If there was good news on the Lamar Jackson extension front with the Baltimore Ravens — even as rumors have swirled that the two sides remain far apart — it was that the dialogue continues between player and team.
“Lamar and I are talking,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said on Wednesday from the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. “We met recently. It’s an ongoing discussion. Both (sides) understand the urgency of the situation.
“It’s been a good dialogue, a good discussion. I’m optimistic as I’ve continued to be optimistic, and we’ll see where it goes.”
In January, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters there was a “200 percent” chance Jackson stays in Baltimore, and on Wednesday, he reiterated his belief that a deal can be reached.
“He’s my quarterback, he’s my guy,” Harbaugh said of Jackson. “I love him and as a coach, I’m looking forward to seeing it get done. But it’s not easy, you know? It’s never easy, it’s the business part of it, but I’m really hopeful and excited, fervently hopeful and can’t wait for it to get done.”
The Ravens have not yet decided whether to place the franchise tag — exclusive or nonexclusive — on Jackson, DeCosta said. But time is running out on that decision with the March 7 deadline to use the tag (nonexclusive for QBs priced at $32.416 million) looming in less than a week. The deadline to reach a long-term deal with franchise tagged players is July 17.
“We’re hopeful that we will get a deal done with Lamar before that happens,” DeCosta said. “But sure, they’re big (franchise tender) numbers. We’ve known they’re big numbers and are prepared that. We’ve got four or five or six different plans based on what happens over the next 10 days.”
DeCosta understands what’s at stake. Should the negotiations fall apart, rendering Jackson’s future in Baltimore even more unclear, it would mean the Ravens would need to start over at quarterback.
“You can’t win in this league without a strong quarterback,” DeCosta said. “You can’t win in this league without a strong quarterback. I mean, that’s been proven.
“We want Lamar here. We think he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league and he’s certainly one of our best players, and we want him back. … Living in a world without a quarterback is a bad world to live in. I think there’s a lot of GMs and coaches who would probably say that.”
DeCosta said that two years ago, when Jackson and the Ravens first started thinking about his future contract negotiations, the two of them had a handshake agreement not to discuss salaries, demands or anything else specific to the dealings publicly. When asked Wednesday if Jackson is demanding a fully guaranteed contract — as Deshaun Watson received last year from the Browns — DeCosta chose to respect their vow of silence on the matter.
Complicating the negotiations is the fact that Jackson, who has no official agent, is representing himself. That means DeCosta and Jackson have primarily been dealing with each other throughout this process. That’s not unprecedented — the Ravens struck a deal with Roquan Smith, who has no agent, this offseason. But it could create some awkward moments if DeCosta needed to explain why the team can’t pay Jackson more.
“You have a lot of regard for the player, first and foremost,” DeCosta said. I think when you deal with an agent, sometimes you’re able to speak very freely, position yourself a certain way or have different arguments that you can use that maybe you wouldn’t say to a player. I think that’s part of it.
“There’s a lot of respect, tremendous respect. … Every day you see (Jackson’s) commitment and understand where they’re coming from. It’s definitely a different dynamic. It can be challenging, but it’s doable as we’ve proven and we continue to be optimistic about it.”