One of the top offseason storylines in the NFL remains the Lamar Jackson saga. Contract talks between the Ravens and the former MVP have not yielded progress, and the latter revealed recently that he has requested a trade to a team willing to sign him to the deal he is seeking.
Multiple offseasons of negotiations have stalled, primarily due to the issue of guaranteed money. The contract given to Deshaun Watson by the Browns last season – five years in length, totaling $230MM guaranteed in full – has long been seen as the sticking point between the two parties. That could represent a benchmark for Jackson (and other quarterbacks due for monster extensions in the near future), though the rest of the NFL has made it clear they consider the Watson pact an exception, rather than the beginning of a new trend.
Speaking on the subject during an appearance on the Bernie Kosar Show, longtime Ravens GM and current EVP Ozzie Newsome said, “every club has to do what they have to do with contracts. I don’t worry about what other people do, but our owner did say that contract did create some problems. We have to figure out if that’s going to be the norm or is that an outlier. We don’t know” (video link).
With the relationship between Jackson, 26, and the Ravens taking multiple noteworthy and public turns recently, many have speculated about the potential for his career to continue in Baltimore. On that point, ESPN’s Dan Graziano notes that a path towards fences being mended still exists in this situation. The Ravens have remained effusive in their praise of the former first-rounder, who is scheduled to play on the franchise tag ($32.4MM) in 2023 in the absence of a long-term deal.
Graziano adds that Jackson is asking for more than the $230MM Watson received in guaranteed money, but also that the Louisville product does not appear to be insistent on all of his deal being guaranteed. That may very well represent a moot point to many outside teams, considering the sizeable gap in guarantees which exists between the Watson pact and those signed last summer by the likes of Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray. It could, on the other hand, point further to Jackson and the Ravens being able to reach an agreement down the road.
However, Graziano’s colleague Jeremy Fowler reports that Baltimore is not currently moving with much urgency in terms of negotiations. Their decision to use the non-exclusive tag on Jackson left him free to test his market with potential suitors, but no serious ones have emerged at this point. Plenty of time remains until the draft, which could be an unofficial trade deadline, but also until the middle of July, the point by which Jackson will be required to sign the tag to be eligible to play this season. The ESPN pair note that the two-time Pro Bowler has become frustrated with Baltimore’s recent offers, and that he remains “principled” on the notion of setting a new precedent for future QB mega-deals.
While the Jackson saga is dominating the Ravens’ offseason, more news at the position could be forthcoming. Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed at the annual league meetings that the team is strongly considering adding a veteran backup quarterback. A number of options are off the market at this point in free agency, but The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec names Carson Wentz, Teddy Bridgewater and Mason Rudolph as potential targets who are still available (subscription required). In the event Jackson decides not to sign his tender by OTAs or training camp, the team will need to make an addition of some kind. By that point, more clarity may have emerged regarding their future under center.