The Baltimore Ravens came out on the wrong side of an absolute thriller on Sunday, having been defeated 31-30 by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. John Harbaugh's Ravens had an opportunity to tie the game in the dying seconds but opted to attempt a two-point conversion in hopes of securing the victory in regulation. The attempt failed and ultimately dropped the Ravens to 8-6 and out of first place in the wildly unpredictable and cluttered AFC North.
The Ravens entered the game without starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is on the mend due to an ankle injury. Jackson was replaced by backup quarterback Tyler Huntley who captured the nation's hearts with an excellent performance against a tough Packers defense. The sophomore undrafted free agent out of Utah was electric in Jackson’s absence, completing 28-of-40 passing attempts for 215 yards and two touchdown passes. Huntley also showcased his athleticism by doing his best Jackson impression as a runner, gaining 73 yards and scoring an additional two touchdowns via 13 scrambles. All in all, Huntley accounted for 288 total yards of offense and an astounding four scores. He was downright excellent and gave the Ravens every opportunity to win the game against a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
It was Huntley's second impressive start of the season. The Dania Beach, Florida native started in place of Jackson in a Week 11 three-point victory over the Chicago Bears. Huntley threw for 219 yards and rushed for 40 more in that one while leading an excellent game-winning drive that resulted in the go-ahead score with just 22 seconds left. Huntley's eye-opening performances have led to some social media chatter regarding the long-term relationship between Jackson and the Ravens. Jackson, who represents himself in contract negotiations, is currently set to reach free agency in 2023 at the conclusion of his five-year rookie contract (his fifth-year option has already been exercised and will pay him north of $23 million in 2022).
Jackson's next contract will undeniably arrive in the neighborhood of $35-40 million annually, placing him amongst the highest-paid signal-callers. Even still, the Ravens would be beyond silly to let him play elsewhere. Jackson has completely transformed the Ravens’ offense since his arrival in 2018 while turning them into perennial Super Bowl contenders. The temptation to go cheap by replacing Jackson with the much-more affordable Huntley should ultimately be non-existent based on what Jackson has achieved throughout a young career that already qualifies as both groundbreaking and illustrious.
The fact that we even feel the need to have this discussion is more of a reflection of the excellent job done by Baltimore's scouting staff and general manager Eric DeCosta for identifying that Huntley, as an undrafted free agent, was an ideal fit for Greg Roman's run-heavy, unique offense. 31 other franchises made an error by bypassing an opportunity to draft Huntley and the Ravens are now reaping the rewards. The ability to secure the services of an unknown backup quarterback that possesses a similar skill-set to your starter is extremely difficult and a lost art in today's game. A tip of the cap is due.
Huntley deserves a larger opportunity and showcase for himself. That much is clear. It's been a relatively small sample size, but his two starts in 2021 have unearthed enough ability to deem him worthy of a closer look. It will ultimately have to occur elsewhere, and very well may.
Huntley is an exclusive-rights free agent at the conclusion of the current campaign. This means that if Baltimore offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum (based on his credited seasons), Huntley won't be able to negotiate with another team. DeCosta will undoubtedly exercise this option on Huntley based on his current play, but you do wonder if Baltimore may receive trade offers for his services this summer. In a league that's consistently starved for quality quarterback play, Huntley and the Ravens should receive plenty of interest via the trade market this coming offseason. Another team may envision an opportunity to re-create a similar environment (and offense) to the one currently thriving in Baltimore with Huntley at the center of it all.
Jackson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. If contract negotiations miraculously break down and Jackson dons a different jersey in 2023, the Ravens have made a terrible mistake.