Lamar Jackson’s future is up in the air as the Ravens cling to hope the 26-year-old quarterback returns to Baltimore. But the speculation has reached its way to New England.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft claimed at the league’s annual meeting Monday that rapper Meek Mill informed him of Jackson’s interest to play in New England. It’s an idea current players are vouching for and for which former players have advocated.
The issue in the All-Pro quarterback’s negotiations with the Ravens and why multiple teams haven’t rushed into the market is Jackson wants a fully guaranteed deal similar to that of Cleveland Browns signal-caller Deshaun Watson, which is north of $200 million. Baltimore also used the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson, which means a team must give up two first-round picks if the Ravens don’t match an offer from another team.
The 2019 MVP requested a trade on March 2, but Baltimore can wait things out until a real offer arrives. But if the Patriots were to make things work in their salary cap and Bill Belichick decides to go all-in, these seven players would serve to benefit.
Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki
New England invested heavily in the tight end position but have yet to seen a return on its investment. Offensive play-calling partially is to blame for that, and it’s possible Henry is declining heading into his age-29 season. And while he and Gesicki are nowhere near the talent of Mark Andrews, Jackson has gotten production out of other tight ends during his tenure in Baltimore in Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle and Isaiah Likely.
Jackson also has been elite when targeting the middle of the field. He has a 94.4 grade on throws in the intermediate area, according to Pro Football Focus. Mac Jones has a 55.7 grade in that area of the field, which often is what separates elite QBs from good QBs.
Henry and Gesicki getting more consistency in the intermediate area would help add more dimension to the Patriots offense.
Rhamondre Stevenson, James Robinson
The 25-year-old Stevenson emerged as a true No. 1 running back in his sophomore season. He ranked in the top five in rushing efficiency, according to Next Gen Stats. And he faced an eight-man box 16.19% of the time compared to 41.35% in his rookie season, which was the second-most among running backs.
Jackson would be a great fit in a power-run scheme Belichick prefers, and his presence in the run game has benefited his running backs. J.K. Dobbins in the top five in Next Gen Stats’ rush yards over expected per attempt last season, and he and Gus Edwards were in the top three in the stat in the 2020 season.
Stevenson would have the potential to be one of the league’s most efficient running backs with Jackson under center, and that efficiency could get Robinson back to his production from his first two seasons in the league prior to his Achilles injury.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton
New England might add another receiver in the draft, but looking at the roster before the 2023 NFL Draft, these three receivers will be counted on to have strong seasons under offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Thornton showed flashes of his potential last season, but a stagnant offense and a crowded pass-catcher room didn’t help matters in his rookie season.
He was the fastest wide receiver in last year’s draft, based off his 40-time, and Jackson’s ability in the short and intermediate game can help better utilize Thornton’s abilities on the field. The same case can be made for Bourne, who seemingly was in the dog house under Matt Patricia despite being a clear playmaker the team needed.
Smith-Schuster is not a No. 1 receiver, but he can be a productive pass-catcher if utilized correctly. His skills would be best utilized with Jackson as a wideout who moves the chains rather than a big-play threat. If his yards per route run and his average depth of target get a boost, which they did from his past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he would add to what should be a significantly more efficient offense with Jackson under center compared to Jones.
As an honorable mention, the Patriots’ offensive line as a whole would benefit. Tackle was a big issue, but it’s unknown what that position group would look like prior to the 2023 NFL Draft. But Jackson would help mask any deficiencies that could be seen with Jones under center.