PHOENIX — After the Ravens and Lamar Jackson spent the past two years trying to come to an agreement on a long-term deal, the star quarterback has issued a definitive response. Following months of silence from Jackson, he revealed Monday that he has asked to be traded.
“As of March 2nd I requested a trade from the Ravens organization for which the Ravens has not been interested in meeting my value, any and everyone that’s has met me or been around me know I love the game of football and my dream is to help a team,” Jackson tweeted Monday morning. “I had to make a business decision that was best for my family and I.”
The stunning development came one minute before Ravens coach John Harbaugh met with the media at the NFL’s annual meeting.
Harbaugh said he was unaware of the tweet, but he expects Jackson to be his quarterback this season.
“It’s an ongoing process,” Harbaugh said. “I’m following it very closely and looking forward to a resolution.”
Asked whether he was aware of the request, Harbaugh said: “I’m not getting into that. That’s private,” but added, “I’m getting ready for Lamar. … We love him.”
He also conceded that it has been “a while” since he last spoke to Jackson but didn’t view that as out of the ordinary.
However, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that sources told him Jackson was actively negotiating with the Ravens as recently as last week.
While it’s not clear when Jackson began to think the Ravens weren’t valuing him properly, Bills star quarterback Josh Allen, who was drafted the same year as Jackson, signed a six-year, $258 million extension with Buffalo in August 2021.
“You’ve got two sides that appreciate each other; Lamar believes in us and we believe in Lamar,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a monetary thing that can be figured out, that can be worked out. That’s just a matter of negotiating.
“It’s a unique situation, it’s different than most years. This is a contract situation. … I’m looking forward to getting back to the normal ways of doing things.”
As for the timing of Jackson’s tweet and whether it was intentional, Harbaugh said he didn’t know whether that was the case.
“I don’t think Lamar kept too much track when the [NFL] meeting’s happening,” Harbaugh said.
The team placed the nonexclusive tag on Jackson, the 2019 unanimous NFL Most Valuable Player, on March 7 — five days after Jackson said he asked the organization to trade him.
The nonexclusive tag was viewed at the time by many as shrewd because it would allow the market to essentially set Jackson’s value. It also gives the Ravens the option to match any offer sheet Jackson signs — if they let him walk, the team would get two first-round picks in return. The $32.4 million nonexclusive tag was additionally about $13 million cheaper than the exclusive tag, which notably would not have allowed Jackson to negotiate with other teams.
While Harbaugh didn’t discuss the timing of Jackson’s trade request as it related to the organization issuing the franchise tag, he and others in the organization have said repeatedly they would like Jackson to be the team’s quarterback long-term.
On March 1, Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta said at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that he was “optimistic” the club would come to an agreement with its star. Harbaugh agreed, saying he was “fervently hopeful.”
That was still the case Monday for Harbaugh. However, he said the team also will operate with a contingency plan should Jackson, who has been the face of the franchise since the Ravens drafted him out of Louisville in the first round in 2018, be dealt away.
“You’ve got to plan for all the contingencies, but I’m pretty fired up about Lamar Jackson,” Harbaugh said. “You build your team regardless. … That train is moving fast, but when Lamar gets back on board that train, he’s fully capable of jumping on full speed.
“I’m sure business will be done the way it’s always done. From my perspective, I’m getting ready for Lamar.”
Jackson’s situation is unique, however, in that he does not have an agent, with his mother, Felicia Jones, acting only as his manager.
Things also took a bizarre turn last week when the NFL issued a warning to teams not to discuss Jackson with Ken Francis, a business partner of the quarterback’s, after the NFL Players Association said Francis, who is not certified by the players’ union, had been contacting teams on Jackson’s behalf. Jackson and Francis denied the allegation.
“To be clear, Mr. Jackson is not currently represented by an NFLPA certified agent,” the memo read. “Violation of this rule may result in disapproval of any Offer Sheet or resulting Player Contract entered into by Mr. Jackson and the new Club.”
A team also can be fined by the NFL if it negotiates a contract with a representative who is not verified by the NFL Players Association.
That added even more drama to an already long and winding saga with Jackson having reportedly turned down an offer from the Ravens in September that included $133 million guaranteed at signing, $175 million guaranteed for injury and $200 million in total guarantees, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen.
A $200 million deal would rank behind only the five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract Deshaun Watson signed with the Cleveland Browns last year. It has been widely speculated that Jackson was seeking a similar contract.
A player of Jackson’s caliber leaving his original team in his prime would be unprecedented.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a four-time NFL MVP and a Super Bowl MVP, recently said he’d like to be traded to the New York Jets, but he’s 39 — 13 years older than Jackson. Kirk Cousins played the last two of his six years in Washington on a franchise tag before bolting for the Minnesota Vikings, but he isn’t nearly as good a player as Jackson. Ditto Matt Stafford and Russell Wilson, franchise quarterbacks who were in recent years traded by the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks, respectively.
Of the 38 quarterbacks who have been named NFL MVP, none have been traded just five years into their respective careers.
Still, Harbaugh, who said his last conversation with Jackson was over text and only football-related, tried to put a positive spin on the situation.
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Asked whether the relationship between Jackson and the Ravens was beyond repair, Harbaugh said: “I don’t see that at all.”
“This is part of the way it works,” the Ravens coach continued. “I think it’s part of the natural environment of professional sports. … I don’t know what direction it’s going to go … but whatever happens, it’s going to be good.”
Even with a trade, though, losing Jackson would be a blow to the Ravens. Over the past five seasons, Baltimore is 45-16 with Jackson under center, which ranks as the fourth-best record of any quarterback who debuted in the Super Bowl era, behind only Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Roger Staubach. Baltimore is just 3-9 when Jackson hasn’t played because of injury, which included last season’s wild-card round playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
During his tenure, Jackson, who has had durability issues with injuries costing him significant time each of the past two seasons, has completed 63.7% of his passes for 12,209 yards and 101 touchdowns with 38 interceptions. He has also rushed for 4,437 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Whether he adds to the total in Baltimore is now even more uncertain, though Harbaugh is trying to be optimistic.
“It’s going to work itself out,” Harbaugh said. “If we’re playing football next year and Lamar Jackson is playing quarterback, we’re all going to be happy.”
The question is, though, where will he be playing.