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What NFL team has a Black owner?

2023 NFL free agency: These teams are out on Lamar Jackson and the reason why seems painfully obvious

At least five teams leaked out their ‘disinterest’ in Lamar Jackson within several hours of him being made available and it really makes you think

Mar 15, 2023 at 9:31 am ET • 8 min read

Every year we are reminded with absolutely zero uncertainty the NFL is ~a quarterback league~. This is a non-negotiable take. You have or you have not. And even when you have, sometimes it’s not enough. Just ask the Raiders, who shuffled Derek Carr into free agency a year into a newly signed contract extension. Teams routinely pay outrageous prices in terms of current and future draft capital to move up and take a flier on an unknown commodity in the draft.

And yet, when Lamar Jackson became available for any NFL team via Baltimore placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on their starting quarterback . not one NFL team is interested?

This is a former MVP we’re talking about, one of the most electric athletes in all of professional sports, a legitimate franchise quarterback who turned 26 years old in January.

We’ve never seen a case of a quarterback being dangled like this for all of the quarterback-needy NFL to come after him. This is a cutthroat league where the margins are thin and having a quarterback separates you, not just in the ability to pursue a Super Bowl, but also in fan interest, both locally and nationally.

The Carolina Panthers are largely irrelevant on a national stage. The Panthers with Lamar Freaking Jackson? That’s a team getting multiple prime-time games every year and the immediate favorite to win the NFC South. The exact same case could be made for the Atlanta Falcons. And, my goodness, Lamar recreating Vick 2.0 in some red, white and black unis would be incredible.

We’ll be denied that aesthetic, however, because Atlanta, much like Carolina — along with seemingly every other quarterback-needy team in the NFL — just isn’t interested in attempting to even pursue Jackson. They’re not even going to check in and see what Jackson might want.

The complete lack of interest in Jackson is even wilder than Jackson being opened up to the entire league for negotiation. And the reason seems painfully obvious: NFL owners are adamant about squashing out the idea of quarterbacks getting fully guaranteed contracts.

Jackson’s predicament was created when the Browns traded for Deshaun Watson and gave him a guaranteed $230 million deal, despite Watson facing double-digit accusations of off-field sexual misconduct. As our own Jason La Canfora reported in March 2022, the deal Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam gave Watson drew the ire of basically every other NFL owner .

The Browns weren’t really in on Watson until Haslam was willing to break rank — and precedent — and give Watson a deal no one else in the league was willing to offer up.

Watson hadn’t played football in well over a year, required multiple high draft picks to acquire, wanted a monster contract extension and was dealing with unprecedented off-field issues. Yet the Browns were in on him, as were the Falcons and Panthers according to plenty of reports.

Jackson is in the exact same spot, only he has been more productive, has a better injury history (Watson has multiple torn ACLs dating back to college), has an MVP and there’s no negotiation with the Ravens about the compensation if an offer sheet is signed.

Despite that, no less than five NFL teams very publicly leaked out their lack of interest in Jackson with an incredible quickness. Following the Ravens announcing on Twitter they were tagging Jackson at 3:02 p.m. ET on Tuesday, we got a flurry of reports from various reporters.

The Falcons — a consensus best landing spot for Jackson — let Dianni Russini of ESPN know they were out by 3:16 p.m. ET.

The Atlanta Falcons will not be pursuing QB Lamar Jackson, per sources.

— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 7, 2023

I can’t even pick out what I want for lunch that fast, much less make a franchise-altering decision. Jackson would THRIVE in Arthur Smith’s offense and make the Falcons immediately relevant, but sure. The Raiders quickly followed suit, letting it be known they were «unlikely» to chase after Jackson.

If you are wondering if the @Raiders will be involved in Lamar Jackson, the answer is very unlikely.

— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) March 7, 2023

Acknowledging Mark Davis likely doesn’t have the liquidity to actually pay Jackson (more on that in a minute) and ignoring what his father would have done (trade for Jackson in a freaking heartbeat), I’d like to point out the only quarterback currently on the Raiders roster is Chase Garbers. I’d guess at least 50% of the people reading this can’t be 100% sure if I made that name up or not.

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By 4:30 p.m. ET, the Panthers let it be known they weren’t likely in the Lamar Jackson business either.

