The Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson did not agree on a contract extension before Jackson’s Friday deadline, the team announced.
With the cessation of negotiations, the narrative that has loomed over the Ravens’ offseason ground to a temporary halt, while questions about Jackson’s long-term future in Baltimore intensified.
“Despite best efforts on both sides, we were unable to reach a contract extension with Lamar Jackson,” general manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate how he has handled this process and we are excited about our team with Lamar leading the way. We will continue to work towards a long-term contract after the season, but for now we are looking forward to a successful 2022 campaign.”
Jackson, 25, will play this season on his fifth-year rookie option with a salary of $23.016 million. If he and the Ravens do not agree on an extension by March 7 of next year, they would need to use their franchise tag to keep him from becoming a free agent. Under an exclusive franchise tag, Jackson would likely be owed about $45 million in 2023.
“I think all the feelings you would expect anyone to have, you probably have,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said when asked Friday if the lack of resolution was a letdown. “Probably not for me as much, because I wasn’t directly involved in the back and forth. But you’re hopeful. Those things will work themselves out in the end; I’m confident in that. I think I said in the beginning: that’ll happen when it’s time. Lamar’s playing quarterback. He’s going to be playing quarterback here for a long time.”
Coach and star discussed the situation Thursday. “He and I talked about it yesterday, a little bit, like, ‘Hey man, let’s go and be our best and focus on football,’” Harbaugh said. “That’s what he’s been doing all along. I know nothing will change with that.”
Jackson did not speak to reporters Friday, but he practiced and played basketball in the locker room afterward as if all was normal.
He’s now in the position his predecessor, Joe Flacco, faced going into the 2012 season, with no long-term security and the franchise’s Super Bowl hopes resting largely on his shoulders. Flacco responded with a playoff run for the ages, culminating with a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player performance that set him up to sign the richest contract in NFL history at the time.
Current Ravens have said they expect Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, to respond similarly.
“He doesn’t really talk about it, so it hasn’t really been a distraction,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “I think it’s definitely interesting how it’s going, for sure, but nobody knows what’s going on. He’s his own agent, so I guess whatever conversations they’re having, hopefully they’re good. … I have no doubt he’ll be here for his whole career, so I’m excited about that, being his teammate for a long time.”
The Cleveland Browns redefined the quarterback market earlier this year when they signed Deshaun Watson to a five-year, $230 million deal, fully guaranteed. Since then, two other top quarterbacks, 33-year-old Russell Wilson and 25-year-old Kyler Murray, have agreed to deals with far less guaranteed money. Wilson signed with the Denver Broncos for $245 million over five years, with $165 million guaranteed. Murray signed with the Arizona Cardinals for $230.5 million over five years, with about $105 million guaranteed at the time of the deal and $160 million guaranteed in case of injury.
Jackson is one of three young superstar quarterbacks who could be up for extensions next spring along with Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers.
His situation has drawn interest from around the league and sports media landscape.
“I hate the Lamar Jackson situation,” longtime NFL cornerback Richard Sherman wrote Friday on Twitter. “He has outplayed his contract and deserves the new money. There is a fully guaranteed precedent out there and he is simply looking to capitalize on that.”
Sherman suggested NFL owners will do everything they can to prevent Watson’s fully guaranteed contract from setting a precedent. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti commented on that deal when he spoke with Baltimore reporters at the end of March: “To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others.” He added that “it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to play that game, you know?”
Ravens fans, however, have grown increasingly anxious on social media as negotiations between Jackson and the team have dragged on with no end in sight.
Jackson said Wednesday that he was still talking with DeCosta but reiterated that he did not want those discussions to carry into the season. He downplayed the risk of playing this year without his financial future secured.
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“It was a pretty big risk last season, the year before,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about contract negotiations around that time. This season, it’s going to be the same thing, but I’m just playing football. Anything can happen, but God forbid the wrong thing happens, I’m keeping God first and just playing ball, like I’ve been doing.”
Jackson has been healthy throughout training camp and the preseason after missing the end of the 2021 season with an ankle injury. The 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player is 37-12 as a starter since being selected in the first round of the 2018 draft.
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