The Ravens’ official announcement Friday that they had exercised the fifth-year option for quarterback Lamar Jackson was simply a formality, especially after coach John Harbaugh had guaranteed the team would so do days before.
Speaking one day after the move, general manager Eric DeCosta reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to keeping the franchise quarterback in Baltimore for the long term.
“We’ve talked about this one hundred times — Lamar is a guy that’s going to be here,” DeCosta said Saturday at the team’s postdraft news conference. “We love him. He’s really the face of this team right now in many different ways. He’s the leader, he’s a good player and he’s our quarterback. So, we will work tirelessly to get a deal done.”
Jackson, who’s entering the fourth year of his rookie contract, will be owed $23 million next year under the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement. He has a $3 million salary cap hit in 2021. When asked about the timing of exercising the fifth-year option, doing so just three days before the deadline, DeCosta replied, “There’s no reason. There’s no conspiracy. We were just getting ready for the draft.”
The Ravens have devoted much of their offseason to continuing to build around Jackson, the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2019. The team signed right guard Kevin Zeitler and wide receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency and used the No. 27 overall pick on Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman. The Ravens also drafted Georgia guard Ben Cleveland in the third round then added Oklahoma State wideout Tylan Wallace and Michigan fullback/tight end Ben Mason in the fourth and fifth round, respectively.
“I’m a guy that sort of likes to work with deadlines,” DeCosta said, “and the draft is almost over. So now we’ll kind of move on to the next big thing … We’ll finish up with [undrafted rookie] free agency upstairs in probably three or four hours. But we’ve got other things on our plate and Lamar Jackson’s one of those things.”