While the relationship between Jackson and the Ravens appears to have reached a breaking point, the market for Jackson has been lukewarm at best, no matter how many jersey swaps other fanbases may post on social media.
As messy as the situation is, Jackson’s tweet is an indication that a resolution may not be imminent, and that this saga could continue into next year and possibly beyond.
What Lamar Jackson Trade Request Means
While Jackson just tweeted out the information surrounding his trade request, he said that the request was actually made 25 days previously on March 2.
This detail is crucial when evaluating the request from both the Ravens and Jackson’s standpoint.
Baltimore placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson on March 7, entitling them to just two first-round picks should they choose to let Jackson sign an offer sheet with another team.
Jackson would surely net more than that in a hypothetical trade in which he agreed to a contract with another team, but if the Ravens were truly interested in shopping Jackson they would have given him the exclusive tag and started a bidding war among other teams.
But Baltimore essentially gave Jackson the ability to negotiate his own trade, betting that there would not be a market for Jackson’s reported demand for a fully guaranteed contract, and so far they have been right.
Jackson has not been allowed to contact other teams for almost two weeks, and during that period he (or Ken Francis) surely told other teams about the trade request, so this information is nothing new within NFL circles.
Jackson is now two weeks into restricted free agency and his market is clearly not as strong as he had hoped, and this tweet should be read as an attempt to build public momentum to try to force a team to make a move, no different than some of the well-sourced articles clearly leaked by Baltimore’s front office in the weeks leading up to the tag deadline.
Nothing changed Monday morning about the dynamics of the situation within the league. What changed is how much we know about what is happening, with Jackson hoping that our newfound knowledge will push a team to make a move.
Where Do Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson Go From Here?
The dispute between the Ravens and Jackson is purely over money, not over any personal falling out between the team and Jackson. This has been reported from sources ranging from Adam Schefter to Robert Griffin III, and was confirmed today by Jackson in his tweet when he said “I requested a trade from the Ravens organization from which the Ravens has not been interested in meeting my value.”
The fact that this is purely over the money keeps the door open on the possibility of Jackson returning to Baltimore, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Monday afternoon that even with the request having been made over three weeks ago, Jackson engaged in negotiations with the Ravens as recently as last week.
He is clearly frustrated that the organization has not given him what he wants, but he seems to still be willing to play for them if they were to do so. At the same time, it does not seem like anyone else will do so, as Stephen Holder, the Colts beat reporter for The Athletic tweeted Monday evening that Jackson’s demands are a “non-starter” among NFL owners.
If that remains the case, Jackson would be just as frustrated with every other team as he is with the Ravens.
So the question then becomes, where do we go from here?
No end appears to be in sight, as Baltimore's hopes of having the market mediate the differences between them and Jackson seem to be going as well as my hopes of one day going to Hogwarts.
The NFL Owners simply will not move on the issue of guaranteed money, and Jackson seems to be just as stubborn.
From the constant social media trolling, to the Ken Francis saga, to Jackson sending out his tweet this morning at almost the precise moment that Ravens’ Head Coach John Harbaugh was set to address reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings, Jackson has not exactly presented himself as the adult in the room, making the chances of a compromise appear even less likely.
If you had asked me on Sunday night what was going to happen, I would have said that Jackson was not going to get what he is demanding and he would be forced to play on the franchise tag for a Ravens team with bad vibes.
I now believe that Jackson is not going to get what he is demanding and he will not be forced to play on the franchise tag, and all that has changed is I now believe the Ravens will have even worse vibes.
How the Baltimore Ravens Should Respond
As much as we like to talk about this situation from Jackson’s perspective, the truth is that the Ravens likely still have more control.
This is not the NBA where trade requests are almost always granted, and as much as I personally believe in player empowerment and players receiving guaranteed contracts from a moral standpoint, the reality of the situation is that Baltimore has the ability to unilaterally decide whether or not Jackson is on their roster next year.
They have given Jackson the ability to effectively negotiate his own trade, and him making his demands public due to his inability to find a deal should not then cause the Ravens to trade Jackson for pennies on the dollar.
They should remain strong, and not let anyone else force them to do something.
Just last year, Deebo Samuel was in a similar situation in San Francisco, but the 49ers remained strong and the two sides eventually worked things out.
Other superstar athletes such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Kobe Bryant also requested trades over the course of their careers but were ultimate not moved, with both winning titles in the following two years.
The NFL is a good two decades behind the NBA when it comes to player empowerment, so even though the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers may have been forced to make a move if those requests were made today, that is simply not the reality of the NFL in 2023.
Perhaps the Bryant situation could be most instructive to the Ravens.
The Lakers did shop Bryant, calling the Cavaliers about a potential Kobe Bryant for LeBron James trade that is truly mind-boggling to think about now, but once they were told that James was off the table they refused to engage in talks that were inevitably going to yield substandard return.
Bryant stayed, and soon enough Los Angeles won back-to-back titles.
This is all a long way of saying that relationships can be mended in sports, and the fact that the Ravens’ dispute with Jackson is over money makes it even more likely that a reconciliation will occur if no one else is willing to meet his demands.
While the odds of a satisfactory resolution for the Ravens may not be high, they are still higher than the odds of finding another Lamar Jackson in the draft, meaning that Baltimore's best path forward is to still let things play out and not give in.
Jackson, the Ravens, and the rest of the NFL are now engaged in a sort of three-way grudge match, with no side willing to give in and no end in sight.