Lamar Jackson will begin the 2022 season without long-term security after the quarterback and the Baltimore Ravens could not agree to terms on an extension.
The news came from the team, which had engaged Jackson in talks for months and was frequently forced to answer inquiries related to the negotiations. Instead of coming to a triumphant agreement by the Friday deadline set by Jackson, the Ravens put out a statement before the clock struck noon.
“Despite best efforts on both sides, we were unable to reach a contract extension with Lamar Jackson,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said in the statement. “We greatly appreciate how he has handled this process and we are excited about our team with Lamar leading the way. We will continue to work towards a long-term contract after the season, but for now we are looking forward to a successful 2022 campaign.”
Way back in early March, DeCosta took the podium at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and expressed a firm desire to secure Jackson’s services for a good portion of the next decade. But even then, it sounded as if the two sides were rather far apart in preliminary negotiations, with DeCosta telling reporters, “He knows how to find me; I know how to find him.”
They found each other, but not soon enough to get a deal done.
Jackson enters the fifth and final year of his rookie deal with no security beyond 2022, leaving open the chance for serious injury that could diminish his value. Baltimore, meanwhile, is taking a chance by not securing the 2019 AP NFL Most Valuable Player and allowing him to get uncomfortably close to free agency.
There hasn’t been much in terms of negotiation details. Jackson does not have an agent who might influence the public narrative by leaking specifics from an offer. Instead, he’s gone about his business as usual while refusing to stay quiet on Twitter, liking a photoshopped image of him in a Dolphins uniform and reveling in the long-running discussion surrounding his lack of a long-term deal.
The impasse could come down to total money. Deshaun Watson’s fully guaranteed, $230 million deal with the Cleveland Browns tipped the scales of the quarterback market, and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was one of the first individuals to push back against the idea of giving one player (as Bisciotti put it, Watson specifically) that much money.
He had reason to react accordingly. As soon as Watson received the unprecedented contract from the Browns, the Ravens were on the clock, just like they were when Josh Allen — the seventh-overall pick in Jackson’s draft class — signed a six-year, $258 million extension more than a year ago.
That’s not exactly chump change, even for an NFL owner. Ultimately, though, it comes down to how much the Ravens value Jackson. They’ve yet to reach a Super Bowl with him, but they’re in the conversation for contenders annually because of him. Are they willing to pay for that prestige while knowing it hasn’t yet earned them a ring?
And is Jackson willing to revisit this at the end of the 2022 season? Or are we headed toward the unthinkable — Jackson reaching free agency — in 2023?
The franchise tag would prevent that from happening, but this remains a peculiar, fascinating situation that evidently isn’t headed toward a resolution soon. Winning a Lombardi Trophy would sure make things a lot easier.
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