Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson requested a trade, and the 49ers should be interested (as should most of the NFL). But what would it take them to acquire him?
Let’s grant one thing before moving forward: Unless an NFL team employs an elite, top-end quarterback like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow, that team should absolutely be interested in acquiring Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Jackson, of course, dropped a bomb on the Ravens earlier this week by requesting a trade, the latest development in what’s been a contractual standoff between Baltimore and the 2019 MVP.
The quarterback revealed as much on his Twitter account:
So, how do the San Francisco 49ers fit into all of this?
Quickly recapping the 49ers’ own quarterbacking situation, they bade farewell to Jimmy Garoppolo in free agency and are hoping both Brock Purdy and Trey Lance can return from serious injuries suffered last season, Lance the further of the two along in his recovery.
While Purdy and Lance are both young, a Super Bowl-caliber roster is ready to win now, and the Niners’ free-agent pickup of former Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold will reinforce the quarterback room either way.
Got it? Good.
From that vantage point, it wouldn’t seem like San Francisco would be interested in the 26-year-old Jackson. Even head coach Kyle Shanahan more or less said so from the NFL owners meetings this week (h/t 49ers Webzone):
"Everyone knows Lamar’s skill set. Lamar’s a stud. I’m sure they’ll work it out there. But Lamar’s a great player. …Our goal is always to see how good we can make the team, and we feel we’re in a very good situation at quarterback right now. Not just with three guys who are capable of being starters, but we also got three guys that have allowed us to build a very good roster."
Shanahan also pointed out a distinct advantage the 49ers have with both Purdy and Lance being on their rookie contracts, which has afforded the team enough salary cap space to beef up the roster elsewhere.
But, Shanahan has always stressed the desire to improve the roster however possible.
And, if Niners were somehow able to trade for Jackson, they’d assuredly do it if the net cost was worth the reward.
What might it take, though?
How could 49ers end up trading for Lamar Jackson?
For starters, the Ravens haven’t come out and made Jackson available for a trade, at least not according to any substantiated reports by the time of this writing. Sure, there are plenty of behind-the-scenes conversations that happen but never go public.
That said, they did place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson, meaning any team willing to sign him would have to part ways with at least two first-round NFL Draft picks.
That’s just where the bidding could start. The Ravens could also engineer a sign-and-trade if another team offered up more for Jackson than just two first-round picks.
However, at least currently, we’d have to assume Baltimore isn’t budging. It’s not unlike what San Francisco went through with wide receiver Deebo Samuel in the wake of his own trade request a year ago at this time.
The 49ers don’t have a first- or second-round pick in this year’s draft, thanks to the 2021 move-up for Lance and the midseason trade for running back Christian McCaffrey last October. On top of that, the Niners aren’t picking for the first time until the very end of Round 3.
So, just to start, San Francisco would have to dip into its crop of picks in 2024 and 2025 to simply get the conversation starting. And that’s assuming no other team is willing to part ways with more.
Beyond that, especially in order to clear cap space, the 49ers would likely have to trade at least one starting-caliber player who is earning a significant deal of money. With only $4.35 million in cap space, per Over the Cap, the Niners would have a notably tough time trying to absorb a contract Jackson is asking for.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Jackson turned down a deal from the Ravens that would have averaged $49 million per year.
San Francisco’s four highest-paid players entering 2023 are left tackle Trent Williams ($27.2 million), defensive tackle Arik Armstead ($23.8 million), tight end George Kittle ($18 million) and pre-extension EDGE Nick Bosa ($17.9 million).
At least one of those players would likely have to be moved back to Baltimore, coupled with a lucrative trade package from the 49ers that would include first-round selections for the next two years, minimum. On top of that, a quarterback like Lance or Purdy would have to be thrown in to both clear up the quarterback room and entice the Ravens to bite.
As such, the likelihood of it happening? Next to nothing. It’d simply be too expensive from the Niners’ vantage point.