Scott Fitterer certainly will discuss and has discussed Lamar Jackson b/c that’s what he does.
But Panthers are not expected to be in the Jackson market, per league sources.

— Joe Person (@josephperson) March 7, 2023

David Tepper has been rejected multiple times in an attempt to trade for a franchise quarterback, including Watson, Matthew Stafford and — not even joking here — Carson Wentz. Lamar Jackson is on the block and he doesn’t even want to check in on what it might take to acquire him? Again, sure.

The Dolphins got the word out as well, citing their satisfaction at the QB position with Tua Tagovailoa.

The Dolphins will not be pursuing Lamar Jackson or any other starting QBs this off-season, multiple team sources tell me. As one source said, “Mike fully believes Tua is the perfect fit for his system.”

— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) March 7, 2023

This would be reasonable if there weren’t 1) medical concerns surrounding Tua’s future and 2) a persistent buzz about Tom Brady and the Dolphins constantly lingering.

Even Danny Snyder’s Washington Commanders don’t want in on the Jackson biz.

Been trying to gauge league-wide interest in Lamar Jackson since #Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on him.

Washington is a team that, on paper, makes sense (just like the Falcons). But based on what I’m hearing, the #Commanders are not likely to pursue Jackson.

— Kimberley A. Martin (@ByKimberleyA) March 7, 2023

I’ve covered the NFL in some capacity for 15+ years. I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff, even if you just want to narrow it down to Tag Day. One time the Broncos lost Elvis Dumervil because they screwed up a fax to the league office. Never, ever have I seen an actual, legitimate franchise quarterback come available and have five-plus NFL teams *immediately* leak out their disinterest in him.

Either we’re all drastically undervaluing the concerns with Jackson or something else is afoot. So what are those concerns, exactly? Some of them are quite viable, but I’m mostly playing devil’s avocado in the interest of presenting both sides.

Draft picks

Giving up multiple first-round picks is not something NFL teams want to do. Two first-round picks for any NFL player is a fairly steep price, but it’s absolutely in line with what we’ve seen other franchise quarterbacks go for in the trade market recently. The Rams and Broncos gave up similar hauls for Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson. And this isn’t two firsts for a cost-controlled player you would get in the draft.

The contract

This is the big one here. Jackson, by all accounts, wants a fully guaranteed deal. The Ravens chose to let the market tell him what his value was and the market magically dried up! We won’t ever know what he might be willing to take because teams aren’t even floating out offer sheets. A fully guaranteed deal would require matching every dollar in escrow (an antiquated rule from a time when not every NFL owner had hundreds of millions of dollars), which is something even the wealthiest NFL owner doesn’t want to deal with (again, more on that in a second). If we’re talking max guarantees, that’s a potential problem with the salary cap, even though the salary cap more and more appears to clearly be a myth.

Lack of an agent

Jackson is representing himself. There’s nothing wrong with that and I applaud his entrepreneurship. But not having an agent makes it more difficult to get a deal done. Agents are incentivized — both in terms of their reputation and financials — to get a deal done. They’ve worked with most of these NFL teams before and can talk their clients into taking certain deals. Jackson is steadfast here. Good for him. It does make it tougher for NFL teams in negotiations.


Again, I’m just bringing up possible arguments, so don’t yell at me for this one. It is completely reasonable for some NFL coaches, front offices or owners to have concerns about fashioning an offense around Jackson’s particular skillset. I would tell anyone who makes that claim they’re a coward and any coach worth his salt could figure out how to make it work. Additionally, if a team doesn’t believe it’s a quarterback away and is in the middle of a rebuild, there’s a reasonable argument for not giving up the capital. Unfortunately, all of these teams have been aggressive in pursuing quarterbacks recently. What changed?!

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Jackson has only played in 12 games each of the past two years. He plays a style of football that, because of his running skillset, can justifiably be called concerning for his long-term health. He’s not built like Cam Newton or Josh Allen. If you wanted to tell yourself a story re: concerns for long-term health, you could do it. Maybe not a good story, but you could lie to yourself.

So .

What seems most likely: NFL owners want Watson’s deal with the Browns to quickly become an outlier and very much not the norm. The Bengals and Chargers are facing monster extensions for Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. Those two owners aren’t Tepper or a Wal-Mart heir. The liquidity to put $250 million (give or take a few millies) in escrow over a five-year span isn’t easy, even for someone worth a billion dollars.

