Friday, March 1, 2024

How Lamar Jackson would change eight NFL teams’ playoff and Super Bowl chances

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The biggest NFL franchise tag decision at the deadline this week was the Baltimore Ravens deciding to tag quarterback Lamar Jackson, and their choice to go with a non-exclusive tag rather than an exclusive gives other teams a chance to make a contract offer to Jackson and the Ravens a chance to match. The kicker, though, is that if the Ravens do not match, the team making the offer sheet would have to give up two first-round picks to the Ravens.

Since being drafted by the Ravens in 2018, Jackson has won league MVP honors and been named to two Pro Bowls. But he and the Ravens have not been able to agree on his next contract. There are arguments to be made that the Ravens are OK with another NFL team making an offer for Jackson and “setting the market” so that they don’t have to and avoid any hard feelings. While that is up for debate, I’m more interested in looking at how Jackson joining a new team would affect 2023 playoff races and Super Bowl LVIII odds.

There are plenty of teams that might be looking to get a quarterback with one of the NFL’s highest ceilings and who almost certainly makes them a playoff contender. There also can be issues with changing an offense to fit Jackson’s dual-threat abilities, but for the value of a franchise quarterback, teams will figure that on the fly. So let’s use my NFL projection model to dive into how adding Jackson to different rosters across the NFL changes the outlook for each franchise. The teams that are included are somewhat unsettled at QB but won’t necessarily pick one early in April’s draft.

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With Lamar Jackson now tagged, which teams could make sense for the Ravens QB?

The model takes in a variety of metrics and creates a projection for each team. Those projections are then used to assess how each team compares to an average NFL team. Deeper under the hood of the model is a projection for each quarterback as a derivative of each team’s offensive projection. The quarterback projection is made up of several metrics from a player’s career, with the most recent seasons having more weight.

The tables below help illustrate just how great an impact Jackson can have on QB rooms and teams overall.

With Tom Brady retiring this offseason, the NFC South is wide open in 2023. Pairing Jackson with coach Arthur Smith would make Atlanta the front runner for best offense in the division and one that can incorporate Jackson seamlessly. The Falcons need to make some improvements on the defensive side of the ball, but they’re not far from being neck and neck with the Saints for favorite status in the NFC South.

Falcons and Lamar Jackson

Odds without Odds with

Playoffs

35.1%

57.0%

Super Bowl

0.8%

1.6%

The Panthers are primed to go after one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft, but would they want to skip the rookie quarterback adjustment phase and go all-in with Jackson as their guy? Frank Reich tried a plethora of veteran quarterbacks during his tenure in Indianapolis, but none felt like a true long-term option. Jackson would be just that. There may be questions about the ability of Reich’s offense to utilize Jackson’s legs, but Carson Wentz ran for 299 yards in 13 games with Reich back in 2017, so there is some familiarity there. Regardless, adding Jackson to a Panthers roster that almost made the playoffs last season would likely get them there in 2023.

Panthers and Lamar Jackson

Odds without Odds with

Playoffs

25.1%

72.6%

Super Bowl

0.5%

4.3%

The odds that Aaron Rodgers is the Packers’ starting quarterback during Week 1 next season seem to be dwindling as each day passes, which means they could find themselves in the market for a new franchise quarterback. Why not make the transition from Rodgers to Jackson? Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs showed plenty of promise as receivers last season, and making the QB switch to Jordan Love could bring some growing pains that the Packers might not want to go endure with their current roster. If the Packers want to stay in win-now mode, Jackson can keep them there.

Packers and Lamar Jackson

Odds without Odds with

Playoffs

42.2%

65.3%

Super Bowl

1.2%

3.5%

The Raiders just let Derek Carr go without wanting to pay him big money, so the odds that they’re willing to pay Lamar Jackson seem slim. However, Jackson is a better quarterback than Carr. Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert aren’t leaving the AFC West, so the Raiders will need to find their guy sooner or later, but is the roster good enough to even contend with Jackson? I’m not so sure.

Raiders and Lamar Jackson

Odds without Odds with

Playoffs

0.3%

27.9%

Super Bowl

0.0%

0.9%

The Dolphins seem to be backing Tua Tagovailoa as their quarterback of the future, but considering his concussion issues this past season, it’s conceivable they would consider Jackson. Mike McDaniel’s offense is great at creating easy throws for the quarterback, and it’s even easier when you have Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle running downfield. The Dolphins offense was fantastic when Tagovailoa was on the field last season, but he often wasn’t on the field. Jackson is a safer bet health-wise, and we all know the Dolphins offense was not the same when Teddy Bridgewater or Skylar Thompson were in the game.

Dolphins and Lamar Jackson

Odds without Odds with

Playoffs

46.6%

52.9%

Super Bowl

2.0%

2.5%

The Jets could make a huge splash by giving the keys to the franchise to Jackson. If they’re so interested in making Rodgers their starting quarterback, why wouldn’t they be interested in a younger and possibly better Jackson? The Jets defense was great last year, and 2022 rookies Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall look like future stars (Hall will be coming off an ACL injury), so Jackson will have the tools to make this offense churn. The Jets were in the AFC playoff picture in the final weeks of the 2022 season despite poor quarterback play. Jackson could bring them into the AFC contender conversation.

Jets and Lamar Jackson

Odds without Odds with

Playoffs

33.6%

55.6%

Super Bowl

0.9%

2.9%

Replacing Brady is likely impossible, but with the state of the NFC South, it’s hard to imagine Tampa Bay doesn’t at least think about Jackson. Tampa Bay does have some salary cap issues coming with Brady’s dead money, but similar issues didn’t stop the Saints from signing Carr. If Tampa Bay wants to keep its window open with the handful of skilled veterans on its team right now, Jackson is the answer. The Bucs fell in love with first down runs last season with an immobile Brady behind center, and those early down runs will be much more valuable if Jackson makes his way back to his home state of Florida.

Bucs and Lamar Jackson

Odds without Odds with

Playoffs

4.8%

57.7%

Super Bowl

<0.1%

3.0%

Washington is another team that showed promise in 2022 but has uncertainty at the quarterback position. Wentz was cut, and Taylor Heinicke seems more like a capable backup than a quarterback who can lead a team past the Eagles and Cowboys. Jackson would be an instant upgrade. Sam Howell, Washington’s 2022 fifth-round pick, is the wild card here. Howell didn’t have many reps as a rookie, but the team wants to give him an opportunity in his second season. Jackson is an immediate upgrade, but maybe it’s best for the Commanders to wait out the Eagles with Jalen Hurts on a rookie contract and give Howell his shot.

Commanders and Lamar Jackson

Odds without Odds with

Playoffs

32.3%

56.7%

Super Bowl

1.2%

3.7%

(Photo: Courtney Culbreath / Getty Images)

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