Is it bad that my first thought about Robert Kraft saying Meek Mill told him Lamar Jackson wants to be a Patriot was, “This is a joke, right?”
It almost feels like some kind of throwaway line that people ran with because of the subject of the story (Jackson) and the wild speculation generated by his apparent trade request, right?
Of course, the people who tweeted it out aren’t exactly known for trifling, so let’s operate under the assumption it’s for real.
In that case, the Patriots should absolutely be checking in on Jackson. I mean, they should’ve been doing it before now anyway. I don’t care how many games he’s missed the last few years or how expensive he is. You could plop him on this roster and realistically believe this team could win a playoff game as is.
(Of course, you’d hope the Patriots would try to do better for him than the receiving corps they have, and you might even be shipping at least one of your veteran receivers — DeVante Parker or Kendrick Bourne — out of town to accommodate his contract.)
Former MVPs don’t become available every day.
Also, I have less than zero doubt about Jackson’s ability to thrive in a non-Greg Roman offense. He can read defenses and throw the football just fine, and working with Bill O’Brien would almost certainly showcase those strengths in a way some are unfamiliar with (though you shouldn’t be if you saw what he did to New England last year).
But man, it’s just hard to believe this will end with Lamar Jackson wearing a Patriots uniform.
Yes, I know Bill Belichick loves the guy and even made a quip about his new contract showing everyone how valuable he is to a team. But that doesn’t mean Belichick’s going to be the one to give Jackson that money.
And by “that” money, I mean $230 million fully guaranteed over five years, which I’ve been told is indeed Jackson’s asking price to another team that’s inquired about him. (We haven’t even talked about the minimum of two first-round picks and the other selections they’d have to give up to trade for him.)
Even if Robert Kraft does have those funds at his disposal, I’m just not convinced Belichick would pull the trigger on such a deal even if he expected Baltimore to match it. Offering poison pills is all fun and games until you end up getting stuck with them.
Assuming no team actually forks up the offer sheet Jackson wants, the price will start to come down potentially to something more manageable — say, four years for $200 million fully guaranteed or three years at $160 million. Then, and only then, do I think the Patriots would seriously start making a move.
It’s simply not their MO to spend silly money at quarterback or other premium positions, especially given they currently have a cheap quarterback Robert Kraft seems to like a lot. Why would we think a Patriots team people have just been denouncing for penny-pushing in free agency is suddenly going to trade about six picks for Jackson AND ink him to one of the most expensive quarterback deals in history?
Also, they could just point to recent history — the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills — as leverage for keeping their third-year quarterback and building around him instead of making a desperation move for Jackson that, quite frankly, this team does not need to make.
Would it be awesome? Yes. Even if part of me cringes at the thought of the inevitable dog-whistle discussions that would arise the first time he throws a pick or misses a receiver, the pure entertainment factor and star power Jackson would bring to the table would absolutely outweigh those frustrations in the end.
But is it realistic as of right now? No, I don’t think it is.
This saga is far from over, and the league seems to be waiting for Jackson to blink in regards to his demands. Assuming he does, it still feels like his most likely destination is back in Baltimore.
On top of that: do the Patriots need to make this move in order to be more than playoff hopefuls? You can debate it, but the answer doesn’t have to be “Yes.”
If you want someone to come in and play Superman with this roster, Jackson can do that for you. But the Patriots should honestly aspire to more than that.
Thing is: the way for New England to truly create the best, most balanced roster it can is to do it with Jones, who is still cheap and has proven he can play when everything around him isn’t going down like a lead balloon, and see if he can elevate it.
The idea of Jackson is Foxborough is fun. But Belichick doesn’t care about what’s fun. He wants to win games, and he has consistently shown he believes he can win games just fine with quarterbacks that play more like Mac Jones than they do Lamar Jackson — for a fraction of the price Jackson is asking for to boot.
Why would that change now?
While the desperation might be growing among Patriots fans for their team to pull out all the stops for the MVP quarterback, there’s little evidence to suggest Belichick and Kraft share that compulsion. Whether that’s the right or wrong approach is another question.