Lamar Jackson to 49ers would be cool (but it isn’t happening)
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers have been linked to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was slapped with the franchise tag. But any deal isn’t going to happen.
There are a handful of players around the NFL for whom teams should trip over to acquire if they can.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is one of those players.
The 2019 NFL MVP just got hit with the franchise tag, but it’s the non-exclusive variety and means that other teams can make offers to sign him when NFL free agency begins on March 15.
The Ravens, meanwhile, can match that offer or be rewarded with draft-pick compensation from the team that ultimately signs him.
The 26-year-old Jackson, who represents himself as his own agent, might not call Baltimore his home anymore, should another team be willing to offer a contract well beyond that what the Ravens would be willing to pay.
So, would a team like the San Francisco 49ers be interested?
Sure, they can be interested. They can even like Jackson a lot, but that doesn’t mean there’ll be some blockbuster transaction between the two parties.
ESPN lists 49ers as a good fit for Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
The Niners have their own quarterbacking situation heading into 2023. Jimmy Garoppolo is a free agent who is unlikely to return, while both Brock Purdy and Trey Lance are coming off serious injuries.
Purdy, in particular, might not be ready when the regular season begins after undergoing elbow surgery.
In fairness to Jackson, most teams without a top-level elite quarterback should be interested in him, so it’s no surprise ESPN’s Bill Barnwell (h/t 49ers Webzone) listed San Francisco as a plausible landing spot by writing:
"Every back and receiver the 49ers use regularly on offense is capable of lining up anywhere before the snap and touching the ball as a rusher or pass-catcher afterward. It’s an offense of hybrids.The only exception in that offense was the guy who handled the ball under center, as Jimmy Garoppolo was a pocket passer with limited mobility. Lance was something entirely different, and before his right fibula injury in Week 2, it was clear the 49ers planned to use him in a similar way to how the Ravens use Jackson. Lance suffered his season-ending injury while running Bash QB Counter, a run concept the Ravens use regularly with Jackson, who would fit comfortably into the offense Shanahan appeared to be designing for his second-year starter this season."
From that vantage point, the 49ers do make sense, although Barnwell listed out exactly half the NFL as a good fit for the quarterback. Still, having a rushing-threat quarterback like Jackson would open up an already dynamic offense under head coach Kyle Shanahan.
But, how on earth would the Niners pull off such a move?
49ers have neither the salary cap space nor the NFL Draft compensation to land Lamar Jackson
If Jackson leaves Baltimore via the non-exclusive franchise tag, which is explained nicely here, the Ravens would receive two first-round draft picks from the team that ultimately signs him.
As 49ers Webzone pointed out, that’s a baseline compensation to Baltimore, and it could ask for even more in what could be a sign-and-trade scenario between bidding teams.
Naturally, there would probably be at least a few franchises willing to go for more than just two first-round picks, a cost that’s actually less than what the Niners gave up to draft Lance back in 2021.
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San Francisco is without a first- or second-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Additionally, according to Over the Cap, the 49ers have only $6.4 million in cap space right now, and that wouldn’t even come close to outbidding other teams’ offers for Jackson unless the Niners engineered some awfully serious roster jockeying.
That part is possible, yes. But, when tossing in other teams’ likely interest, San Francisco is probably closer to the 16th most-likely team to acquire Jackson as opposed to the first.
It’d be a cool thought, though.