The 2022-23 season just kicked off for the Detroit Lions this past weekend. After an opening week 38-35 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the roster weaknesses are slowly being exposed on the game tape.
Of course, it’s far too soon to make grand conclusions regarding the future of the franchise. However, the Lions’ front office will be monitoring a few roster circumstances very closely. The team’s finishing record and how certain players develop this season will help decide the direction of certain decisions.
One of the most speculated positions throughout the season will definitely be the quarterback. Veteran Jared Goff is currently the man under center, but how long that will last is anything but certain. This season will likely finish with Goff as the starter, but the quarterback plans of the future are not solidified for the seven-year-pro.
Goff finished last season throwing for 3,245 yards, 19 touchdowns, and only 8 interceptions. He opened up this season against the Eagles with an underwhelming performance with 215 yards, two touchdowns, and a bad interception that turned into a pick-six.
There is plenty of season left for Goff to produce some more encouraging outings. We also briefly saw during Hard Knocks the confident bond he’s built with the player-friendly coaching of head coach Dan Campbell and the rest of the staff.
Goff is working against some challenging factors that have his Lions’ future hanging in the balance. While the front office has shown confidence in giving him a chance to prove himself, they also have shown they aren’t scared to be aggressive in building this roster. Goff’s contract is also not in his favor, as the Lions have a team option after this season. They can opt-out of his deal if they are not satisfied with his play and save $10 million in the process.
If the Lions decide to move in a different direction at quarterback, the NFL draft will be an obvious option to look at new choices. But there could be a bigger fish on the market they should have their eyes on.
NFL teams with bridge quarterbacks like Goff often are set up to acquire disgruntled players looking for new opportunities. Detroit is in a prime situation to do exactly that for a certain franchise quarterback in search of max money. That quarterback is superstar dual-threat, Lamar Jackson.
Will Lamar Jackson leave Baltimore?
It’s a bit bizarre that the Baltimore Ravens have not agreed to an extension with their franchise face yet. Both sides have been in an intense battle for about a year to agree on a new deal. Jackson recently issued a deadline to the front office for this past Friday to come to an agreement. A new deal hasn’t been agreed to yet meaning Jackson will either be franchise tagged next season or will become an unrestricted free agent.
Reports have also confirmed that Jackson requested a deal comparable to Cleveland Browns‘ quarterback Deshaun Watson, which includes $230 million guaranteed. The Ravens have been reluctant to a deal that massive and have countered with offers closer to Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. Jackson has rejected those offers in order to bet on himself for a bigger payday.
Lamar Jackson rejected a six-year, $290M deal ($133M guaranteed) from the Ravens, per @mortreport
Jackson wants a fully guaranteed contract similar to Deshaun Watson's deal with Browns pic.twitter.com/vJKK62a35C
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 11, 2022
Lamar Jackson’s Fit in Detroit
It’s highly doubtful that Baltimore will let Jackson hit the market as a free agent where they would let him go for no compensation in return. If the Ravens end up using the franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, he will play for $45 million next season. A team would then have to give up major draft capital to acquire Jackson, along with the lucrative contract extension he’s been searching for. If Jackson sits instead of playing under the franchise tag, he could force the Ravens to make a move.
The financial gamble would be difficult to pull off, but the Lions should do what it takes to make it happen. Detroit is projected to have favorable cap space in 2023 and it can increase more if they cut ties with Goff.
When looking at the landscape of the NFL, just about every team in the AFC already has a quarterback that is in their future plans. The NFC also doesn’t have many teams in need of a quarterback who has suitable assets and cap space to pursue Lamar Jackson. The Lions are in one of the most favorable positions in the league to take a run at the 25-year-old superstar.
We have seen teams recently pull off massive hauls to land their desired quarterback targets. It took three first-round picks for the San Francisco 49ers to trade for quarterback Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Cleveland Browns had to deal three first-round picks, a third in 2022 and a fourth in 2024 to land Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.
While the deals were stunning in terms of timing and the pieces involved, they made sense for the teams who made those moves. The 49ers and Browns had done a spectacular job of building their foundation of the franchise while sitting on expendable quarterbacks like Jimmy Garoppolo and Baker Mayfield. Both teams saw promising postseason success recently, which convinced them they were just a quarterback upgrade away from becoming true title contenders.
Believe it or not, the Detroit Lions are on a similar path of doing the exact same thing. The front office, led by general manager Brad Holmes has done a quality job of building the trenches on offense and defense. The offensive line is surely becoming one of the best in all of football and the defensive line is showing promise with the young talent on it.
The Lions also turned their skill positions from points of weakness to groups with immense potential. The receiving corps has a seemingly perfect balance with possession targets like Amon-Ra St. Brown and T.J. Hockenson plus the deep ball threats of D.J. Chark and Jameson Williams.
The 2019 NFL MVP hasn’t always had the best balance of offensive weapons around him. Baltimore hasn’t invested many resources in the wide receiver core throughout Jackson’s tenure as a Raven, putting a high necessity on him to expose himself to more contact as a runner. Jackson would instantly see an increased level of talent at the skilled positions with game-breaking receivers, a reliable tight end, a budding offensive line, and running backs who compliment his style perfectly. That mixture of talent in a dome setting like Ford Field could possibly put up video game numbers.
Possibly giving up the needed draft capital to land Jackson isn’t as scary as it sounds when analyzing how the roster is developing. With the promising offensive talent in place and some foundational pieces set on defense, Detroit is in a suitable position to part with future draft picks.
Jackson is an underrated passer who hasn’t maximized his throwing potential due to the offensive players around him. He could also bring a dynamic running element to the offense where he can improvise off-script and make a shifty running back like D’Andre Swift even more dangerous than he already is.
Historically, Detroit rarely lands big-name stars of this magnitude when they hit the market. It’s not a make-or-break scenario if they don’t land Jackson on their roster. But the front office would be doing the franchise a huge disservice by not taking a shot at bringing in the Ravens’ quarterback. The Lions have built a reputation with this regime of being aggressive by any means necessary to rebuild this team. Jackson is a perfect fit that should be strongly considered if they decide to separate from Goff after this season.