Lamar Jackson at the Falcons makes too much sense. So why isn’t it happening?

From the moment the Ravens signed QB Lamar Jackson to a non-exclusive franchise tag, many members of the public seemed to think Atlanta was the former MVP’s next destination. Plenty of receiving targets, plenty of headroom, and most importantly, a need at QB. However, as soon as the news broke that Jackson had received a non-exclusive franchise tag, the Falcons responded with lightning speed (via ESPN’s Dianna Russini):

What? It felt like the Falcons were doing something stupid by openly saying they weren’t interested in Jackson, especially when that team could possibly be a far from contentious QB in a weak NFC South. Then you get into the moves the Falcons made in free agency. A Jessie Bates deal here, David Onyemata and Kaden Elliss arrive, and Atlanta re-signed RT Kaleb McGary to a three-year, $34 million deal. All of these moves make sense to improve the team, but they still don’t have a quarterback.

So why didn’t the Falcons sue Jackson?

Well, if you ask Falcons owner Arthur Blank, he would say something like this:

Now this is where we get confused. Injury issues are the reason the Falcons haven’t pursued Jackson, but Lamar has played 10 more games in his career than Deshaun Watson, who the Falcons tried to trade amid his sexual harassment investigation . Additionally, Watson tore his anterior cruciate ligament twice, while Jackson’s worst injury was the MCL sprain he suffered the previous season.

Looks like the Falcons are turning the wheel of mediocrity by not trading for Jackson. Sure, you can try to build everything around the QB, but Desmond Ridder doesn’t win enough games to get into the game. Taylor Heinecke might start a few games, but you’re just playing the QB carousel until you choose to go down. Atlanta’s main players on offense have already faced injury issues: TE Kyle Pitts played just 10 games last season and RB Cordarrelle Patterson played just 13 games. In order to get the most out of these guys, why not trade for a perennial MVP candidate who was having another great year before getting injured?

So if we’ve dismissed injury history and already discussed that adding a former MVP would definitely improve a team, why isn’t Atlanta dealing for Jackson?

Like all the other teams: the contract.

The reason the Falcons didn’t trade for Deshaun Watson was the contract Watson was asking for. Watson wanted a fully guaranteed contract and received one from Cleveland. That’s what prompted Jackson to ask for his own fully guaranteed contract. The NFL owners have decided not to give out fully guaranteed contracts anymore, they want to make the Watson deal a point on the radar, not a trend, which doesn’t help Jackson’s case. The Falcons will have to pay CB star AJ Terrell next year, and Kyle Pitts the year after, so for Atlanta it might not make sense to pay Jackson a lot of money when many of their key players must be paid in the future.

The counterpoint to that is simple: In 2024, the Falcons are expected to have $82 million in cap space, and with the salary cap steadily rising ( reports that the 2023 salary cap hit a record 224 .8 million), there will be enough money to go around. Why not trade for an MVP candidate, throw a life-supporting passing game and fight for a division while the rivals launch Derek Carr, a rookie and God knows what in Tampa Bay?

Atlanta seemed to be the destination that made the most sense. However, the Falcons choose to take a detour to build their franchise, which is a dangerous game to play without having locked down the most important position in the sport.

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