Lamar Jackson receives non-exclusive franchise tag: Are the Raiders in the sweepstakes? If not, what’s the plan

The Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson, representing himself without an agent, have spent over a year negotiating a new contract. Despite the ample time to get it done, the two sides weren’t able to agree on a deal to keep the former-MVP quarterback in Baltimore. To keep Jackson around and ultimately extend their time to negotiate, the Ravens elected to place the non-exclusive franchise tag on him.

Now, 31 other teams are free to negotiate with Jackson, although Baltimore can still match the highest bidder.

There are multiple teams in the National Football League without a QB1, and the Las Vegas Raiders happen to be one of them. That said, where do the Raiders stand in the Lamar Jackson-sweepstakes?

Teams are free to negotiate with Lamar Jackson – will the Raiders join?

From Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers, the Silver and Black have been linked to various quarterbacks this offseason. Will Lamar be next in line?

The good news is Raiders’ general manager Dave Ziegler can talk to Jackson, and negotiate a potential deal with the former-MVP. Sit down, Raider Nation; it’s time for the bad news.

Lamar sat in wait for a new contract in 2022, watching fellow QBs such as Deshaun Watson receive long-term, fully-guaranteed contracts. As ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote last week, “According to sources, Jackson wants a fully-guaranteed deal like the one given to Deshaun Watson last year.” Hensley notes Baltimore has been reluctant to meet that wish as the team believes Watson’s contract is but an outlier.

For the Raiders, this is a major problem.

As The Athletic’s Tashan Reed notes, “[The Raiders] do not have Lamar Jackson fully-guaranteed-contract money. That is a fact.” The problem is, there’s no spreading out guarantees to your liking. “The majority of that money must immediately be placed into escrow,” Reed accurately explained about a fully-guaranteed deal.

All signs point to the draft, with one ‘sneaky’ move generating buzz

Money isn’t the only thing keeping the Raiders out of the Lamar Jackson-sweepstakes; the team has their sights elsewhere.

Per Las Vegas Review Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore, the Silver and Black are “very unlikely” to take part in the bidding. “It’s not an inability to pay the contract demand. It’s a decision,” Bonsignore tweeted after news of the tag.

Ziegler and Co. seem to have their sights set on the draft, as far as quarterback goes.

Naturally, there’s a lot of chatter about which signal caller the Raiders have in mind. Some NFL executives believe Will Levis is Josh McDaniels’ guy, while others think C.J. Stroud is the more-likely answer. Don’t get too caught up in the first-round, though; there are other options quietly in play.

One of the more ‘sneaky’ options is Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener.

Going from one Fresno State QB to another is quite the coincidence, but it’s certainly in the realm of reality. When I spoke to Haener at the Combine, he was delighted to talk Davante Adams – and why wouldn’t he be? Adams helped set an elite standard at the school, and Haener understands that as well as anyone. Perhaps there’s more to it, though.

The Raiders have met with Haener more than once, and will send coaches to his Pro Day in the near future.

By taking the Haener route, the team can focus on grabbing a stud defensive player or two early on in the draft. There’s a high chance a game-wrecker such as Texas A&M’s Tyree Wilson will be there, as well as a lockdown corner such as Nate Hobbs’ college teammate, Devon Witherspoon.

*Top Photo: AP Photo/Nick Wass

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