After Baltimore’s season ended with a 24-17 loss to their division rival Cincinnati Bengals, the biggest question looming over the Ravens is the future of pending free agent quarterback Lamar Jackson. The 2019 NFL MVP and face of the franchise was notably not in attendance at the playoff game. After months of contract issues, will the quarterback and team finally come to an agreement in the 2023 offseason?
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Will Lamar Jackson, Ravens, Agree to Contract in the Offseason?
Sending a Message?
On Monday morning, Jackson posted on his Instagram story what appeared to be a message directed to the Ravens organization, stating, “When you have something good, you don’t play with it. You don’t take chances losing it. You don’t neglect it. When you have something good, you pour into it. You appreciate it. Because when you take care of something good, that good thing takes care of you too.”
From Lamar Jackson’s Instagram stories. pic.twitter.com/czuvkuf8oF
— Luke Easterling (@LukeEasterling) January 16, 2023
Jackson, who missed the playoff game and the last five games of the regular season with a knee injury, was unable to reach an agreement with the Ravens on a lucrative extension entering this season. Although the Ravens want to sign Lamar to a long-term deal in line with the market value set by the recent deals given to Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray, Jackson seems adamant about a fully guaranteed deal, similar to and possibly even greater than the contract the Browns gave to Deshaun Watson last offseason.
Given that Jackson is representing himself in these contract negotiations, he appears to be willing to carry out this situation for as long as needed until he receives his desired terms, whether that be from the Ravens or another franchise.
Franchise Tag Likely for Jackson
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that if the two sides cannot agree to a long-term extension, then the Ravens will use the franchise tag on Lamar Jackson for 2023. However, there remains the question of whether the team will use the exclusive tag for the price of $45.4 million next season, which would prevent other teams from negotiating with him or place the non-exclusive tag at the cost of $32.445 million in 2023, which would allow other interested parties in negotiating a deal. In the latter scenario, the Ravens would have the option to match or refuse the other team’s offer or to refuse and receive two first-round picks as compensation.
Although it is extremely likely the Ravens will place the franchise tag on him to prevent him from reaching unrestricted free agency, there remains the possibility that Jackson could be on a new team before the start of next season. With Lamar Jackson’s injury history and susceptibility to future injuries as an elite running quarterback, it is unlikely the Ravens would be willing to acquiesce to his desires for a fully-guaranteed lucrative deal.
Negotiations between Ravens and Jackson at a Crossroads
If negotiations continue to stall throughout this upcoming offseason, Lamar Jackson could force the team’s hand by not reporting to OTA’s and training camp. In that scenario, there is a chance the situation could become untenable to the point that the Ravens might decide that it would be in the team’s best interest to trade Jackson and acquire significant draft capital to select a developmental quarterback in the draft while using the cap space to improve the rest of the roster.
With the Ravens organizational track record in developing young players and their stubbornness in these negotiations, along with Jackson’s unwillingness to accept a non-fully guaranteed deal he deems below his value, there lies a legitimate chance that the two parties part ways sooner than later. There would undoubtedly be several teams, such as the Jets, Falcons, Raiders, and Texans, amongst others, who would likely be willing to part with the necessary assets to acquire and sign Lamar to the contract he is seeking. Jackson’s absence from the team’s playoff loss only fuels more fire to the speculation that he has already played his last snap as a Raven.