The franchise tag was designed by NFL owners to prevent key players from becoming available to the rest of the league, specifically quarterbacks and very specifically young quarterbacks at the end of their contracts. Restricting player movement was a hallmark of NFL dynasties for years, until Reggie White busted free agency open. You don’t see a player of this caliber hit the market. You just don’t!

The idea of Baltimore dangling Jackson to the entire league, and no one having ANY INTEREST WHATSOEVER, is just wild. A 26-year-old former MVP simply DOES NOT become available in the NFL with no interest from other teams.

And not just no interest but a very quick lack of interest from a host of teams who have been aggressively pursuing quarterback solutions for the past 3-5 years.

There’s a virtually zero percent chance of anything happening here. Good luck proving a bunch of NFL owners don’t want to acquire Lamar Jackson simply to suppress a rogue contract given to another player in a similar situation just a year ago. But that reality makes a lot more sense than the idea of no one even wanting to consider acquiring a 26-year-old former MVP.

The Jerry Jones Photo Explains a Lot

A 1957 image of the Dallas Cowboys’ owner highlights long-standing inequities in the NFL.

December 4, 2022

If you’re wondering why, in professional football, so few Black coaches get hired and Black players struggle to be heard, you can learn a lot from a 65-year-old image of Jerry Jones. In a 1957 photo published late last month by The Washington Post, the future owner of the Dallas Cowboys, then 14, stood among a group of white teenagers who were blocking six Black students from desegregating his Arkansas high school.

In an interview with the Post, Jones minimized his role in the event. “I don’t know that I or anybody anticipated or had a background of knowing … what was involved. It was more a curious thing,” Jones told the newspaper, which has published a series of stories about the NFL’s failure to promote Black coaches over the course of decades.

Jones was a sophomore at North Little Rock High when the photo was taken. You could argue that Jones only was a kid. But as an adult, he hasn’t adequately reflected on what his presence in a crowd of hostile white teens would have meant to Black students, and he hasn’t fundamentally disavowed the narrow, bigoted attitudes that once surrounded him and are still a force in football today.

Jones isn’t just any NFL owner. He may be the most powerful owner in the NFL. The Post’s David Maraniss and Sally Jenkins wrote that Jones is “sometimes referred to as a shadow commissioner, more powerful than Roger Goodell, who holds that title. He has not been shy about exerting his clout as a financial and cultural virtuoso working to shape the league more in his image.”

The racial hierarchy of the NFL is glaring. The majority of NFL players are Black, but owners and head coaches disproportionately are conservative white men. Every now and then—such as after the murder of George Floyd in 2020—the league makes performative statements about racial healing. But outside the public spotlight, the NFL and prominent figures in it have been caught showing bigotry in a variety of forms, including using race-norming to determine concussion settlements and making racist, sexist, and homophobic comments over email.

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The old photo of Jones is jarring in part because it confirms what so many Black players and coaches find so unsettling about the NFL. They are navigating a league permeated with both hidden and overt racism, along with other forms of discrimination, and they naturally wonder if the equity they seek will ever be truly prioritized.

Jones could not remotely have been oblivious to the racial tension surrounding desegregation in 1957. Three years earlier, the Supreme Court had unanimously ruled in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that racial segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Around the time Jones and his schoolmates were making Black students feel unwelcome, then-Governor Orval Faubus summoned the Arkansas National Guard to block nine Black students from entering nearby Little Rock Central High School. That group eventually needed federal intervention to attend the school.

I would be willing to extend the 14-year-old Jones some grace, because I believe people can overcome the prejudices they grew up with. When I was a teenager, my friends and I commonly ridiculed LGBTQ people. My views evolved dramatically starting during my college years, when I interacted more closely with that community and simply read more about the world.

I’ve been transparent about that history. In contrast, where Jones stands today on matters of race and prejudice isn’t entirely clear. Jones has employed Black players and made many of them very wealthy. But those same players have also helped Jones build the Cowboys into the most valuable franchise in the NFL. The close relationships that Jones has built with individual Black players don’t absolve him of how he has consistently shrunk in those moments when he’s had an opportunity to be a real force for racial progress.

