the Commanders believe they’re building something.

But the construction equivalent of this team having no proven or outstanding quarterback prospect while adding or keeping talent on elsewhere is building a house with sturdy walls and wonderful design but lacking a roof.

Falcons going with Desmond Ridder over Lamar Jackson.
Marcus Mariota #1 and Desmond Ridder #4 of the Atlanta Falcons walk off the field after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Falcons’ Lack Of Jackson Interest Puzzles

The Falcons are another curious situation as they hand the reins of the offense to Ridder who will be in his second NFL season.

“The plan is obviously to start Desmond,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said at the NFL annual meeting. “That’s our plan going forward right now.”

The Falcons have elected not to make an offer for Jackson and that doesn’t seem likely to change. That’s curious because last year when Deshaun Watson was on the trade block, as Jackson is now, the Falcons were willing to part with three first-round draft picks to get the quarterback who ended up in Cleveland.

“I’m always going to focus on us,” Smith said. “I don’t want to speculate about guys that are not on our roster.”

Mike Vrabel's Titans committed to Ryan Tannehill.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel. (Getty Images)

Titans Commit To Tannehill … For Now

The Titans’ lack of Jackson interest is perhaps the most frustrating because they know — know! — Tannehill isn’t going to be it.

He’ll be 35 years old in July so he’s not likely to suddenly improve beyond what he’s been during his career. He’s never carried a team and isn’t going to do that now. He’s struggled in the playoffs, throwing 3 interceptions in the last postseason game he played after the 2021 season.

And he’s not inexpensive. The Titans are on the hook for a $36.6 million salary cap hit with Tannehill this year. But they can save approximately $27 million of that by cutting or trading him after June 1.

But coach Matt Vrabel said the Titans intend to have Tannehill as their starter in 2023.

“Of course. Of course, we do,” Vrabel said. “We are in March, and we are continuing to build a football team, the best football team we can. And Ryan is getting healthy. He has been putting the work in. It is good to see him around the building. So yeah, we always expect that.”

Stop. This is coachspeak for media consumption. Titans fans had better hope the next thought out of Vrabel’s mouth was some sort of code suggesting his endorsement now could change later — perhaps as part of a turn to Jackson.

“To make predictions – I think I have been through this last year (with A.J. Brown) – I am not going to commit to anybody being on our roster in September,” Vrabel said. “I’ve seen it change too quickly. Of course, we want Ryan as our quarterback, and everybody else that has helped us win. That is what we want.”

The Titans play in the AFC which has Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Josh Allen and soon Aaron Rodgers. They play in the AFC South which the Jacksonville Jaguars won last year with an emerging Trevor Lawrence.

But they’re not engaging with Lamar Jackson in order to commit to Ryan Tannehill?

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero


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  1. He wants a lot of guaranteed money and has missed nearly a third of the games each of the past two years. If he were to cut back the guarantee, he’d get the big deal.

    This is all the fault of Browns ownership & the moronic deal they gave to Mr. Rub & Tug.

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