The NFL is a copycat league, so the Los Angeles Rams are in vogue.
The Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, on Feb. 13 to win Super Bowl 56, and they did it by acquiring high-priced players like wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., cornerback Jalen Ramsey, quarterback Matthew Stafford and outside linebacker Von Miller during the past two years.
It’s called the “all in” approach. Basically, win now and worry about the consequences later.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it two years ago when they brought in quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, receiver Antonio Brown and running back Leonard Fournette and won a title.
Then came Tuesday, when the Green Bay Packers reportedly made Aaron Rodgers the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback and the Denver Broncos traded five draft picks, including their first and second-round selections in 2022 and 2023, and three players for disgruntled Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Can we now say that “all in” is trending throughout the NFL?
The movement is deeper than just playing musical chairs with franchise quarterbacks. It certainly brings up conversations about quarterback Lamar Jackson’s negotiations with the Ravens, even though the team doesn’t need to be in any hurry to give the fourth-year signal caller a new deal.
The Ravens have already picked up the fifth-year option on Jackson’s rookie contract, which will pay him $23 million in 2022, and they can place the franchise tag on him in 2023 for an estimated $40 million. The tag is calculated by taking the average of the top-five salaries at a player’s position, and that only stands to increase when Rodgers’ deal — which could be worth $50 million annually — is completed.
Of course, there are some who suggest that Rodgers’ contract will have an impact on Jackson’s negotiations because both are franchise-caliber quarterbacks.
That’s funny. Like, “come on, man” funny. Aaron Rodgers versus Lamar Jackson.
In the history of the NFL, there has never been a better pure passer with a quicker release than Rodgers. Some quarterbacks might have been more astute, and others have won more titles, but Rodgers is still at the top of his game at age 38. Besides winning Super Bowl 45, Rodgers has been the league’s Most Valuable Player four times and is coming off back -to-back MVP seasons.
Jackson has won one MVP award and one playoff game.
Granted, Jackson has been in the NFL for just four seasons, but he’ll never be able to throw the ball like Rodgers. Right now, Rodgers is the exception to any of the quarterback rules. Plus, Jackson is a runner first and a quarterback second. You ever wonder what his body might feel like at age 38?
The Seattle deal was made because Seahawks management simply got tired of Wilson complaining every offseason. The 33-year-old veteran wanted out, and the Seahawks made the best of a bad situation as the Broncos gave up two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive lineman Shelby Harris in return for Wilson and a fourth-rounder.
With Wilson gone and more draft picks coming in, Seattle can put some excitement back into a team that went 7-10 last year, its worst season ever under Wilson. The former third-round pick missed three games with a broken finger, but the Seahawks only went 6-8 in the games he started.
Meanwhile, Denver went “all in” because it takes too long to build teams these days.
Since Hall of Famer Peyton Manning retired after winning the Super Bowl in 2015, the Broncos have gone through as many quarterbacks as former coach Brian Billick did when he was with the Ravens from 1999 to 2007. But the Broncos believe they finally have the player who can put them over the proverbial hump in Wilson, who won the Super Bowl in 2013, lost another in 2014, has been to the Pro Bowl nine times, has a career record of 104-53-1 and will be throwing to talented receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.
The addition of Wilson makes the Broncos a contender. With him now in the AFC, will the Buccaneers lure quarterback Tom Brady out of retirement? The Rams are the defending Super Bowl champions, but they don’t scare anyone. The only serious threat to Brady and the Bucs in the NFC is Rodgers and the Packers.
Now, that brings us back to Jackson.
If the Ravens are smart, they’ll let him play out his current deal and see where that takes them. If he can lead the team to a Super Bowl or deep into the playoffs and stay healthy, then it’s time to pay him market value. If not, then it’s time to part ways. Regardless, the Ravens can still take enough measures to circumvent the salary cap and sign a big-name free agent. Remember, it’s just a matter of when a team wants to pay the bill.
Jackson is rolling the dice, hoping he can take the Ravens to a title and then cash in on a lucrative contract. If I were Jackson, and the Ravens agreed, I’d take a three-year deal right now worth roughly $40 million a season. When you run the ball as much as he does, it increases the chance of suffering a serious injury.
In his case, it’s better to be paid now and not have to worry about getting paid later.
The “all in” mantra is working in a lot of NFL cities, but not in Baltimore. Not yet anyway.