The only real sports story in Baltimore these days is the future of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Certainly, the Baltimore Orioles’ 2022 season has pleasantly surprised the ranks of Maryland sports betting and raised the expectations of Orioles fans with baseball season on the horizon. And then there’s the ongoing court drama in which the sons of the ill Peter Angelos - once the Orioles’ patriarch - are in fierce legal combat with each other.
However, the biggest soap opera in Baltimore is the Jackson saga.
Jackson is his own agent, one of the very few players in the NFL to try that high-wire act. He has been seeking a nine-figure, guaranteed contract since his MVP season in 2019. The word “guaranteed” is as key as whatever the exact number turns out to be.
Compounding the situation is that Jackson has missed all or most of 13 games over the last two seasons with injuries, and those games have included some of the most crucial ones of the season. The Ravens have gone 4-9 (1-6 against AFC North teams) in those games. That has not gone unnoticed by fans with Maryland betting apps.
Ravens Publicly Declare They Want Jackson Back
For the Wild-Card road playoff game against Cincinnati earlier this month, Jackson (out with a knee injury) did not attend the game, leaving fans to their own interpretations.
In their season-ending press conference, the Ravens’ brain trust said all the right things in the most complimentary terms.
"Lamar Jackson is our quarterback; he's been our quarterback," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said right after the season ended with a playoff loss to the Bengals. "Everything we've done in terms of building our offense and building our team, how we think in terms of people and putting people around him, is based on this incredible young man, his talent, his ability and his competitiveness."
So, the Ravens are saying they really, really, really want Jackson on their team.
And they can have him back, even if the two sides don’t come to a contract deal right away, by putting a franchise tag on him. Now, how that would sit with Jackson remains to be seen. He’s certain to make a lot of money, but a franchise tag is not the multi-year, guaranteed contract he must want.
In December, BetMaryland.com did a detailed look at how running quarterbacks like Jackson have shaped the NFL.
New Offensive Coordinator Fuels Rumor Mill
With the NFL Draft on the horizon, the rumor mill is churning with possible trade scenarios. The situation has only gotten warmer with Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the architect of the Ravens’ record-breaking run game, stepping down from that job.
You won’t find odds at FanDuel Maryland or other big-name operators, but Ravens watchers are eagerly waiting for Roman’s replacement to be named. When it happens, that will fuel more speculation about Jackson. From a football perspective, Roman and Jackson were a match made in playbook heaven. Roman’s emphasis on the rushing game capitalized on Jackson’s obvious strengths as an incredibly gifted runner and helped wallpaper over any passing deficiencies.
Should the Ravens hire an offensive coordinator who leans more toward passing than did Roman — and seriously, that would be almost anyone -- there will be some speculation that Baltimore is thinking about a different quarterback.
Of course, the Ravens would never admit such a thing and, to be fair, a more pass-oriented OC also could be genuinely intended as a further commitment to developing and expanding Jackson’s game as the long-term quarterback.
Because trade rumors are the juiciest of pro sports gossip, that’s how the tongues have been wagging.
After all, in a 24-hour news cycle, the lack of facts doesn’t mean that the gossips can’t spin conjecture into the next half-hour’s lead story.
Possible Trade Targets
If the Ravens were to pull off a trade as the April 27-29 NFL Draft approaches, likely (if that word even applies) partners, according to oddsmakers and pundits, are New England, the New York Jets and Atlanta. But also in the mix are Las Vegas, New Orleans, Carolina and Tampa Bay (assuming no Tom Brady).
Cases can be made for any of them with all the above lacking a quarterback of Jackson’s accomplishments and abilities. Still, it’s a heap of speculation with all the moving parts of draft picks, other veteran players who might be included in such a blockbuster deal, and salary cap puzzles.
From the Ravens’ perspective, here’s what they must consider, and they certainly have: Quarterbacks who have been league MVPs are rare indeed. Jackson just turned 26 on Jan. 7, and already he has five years of NFL experience.
Considering the gamble that is the NFL Draft, especially when it comes to quarterbacks, do the Ravens really want to spin the Quarterback Wheel of Fortune and see whether it lands on a Patrick Mahomes, or on a Baker Mayfield, or even (gasp!) on a Josh Rosen?
If level heads prevail in Ravens-land, there will be the realization that for the immediate and intermediate future, getting Jackson some coaching and roster help makes far more sense than going for a grab-bag solution in a trade.
Follow any developments on Jackson and the Ravens at BetMaryland.com, which also is your source for Maryland sports betting promos.