NFL Rumors: Lamar Jackson could be leaving the AFC North

Steelers, Lamar Jackson
Steelers, Lamar Jackson / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

This is the time of year when NFL trade rumors start swirling. Already we have seen high-profile names like Rams CB Jalen Ramsey and Buccaneers WR Mike Evans at the center of discussion. Now one of the best players in the AFC North is circulating in hypothetical trade talks, and his status could directly affect the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Lamar Jackson has proven to be an outstanding pick by the Baltimore Ravens back in 2018. After I was banging the table for the Steelers to pounce on him with the 28th overall pick (that was ultimately used on Terrell Edmunds), Jackson went two picks later to the Ravens and quickly made his presence felt.

In his first five seasons, Jackson has dealt with some injuries that have caused him to miss multiple games in each of the past two seasons. However, He also has two Pro Bowls to pair with an NFL MVP award as he has helped his team to a remarkable 45-16 record as a starter.

Jackson's elite dual-threat ability has led the Ravens to some of the most high-powered rushing attacks in NFL history, and the results speak for themselves. Now it seems like Baltimore might be getting a bit stingy when it comes to forking up the biggest contract in the NFL for their franchise quarterback, and some have speculated that he could be on the way out.

After already playing through his entire rookie contract and the fifth-year option, the Ravens will be forced to slap the franchise tag on Jackson if the two parties can't come to terms on a lucrative new contract extension that Sportrac estimates will pay him in the ballpark of $40.4 million per season in new annual earnings.

Why Lamar Jackson's potential departure affects the Steelers

Though I have a hard time understanding why the Ravens would want to trade their franchise QB, crazier things have happened, and there were some blockbuster moves made by NFL franchises just last offseason. While it would take a significant investment -- both financially and in terms of draft capital -- there will be teams interested.

If Jackson were to get dealt, this greatly impacts the AFC North -- the Pittsburgh Steelers included. Instead of facing Jackson twice per year (when healthy), Baltimore will be looking at other options at the QB position. With the draft capital they would acquire via trade, they would likely use to invest back into another signal-caller who they hope could replace Lamar.

Doing so would likely make them less competitive in the immediate future. With one less team to fight against, this would likely increase Pittsburgh's chances of winning the AFC North over the next few seasons. However, this will still be an incredibly difficult feat with Joe Burrow in the division.

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Still, one less premier quarterback to worry about would be nice -- assuming the Ravens don't turn that draft capital into something even better. Either way, an unlikely blockbuster trade for Lamar Jackson would certainly affect the AFC North and the Pittsburgh Steelers.