The New England Patriots continue to be mentioned among the most prominent suitors for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
FOXBORO — The rumors connecting Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to the New England Patriots refuse to fade away.
Despite the attempts of both the Boston Sports Journal and The Athletic to dampen what had been the NFL’s hottest rumor, the fledging attempts to turn water into wine have returned.
The latest addition to the rumor mill took place during Friday’s episode of “Get Up”, when ESPN's Mike Greenberg suggested that the Patriots would be best served by sending quarterback Mac Jones and the No. 14 overall pick to Baltimore in exchange for Lamar Jackson.
While the concept might be fun to consider, calling the rumor a “long shot” would be giving it far too much credit.
New England’s interest in acquiring the former NFL MVP had been, at best, tepid during the initial wave of free agency. However, rumors and interest once again began to swell after Kraft revealed that he had received a text from rapper Meek Mill “about three or four days ago” claiming that the former first-round Draft pick wanted to join the Patriots.
While Jackson remains one of the most dynamic talents on a pro football field, the overall cost of his acquisition appears to be the sticking point for the Patriots. By all indications, Jackson is seeking a long-term, top-market deal which could earn him the highest annual value earning in the NFL. He is also requesting that most of the total value of the contract be guaranteed, similar to the deal reached between the Cleveland Browns and quarterback Deshaun Watson in the 2022 offseason. In addition to contractual longevity, Jackson is also looking to comfortably exceed the $32.4 million value of his non-exclusive franchise tag.
Not only would New England already be forced to surrender two first-round draft picks to the Ravens — as per the terms of the non-exclusive tag — they would also be negotiating what many project to be one of the most lucrative contracts in the NFL.
With just north of $12.9 million in available salary cap space, New England would need to act quickly to create the necessary room to even consider bringing Jackson aboard. Although roster cuts and contract restructures to several of the team’s highest-paid players would provide the necessary financial relief to facilitate such a deal, the Pariots would be left with multiple roster vacancies, as well as potential cap peril for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, most signs seem to point toward Jones as the opening day starter.
Despite entering the season on the heels of an impressive rookie campaign, Jones struggled to rekindle his previous success in 2022. The 24-year-old displayed notable discomfort in New England's offensive system, directed by offensive play caller Matt Patricia and quarterbacks coach Joe Judge.
Jones struggles were ultimately the primary catalyst for the hiring of ex-Alabama Crimson Tide coach Bill O’Brien as the team’s new offensive coordinator. O’Brien is known for employing an offensive scheme which features ball protection, efficient running and spreading the ball to multiple pass catchers. Jones remains the best steward for this offense. He has proven his ability to create plays by leading his receivers under the defense, releasing the ball quickly and delivering it accurately. This will give his playmakers the space they needed to catch and run with the football. Not only will it put points on the board, it will also help to keep him ahead of the blitz and out of duress.
In order to help Jones’ effectiveness in both the red zone and with allowing his targets to gain yards after the catch, the Patriots signed tight end Mike Gesicki and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, respectively in free agency.
Lastly, Jones also appears to have been given a pseudo-vote of confidence from team owner Robert Kraft.
Speaking to reporters during the NFL meetings in Phoenix, Kraft spoke highly about Jones and expressed confidence in his future.
“I’m a big fan of Mac,” Kraft said. “He came to us as a rookie. He quarterbacked his rookie season and did a very fine job, I thought. We made the playoffs. I think we experimented with some things last year that frankly didn’t work when it came to him, in my opinion. We made changes that I think put him in a good position to excel.”
As for Jackson, his future destination remains a mystery. Whether his next down is to be played in Foxboro is still a possibility. However, it appears to be looking less likely with each passing day — no matter the attempts to keep it alive.
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