Jones has hired eight head coaches in his 33 years of ownership, and none of them has been Black. He’s hired just two Black coordinators, a position that is considered to be a launching pad to a head-coaching job. In fact, the Cowboys are one of 13 NFL franchises that have never hired a Black head coach.

While Jones has acknowledged that the NFL needs to have a better track record with Black coaches, he also has participated in the sham interviews that many Black coaches are subjected to during the hiring process. In 2003, the NFL instituted the Rooney Rule, a policy that originally required every team searching for a head coach to interview at least one nonwhite candidate. (The league has since expanded the rule to include general-manager, coordinator, and quarterback-coach positions, and now requires teams to interview two nonwhite candidates for head-coaching positions.)

The year the Rooney Rule started, the Cowboys were in search of a head coach. Jones spent two days interviewing the legendary coach Bill Parcells, who was the clear favorite. To satisfy the Rooney Rule, Jones interviewed Dennis Green, who is Black, for 20 minutes by phone.

Since then, he has brushed aside racial-equity concerns in other ways. In 2017, Jones said that he would cut any player who chose to emulate Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who the year prior had begun kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence against Black people. “We cannot in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” Jones said then. “We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind that the [NFL] and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag.” (Full disclosure: I am a producer of an ESPN documentary series that Kaepernick and the director Spike Lee are making about the former quarterback’s banishment from pro football.)

Rather than support his players’ right to speak out, Jones chose to flex his power—even though none of the Cowboys had knelt or indicated that they would kneel during the anthem. Jones’s comment was even more disappointing because it came right after then-President Donald Trump urged NFL owners to fire the protesting players. “Get that son of a bitch off the field,” Trump said at a rally. (Jones was among Trump’s financial backers.)

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Jones later somewhat softened his view of protests on the field. In 2020—following the trauma-causing deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Floyd—Jones asked Cowboys fans to show compassion toward players who protested during the national anthem. “I’d hope that our fans—and I think they will—understand that our players have issues that they need help on,” Jones said. “They need help from the majority of America.”

What Jones fails to realize, though, is that he is in a better position than almost anyone to promote healing and equity. If Jones really wanted to prove he’s not the boy gawking as a white mob intimidates and threatens Black students, he would have given a Black coach an opportunity to lead the Cowboys, signed Kaepernick when no other NFL owner would touch him, or at the very least publicly advocated for the quarterback’s freedom to express himself without sacrificing his career.

The surfacing of the North Little Rock photo gave Jones yet another opportunity to lead a transparent discussion about race. Instead, Jones chose the cowardly option of blaming youthful curiosity for his presence at the 1957 confrontation. That image can’t just be chalked up to an unfortunate part of the past. Not when the boy in that photo isn’t sufficiently different from the man he is now.

The NFL’s number of Black team presidents is rising

Denver Broncos Team President Damani Leech

Sidelined is a season-long look at the NFL’s lack of diversity in coaches and team executives.

Within the NFL commissioner’s office, the league’s inclusive hiring problem is always under further review.

And while the NFL’s failures in this key area are well documented, its successes receive considerably less attention. Make no mistake, there have been many recently – especially in senior leadership among franchises.

Not surprisingly, Jonathan Beane, NFL senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, is eager to discuss the league’s proof of progress. And at midseason, Beane has receipts.

In 2022, the number of Black NFL team presidents has increased from one to four. The first Black female team president in league history, Sandra Douglass Morgan of the Las Vegas Raiders, is among the newcomers.

Likewise, the numbers are trending in the right direction at general manager.

At the end of the 2018-19 season, Chris Grier, general manager of the Miami Dolphins, was the NFL’s only African American employee to occupy, traditionally, the most important executive position in football operations. The league now has seven Black general managers.

Additionally, there’s no disputing that commissioner Roger Goodell walks the talk in the shop he runs.

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The workforce in the league’s New York City headquarters looks like America, and there are Black people under Goodell who have their hands on the levers of power. Of the 17 highest-ranking officials in NFL football operations, nine are Black. Eight of the nine have vice president-level titles or higher, and the group is led by a Black man: Troy Vincent, executive vice president of football operations.

