Analysis: Ravens are Lamar Jackson’s best, only option
PHOENIX (AP) — Lamar Jackson’s frustration over contract negotiations reached a boiling point when he announced Monday that he has requested a trade from the Baltimore Ravens.
Staying in Baltimore might be his best and only option.
“We made a decision to go with Lamar Jackson five years ago,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix soon after reporters informed him that Jackson revealed he asked for a trade on March 2. “Why? Because we love him. We love the way he plays. We love his mindset. We love his charisma, his style. The way he is in the locker room. Everything about him, we love him. I love him personally. I love being the coach of the team he’s playing for. That’s what you do. You build a team around your players, and that’s what I’m excited to do.”
If the two sides can’t agree on a long-term deal by July 17, Jackson could play this season on the $32.4 million franchise tag.
The 2019 NFL MVP hasn’t generated any interest in free agency after the Ravens placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on him. Some teams immediately said they wouldn’t pursue Jackson. The Washington Commanders joined that list Monday.
“There are a ton of talented players that could help us that we don’t end up talking to for various reasons, and Lamar falls into that category,” Commanders general manager Martin Mayhew said.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has suggested owners are colluding against Jackson.
“I have never witnessed teams being so quick to publicly announce their lack of interest in an MVP quarterback, who is in his prime and who is also going to get an injury guarantee, regardless of his contract,” Smith wrote on the union’s website. “The fact that right behind Jackson await quarterbacks like Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert, who have performed at extremely high levels under their rookie deals.
“A fully guaranteed contact in Jackson’s instance means that all quarterbacks on expiring rookie contracts will (and should anyway) demand them in the next cycle. Make no mistake, what is occurring right now is their effort to block the same cycle that ushered in fully guaranteed contracts in other sports.”
But Jackson’s situation is more complex.
A team that signs him to an offer sheet would lose two first-round picks if Baltimore declined to match the deal. Jackson missed 10 games over the past two seasons because of injuries, so teams could view him as a risk and would prefer building around a young quarterback playing on a rookie contract.
The major sticking point between Jackson and the Ravens is the guaranteed money.
Jackson saw Deshaun Watson get a fully guaranteed $230 million, five-year deal from the Cleveland Browns last season and wants one, too.
Jackson has a point. He’s accomplished more than Watson and doesn’t have the baggage. The Browns gave Watson that deal despite a looming suspension for sexual misconduct only after he said he wasn’t interested in playing for Cleveland.
The Browns couldn’t have persuaded Watson to agree to a trade without promising a fully guaranteed contract, so the hapless franchise made a desperate decision.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti publicly criticized the Browns for doing it and other owners quietly bemoaned the deal.
“I don’t know that he should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others,” Bisciotti said last year.
No team has done it since.
Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray signed lucrative contracts last season with partial guarantees. Derek Carr, Daniel Jones and Geno Smith are other QBs who signed big deals this offseason with partial guarantees.
Kirk Cousins previously got a fully guaranteed deal from the Minnesota Vikings in 2018 but it was only worth $84 million over three years. The Ravens already offered Jackson far more. He said he turned down a $133 million, three-year contract that was fully guaranteed.
Another factor is Jackson is acting as his own agent. That can be tricky in contract negotiations of this magnitude, though Harbaugh made a point to praise Jackson’s negotiating ability.
This is one dispute where both parties have strong arguments. ___ AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL