Mark Daniels of MassLive reported Thursday, citing a league source, that the New England Patriots aren’t expected to pursue Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson during NFL free agency.
This might come as a disappointment to some Patriots fans, but it’s hardly a surprise. ESPN NFL writer Bill Barnwell even argued this week, while evaluating the Jackson landscape, that New England would not be a good fit for the two-time Pro Bowl selection.
“No. The Patriots have an even worse depth chart at receiver than the Ravens, given that they’ll start the offseason with DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton and Hunter Henry as their three established regulars,” Barnwell wrote on ESPN.com. “Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor are going to be free agents, while Kendrick Bourne is a potential cap casualty. They could draft a wideout such as Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 14, but if they need to use that pick to trade for Jackson, Belichick & Co. will need to find another way to supplement their receiving corps.”
Barnwell ranked the Patriots No. 12 on his list of possible fits for Jackson, who on Tuesday received the non-exclusive franchise tag from the Ravens, opening up the possibility that the 2019 NFL MVP could take his next snap for a different organization in 2023. The longtime football scribe listed the Atlanta Falcons at No. 1.
New England’s offense was a dumpster fire for most of 2022, with Matt Patricia inexplicably calling the plays. The unit should, in theory, receive a shot in the arm with the return of Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator, but its ceiling ultimately might depend on the progress (or lack thereof) of third-year quarterback Mac Jones. Jones struggled last season after a promising rookie campaign in 2021.
Jackson obviously is better than Jones. Much better, at this point. The Ravens QB is far more explosive, capable of beating opponents with his arm and his legs. It’s crazy to think Jackson is entering just his age-26 season, while Jones, drafted three years later, will turn 25 in September.
That said, there’s clearly a cost analysis involved here. The Patriots probably would need to pay Jackson north of $40 million per season on a contract extension, in addition to relinquishing two first-round draft picks. That might be too rich for Bill Belichick’s blood, especially with the other holes on New England’s roster.