During a lengthy, wide-ranging phone interview with Andscape recently, Beane leaned on facts.

“We feel really good about the progression with the role of [team] president. We feel really good about the progression with the role of general manager,” Beane said. “We still have to … we’ve got some work to do in terms of head coach. But we feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”

The NFL was founded on Sept. 17, 1920. It wasn’t until Aug. 17, 2020 – exactly one month before its centennial – that the league hired its first Black team president: Jason Wright of the Washington Commanders.

Until 2022, Wright stood alone. This year, he has been joined by Sashi Brown of the Baltimore Ravens, Douglass of the Raiders and the elite group’s newest member, Damani Leech of the Denver Broncos.

Beane, for one, isn’t surprised by the exponential growth of Black team presidents.

“Each team has three CEOs,” Beane said. “You have the GM, the head coach and the team president. The president role is a critical role for an organization. And the thing is, when you look at each one of [the new team presidents] … they have exceptional backgrounds and a long history of great leadership.

“These are positions where you have people that have been in the roles for 10, 15, sometimes 20 years. That’s one piece that has not really being emphasized as much as it should [about improvements in hiring], because you’re talking about someone who [could] be the face of their organization, or one of the faces, for a long time.”

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Similarly, Beane expected to see progress made on the general manager front because the NFL has a deep pipeline of qualified candidates, he said.

In January 2020, the Cleveland Browns hired Andrew Berry as their general manager. Brown joined Miami’s Grier, doubling the league’s number of Black general managers to two.

Three Black general managers were hired during the 2020-21 cycle: Terry Fontenot of the Atlanta Falcons, Brad Holmes of the Detroit Lions and Martin Mayhew of the Commanders.

And in the previous cycle, the Chicago Bears hired Ryan Poles, formerly executive director of player personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Minnesota Vikings hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, then vice president of football operations for the Cleveland Browns.

The NFL has a lot of “folks who are ready to go into the role. And [even with the recent hires], we still have that,” Beane said. “One season is one season, and [then] you go to another season. The key is to get to sustainable, strong representation each season over season. But we feel really good about [the past few hiring cycles].”

Beane also expressed hope about the potential long-range impact of two leaguewide hiring initiatives: the accelerator program and the offensive assistant resolution.

Each of the NFL’s clubs chose two participants (one assistant coach and one front-office staffer) for the accelerator program, which was launched at the league’s spring meeting in Atlanta in May.

The program is intended to accelerate the rise of qualified minority employees in coaching and front-office management. Participants attended sessions on subjects tailored to help them continue to grow in their current jobs, with an eye toward preparing them to be at their strongest when, hopefully, they enter the hiring pipeline in pursuit of positions as head coaches and general managers.

Under the offensive assistant resolution, the first hiring mandate in league history, in March the NFL required all 32 teams to hire a minority offensive assistant coach for the 2022-2023 season.

The thinking is that the NFL must increase the number of diverse candidates in the coaching pipeline on offense because franchise owners often elevate high-profile offensive assistants to run their teams. Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs and Byron Leftwich of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the NFL’s only Black offensive coordinators.

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“To me, the barometer of whether [the inaugural accelerator program meeting] was successful or not are the feelings and the feedback from the participants and the feelings and feedback of the owners, both of which were overwhelmingly positive,” Beane said. “From that perspective, I see it as a big, big success.

“With the offensive coach resolution, it was not only a directive and a mandate for all clubs to hire someone who is a person of color or a woman. It’s also the spirit of it … for [the minority assistants to have] direct and continual interaction with the head coach, offensive coordinator and the team of offensive coaches. We see that happening.”

Yep. For the NFL, there’s some good news.

However, there’s also the rest of the story: There are only three Black head coaches and six minority on-field leaders in the 32-team league. Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Brian Flores and two other coaches have filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL. They allege that professional sports’ most successful and powerful league commits widespread malfeasance in its hiring practices.

Even Goodell acknowledges the NFL has a long way to go for its rhetoric to align with its actions on diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring at the club level. In the NFL’s internal struggle to create a truly inclusive workplace, Beane and others on the front lines are winning some important battles.

Victory in the war, though, can’t be claimed until there’s major improvement on the coaching front – and that fight is far from finished.

Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at Andscape. He enjoys watching sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.

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