The Ravens and star quarterback Lamar Jackson seemed to reach consensus on their contract negotiations as both sides agreed there was no rush to get a deal done.
Because Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen reportedly agreed over the weekend to a six-year extension worth $258 million, a domino effect was expected with Jackson and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, all of whom were selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.
Mayfield was the No. 1 overall selection; the Bills took Allen at No. 7 and Jackson was No. 32. But on Monday afternoon, Ravens coach John Harbaugh appeared to pump the brakes on any immediate Jackson deal, and the former Louisville star echoed his sentiments.
Overall, there was probably a sense of relief at The Castle.
“Nothing has changed in the sense of it’ll happen when it’s going to happen [and] when it’s best for both sides to happen” said Harbaugh. “Both sides want it to happen. There’s really not a hurry on it. Lamar is going to be our quarterback for many years to come. We want him, he wants us.”
Early in the offseason, the Ravens made it seem like there was a sense of urgency about getting Jackson a new contract, but that never made much sense. He was under contract for two more years and the team could add a third if they designated him a franchise player.
Why the rush?
If this deliberate style holds, it’s good for both the team and Jackson because he still has something to prove. He needs to show that he can throw accurately outside the numbers and elevate the passing game when good teams take away the Ravens running game in the postseason.
Jackson also needs to show that he has grown up and put away the childish things like playing football games on the beach, participating in pickup basketball games on an outdoor court and driving over 100 miles per hour without a seat belt on while taping it on video.
But let’s put the antics aside for a moment and focus on the field.
This offseason was built around Jackson. His supporters said he needed more top-notch receivers, so the Ravens drafted Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman in the first round and Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace in the fourth. They also signed free agent and veteran receiver Sammy Watkins.
Jackson fans wanted better pass protection, so the Ravens added free agent right tackle Alejandro Villanueva and right guard Kevin Zeitler.
So, there are no more excuses.
If Jackson produces and goes to the AFC Championship game or the Super Bowl, then all is right with the world and give that young man a contract.
And if he doesn’t, oh, oh …. well, might be time to move on.
Some will say it’s better to pay Jackson, a former league Most Valuable Player, now because he is going to cost more in the future. That’s pretty stupid. The quickest way to kill the progress of a franchise is to overpay a quarterback who isn’t the franchise type because it takes years to get out from under that investment.
Both Jackson and the Ravens can wait.
On Monday following practice Jackson, programmed by the team’s public relations staff, said all the right things. He said he practiced in his backyard at home during his 10-day absence for testing positive for COVID-19 a second time. He said he missed his teammates, practices, participated in as many meetings as possible despite being fatigued and again mentioned that he wouldn’t wish the virus on anyone.
But he didn’t say he would get vaccinated. Nope. Despite having some of the best doctors in the world on the Ravens medical staff and more than 90% of his teammates getting a vaccine, Jackson gave you a wink and a smile, but no yes confirmation.
“I mean, I just got off the COVID list,” said Jackson, when asked about possibly catching it for a third time. “I’ve got to talk to my team doctors and try to see how they feel about it. [I’m going to] keep learning as much as I can about it, and we’ll go from there. We’ll see, we’ll see. Talking to the doctors. We’ll see.
“I’m just going to worry about that with my family. I’m going to keep my feelings to my family and myself. It’s a personal decision.”
Duh? It’s personal but not when it affects teammates, possible playoff races and player salaries, which is why 90% of the league’s players have been vaccinated. As one of my colleagues said yesterday, he could think of 250 million reasons why Jackson should get vaccinated.
But that’s more in line with the immediate future. We’re talking big picture here, which is why Jackson has to put on his big boy pants as he enters Year 4. When you talk to an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback like Brett Favre, he suggests that this is the year in which a quarterback should have matured, and the career really starts to take off. He should be able to read defenses, make all the proper checks and required throws.
Jackson has shown his athleticism and his ability to improvise and make plays in the first three years. Fans love him and so do his teammates. But this is the year where we get a better read on him. If he plays well and takes that final step then the Ravens should offer the lucrative contract. The patience paid off.
If not, then patience really paid off.