Palm Beach, Fla. — Whenever Lamar Jackson shares a new training video, one spiral after another rising and falling in the California sun, Ravens coach John Harbaugh watches. Of course he watches.
“Every bit of it,” he said Monday. “I’m excited to see it.”
In an offseason with limited developments and endless speculation about the star quarterback’s future in Baltimore, Harbaugh must on some level understand the limbo state of Ravens fans. In this dead period for NFL players, all he can do is watch Jackson and wait. When something happens, he’ll see it.
But a year after Jackson first became eligible for a contract extension, there is still no indication that the Ravens and their franchise player are close to a long-term deal — nor is there any obvious concern over a possible divorce. At the NFL owners meetings, Harbaugh said he had no updates on the Ravens’ negotiations with Jackson, who’s entering the final year of his rookie deal. At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis earlier this month, general manager Eric DeCosta said the front office would “work at Lamar’s urgency.”
“I think he’s focused on training right now,” Harbaugh said Monday. “When we get back [to Baltimore], maybe another conversation will be had when we get back from here. Possibly. I’d assume. With Lamar, you never know. It’s not really in the forefront of his mind whenever I talk to him. I’d love something to get done. I think he’s planning on something being done. We’re planning on something being done at some point in time.
“I’m confident it’s going to happen. Of course, until it happens, it hasn’t happened. I’m confident it’s going to happen.”
Even after a disappointing 2021 — Jackson’s season ended with a mid-December ankle injury and career highs in interceptions thrown and sacks taken — his value likely hasn’t suffered. The market for top-tier quarterbacks has skyrocketed over the past year.
In August, the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen signed a six-year contract extension worth up to $258 million, including $150 million guaranteed. Aaron Rodgers’ extension with the Green Bay Packers, agreed to on the eve of free agency, is essentially a three-year, $150 million deal. And as part of Deshaun Watson’s trade to the Cleveland Browns earlier this month, he received a five-year deal with a fully guaranteed $230 million, the most in NFL history.
“It seemed like we played him every year there for a while once,” Harbaugh said of Watson, who was 0-2 in his two starts against the Ravens with the Houston Texans. “Now we’ll play him every year twice. A lot of respect for him as a football player. He’s a tough quarterback to defend and we’re going to do our best. Obviously, we’re not afraid of anybody. We’re looking forward to playing all of these guys [in the AFC North].”
Baltimore Ravens Insider
A bone bruise in Jackson’s right ankle kept him limping almost a month after his injury, delaying his return to training until February. But the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player has regularly shared footage on his social media channels of his work with private quarterback tutor Adam Dedeaux. Long balls have been featured prominently in highlights of their sessions, where Jackson has sometimes thrown to Ravens wide receivers Rashod Bateman and James Proche II.
Team officials have downplayed any concerns about how Jackson’s uncertain future might affect his offseason preparations. At the combine, DeCosta said he didn’t expect Jackson to hold out for a new contract, in part because of punitive rules set out under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. And Harbaugh said Monday that Jackson, who’s representing himself in contract negotiations, “doesn’t get caught up in things that he can’t control or doesn’t want to address.”
“It’s one of the great things about Lamar Jackson,” Harbaugh said. “He’s very unique. … He’s not going to worry about it. If it matters to him, then obviously, it would be a priority at this point in time. I’m sure we would be getting something done. He’s got his reasons, thinking the way that he does. Basically, what he shares with me is: ‘I got to focus on being the best quarterback I can be. I got to go to work.’ Beyond that, I think when the time is right, it’ll happen.”
DeCosta, who’s scheduled to meet with reporters next week, said at the combine that he and Jackson had only texted recently, and that team officials were prepared to engage in more serious talks. “We are ready to be there for Lamar at any point when he decides that he really wants to work on it, we will be,” he said.
If Jackson doesn’t sign a new deal before September, it’s unclear whether contract talks with DeCosta would carry over into the season. The Ravens could effectively keep Jackson from reaching free agency next year by designating him with an exclusive franchise tag, which would guarantee him a one-year offer sheet worth the average of the NFL’s five highest quarterback salaries. Jackson’s set to earn $23 million this season, and his next contract is expected to send him into a new earnings stratosphere.
Harbaugh’s still confident that won’t happen anywhere else but Baltimore.
“I know he’s going to be our quarterback,” he said. “Really, when you’re coaching and you’re playing, that’s what you think about. We know we’re going to be playing this year, and Lamar is going to be our quarterback. I got to do the very best job I can to have him ready to play his best football. That’s really what my job is. That’s what we’re focusing on.”