Mike Preston

Mike Preston: Lamar Jackson has only himself to blame for breakdown in negotiations with Ravens | COMMENTARY

Maybe Lamar Jackson has finally figured out he needs an agent to conduct contract negotiations.

The star quarterback has been negotiating on his own behalf with the Ravens but has been outmaneuvered throughout the nearly 2 1/2-year process. The team outplayed him when it applied the nonexclusive franchise tag on him Tuesday.


While some have said it was risky business for the Ravens to allow Jackson an opportunity to sign with another team, I thought the decision was superb and showed that the team’s front office had thoroughly studied the landscape and his value throughout the league.

The emotion over at The Castle might be a little subdued, but there surely has been some high-fiving.


Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta could have used the exclusive franchise tag on Jackson, 26, which would cost about $45 million, but instead chose the nonexclusive, which is about $32.4 million.

Jackson is free to start negotiations with other teams Monday and the Ravens would have five days to match that offer or allow the former Louisville star to move on and get two first-round draft picks from that team in return.

So, in essence, the Ravens are willing to allow Jackson to test the open market to determine his value. But since the Ravens applied the tag, quarterback-needy teams such as Atlanta, Carolina, Washington and Las Vegas have reportedly said they have no interest in him.

Has there been collusion among the teams to reset the market for quarterbacks after Cleveland signed Deshaun Watson to a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract last season?


A better question is when hasn’t there been some form of collusion when a top talent is involved in negotiations or seeking a trade?

That’s why Jackson needs an agent. They know and have relationships with various general managers throughout the league. They have a better feel for executives and are more in tune than those who were offering Jackson advice in the NFL Players Association. Agents are buffers who can filter through personal complaints and accusations.

Jackson has no one to blame but himself.


The team to watch now is the New York Jets. If their negotiations with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers fail, they’ll make a push for Jackson because coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas know they will probably be fired if New York doesn’t get into the postseason. They think they’re a quarterback away from being a contender.

That’s when the Jackson situation will get interesting, but, hear me out ... the Ravens should just take the two first-round picks.

Jackson has to be offended and embarrassed by the Ravens applying the nonexclusive tag, but it is hard to imagine investing $45 million into a disgruntled quarterback who has missed 11 games because of injuries during the final months of the past two seasons. Why would any general manager or coach put his team at risk again with another one-year deal?

If the Ravens re-sign Jackson to a long-term deal, coach John Harbaugh will have a lot of repair work to do in the locker room. All this talk from players in support of Jackson is just nonsense. They will support each other because one day they might be in the same situation, but some privately questioned his desire to return from a sprained knee last season.

In six seasons, Jackson has already become one of the most polarizing athletes in Baltimore history. The win-loss record (45-16 regular season) is impressive and the NFL Most Valuable Player performance in 2019 was simply amazing.

Jackson has won only one playoff game since the Ravens drafted him with the No. 32 overall pick and his inaccuracy and shortcomings as a downfield passer might be a reason some teams have backed off him recently.


But the turning point, when he alienated a lot of fans in Baltimore, was his not being on the sideline with the Ravens during their playoff loss in Cincinnati in January. That was unforgettable and will be forgivable only if he wins big in Baltimore.

The Ravens aren’t blameless. They’ve been known to lowball players initially in negotiations, something that goes back to when Ozzie Newsome started as the general manager before being replaced by DeCosta in January 2019.

There will be some player retribution throughout the league in free agency because of the way they’ve handled Jackson. But overall, I liked their approach.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson warms up before game against the Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 20.

Owner Steve Bisciotti never backed off his original comments of how poorly the Browns handled negotiations with Watson and that he was never going to offer Jackson a fully guaranteed contract.

DeCosta pursued Jackson, but not to the point where he was going to bankrupt the team. You pay quarterbacks like Rodgers, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes top dollar because they elevate and carry their teams, but Jackson is not in that class. He is a good player, not a great one.

When talks with DeCosta and Jackson broke down, the Ravens brought in Newsome, the league’s first Black general manager, which will carry over in the Black community if Jackson leaves.


But this probably would have been different if Jackson had an agent. He should have signed a five-year contract with three of those seasons guaranteed and re-negotiated going into or after the third year.

But he didn’t have an agent for advice, and now he might only get a fully guaranteed contract if the Jets fail with Rodgers.

The Ravens won because Jackson was unfamiliar with this arena. As talented as he is, he didn’t know how to play this game.