Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, was absent for the second straight day of voluntary organized team activities on Wednesday.
When coach John Harbaugh was asked on Wednesday whether Jackson would attend OTAs, he said, “I’ll let Lamar speak for himself on this topic.”
“It’s not for me to speak on somebody else,” the coach added. “It’s up to him.”
Jackson, the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player who is skipping the voluntary workouts for the first time, attended OTAs last season after the Ravens picked up the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, which is worth $23 million under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. There’s been no progress in negotiations for a record-breaking extension for Jackson, who is representing himself without an agent.
General manager Eric DeCosta said after the draft that the Ravens have gotten “great reports” on Jackson’s offseason workouts; he’s trained with private quarterback tutor Adam Dedeaux, whom he worked with last year, as well as a South Florida-based trainer.
“We’re excited about Lamar [Jackson],” he said. “He’s been working quite a bit out in California [and] down in Florida. We talk to him all the time. We check in with him all the time. We talk to other players. I believe — and I think coach [John Harbaugh] feels this way — that we are poised to have a great year on offense.”
Jackson isn’t the only star quarterback in the league that’s missing from OTAs. According to ESPN, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray will not attend OTAs but is expected to attend mandatory minicamp June 14-16. Murray, who also had his fifth-year option picked up, has been seeking a long-term extension.
Tight end Mark Andrews said he’s not worried about Jackson’s absence. The two-time Pro Bowl selection has stayed connected with Jackson, who he said is “extremely motivated and hungry.”
“We all are working and doing our job here and getting ready for him,” Andrews said. “I’m confident that he’s going to be ready and show everybody what he’s got.”
Jackson, who was named to his second Pro Bowl after throwing for 2,882 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in an injury-shortened 2021 season, posted on Twitter on Tuesday his eagerness to return to the field saying, “Can’t wait to get back.”
During the Ravens’ season-ending news conference, Jackson emphasized the importance of bonding as an offense after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2017 with an 8-9 record.
“[I’ll be] just trying to get my guys, all of us, one unit, together this offseason — not just the receivers and tight ends; offensive line and all,” he said. “We’ll just try to get those guys, all in one unit, to be together so we can have real team bonding, and we can start fresh, I’ll say, to this upcoming season, because I feel like we didn’t have that throughout the season.”
DeCosta said in February that “nothing’s changed” with his evaluation of Jackson. But he also acknowledged that the Ravens were now working “at Lamar’s pace,” and indicated that the team was willing to enter the 2022 season with Jackson playing on the final year of his rookie contract.
“This is an unusual negotiation because I’ve been dealing with a player,” DeCosta said of Jackson, who’s among a handful of NFL players without a traditional sports agent. DeCosta said they’ve had “five or six conversations” about an extension over the past year. “And I would never divulge a conversation with a player. So for me to talk in specifics would be prohibitive. …
“I think at this point, I would say that we’re working at Lamar’s pace. He’s comfortable where we are right now. I think he feels that we have a lot of unfinished business. He has a lot of unfinished business. He wants to win the division. He wants to win the Super Bowl. I think he and I both share that same vision. And so that’s basically where we stand. There’s a great line of communication. I know that Lamar knows he can come up to see me at any point.”
According to Spotrac, Jackson’s calculated market value based on age, contract status and statistical production is five years, $215.6 million with an annual salary of $43.1 million, which would make him one of the highest-paid players in the league. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is playing under a 10-year, $450 million deal, has an annual salary of $45 million, while Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen will make $43 million annually as part of his six-year, $258 million contract.
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Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns signed quarterback Deshaun Watson to a fully-guaranteed five-year contract worth $230 million ($46 million per year) this offseason after acquiring him from the Houston Texans despite the former Clemson star facing civil lawsuits from 22 women who allege he behaved inappropriately during massages.
If Jackson and the Ravens can’t agree to a contract extension, the team will likely place the franchise tag on the former first-round pick. In 2022, the non-exclusive franchise tag — which allows a player to negotiate a deal with another team — was $29.7 million for quarterbacks. That number could rise to about $34 million if the salary cap increases by 15% in 2023.
The exclusive franchise tag, which is based on the average salaries of the five highest-paid players at that position, is expected to be $45.4 million in 2023.
The last quarterback to receive an exclusive franchise tag was Dallas Cowboys star Dak Prescott, who played the 2020 season on the tag before signing a four-year, $160 million deal with $126 million guaranteed.