A move that once seemed like a formality now feels like anything but. The organization’s patience and optimism have slowly faded away to make room for perceived annoyance and hints of pessimism.
The Ravens really want to get a deal done, preferably before the start of free agency. But by all accounts, it doesn’t appear as though that’s going to happen.
General manager Eric DeCosta has insisted that the Ravens are working at “Lamar’s pace,” and it isn’t hard to read between the lines to figure out what that means.
The Ravens are eager to finalize an extension. Jackson is taking his time. For whatever reason, Jackson appears more willing to bet on himself than to obtain financial security.
It’s a bold strategy, to say the least.
The Ravens and Lamar Jackson are walking a fine line with extension talks
Without a doubt, Jackson’s lack of an agent has contributed to the slow nature of these talks. It’s hard to imagine that either side would be in this predicament if Jackson employed an agent.
Negotiation conversations are awkward. While the Ravens have insisted that everything is business as usual, DeCosta and the Ravens’ decision-makers are in uncharted territories when it comes to negotiating directly with their franchise quarterback.
It isn’t uncommon for heated negotiations to take place and sometimes stall conversations until cooler heads prevail. Agents are used to this discourse, but things become tricky when you’re dealing with your 25-year-old franchise quarterback.
So what happens if the Ravens are unable to extend Jackson this offseason? For starters, this would hardly be ideal for the team from a financial standpoint.
Jackson is set to carry a cap hit of roughly $23 million in 2022, the highest figure on the roster. The Ravens could shrink that figure significantly if an extension were to be agreed to by converting his base salary into a signing bonus and prorating it over the length of his new contract.
Given the Ravens’ tight cap situation, they need all the money they can get. Extending Jackson is easily the best way to create additional cap room.
Failing to extend Jackson limits their financial flexibility and, in turn, prevents them from building around Jackson in the way that they had hoped. That’s why Jackson’s resistance is, at least a little, confounding.
This would also set up a scenario where Jackson would play out his entire rookie deal in Baltimore. The Ravens would likely be forced to enter negotiations in the middle of the season — once again, a far-from-ideal situation.
It’s one thing to negotiate an extension with an agent in the middle of the season, but we’re talking about the Ravens speaking directly to their franchise quarterback about his contract situation while the team is attempting to make a playoff push.
That just shouldn’t happen. And if it doesn’t, now the Ravens would be forced into a situation where they have to extend Jackson before he hits free agency.
It’s hard to imagine any scenario where Lamar Jackson actually reaches the open market, but the longer the two sides wait, the more pressure is put on both of them.
These are uncharted waters for everyone involved. The NFL really hasn’t seen a negotiating ordeal remotely similar to this one. The entire football world is watching to see how the Ravens, and Jackson for that matter, handle things.
Either way, one thing is clear. It doesn’t make sense to wait. Both sides benefit from getting an extension done as soon as possible.
Unfortunately for everyone, that doesn’t appear to be likely.