Maybe Lamar Jackson has finally realized he needs an agent to handle contract negotiations.
The star quarterback negotiated on his own behalf with the Ravens, but was outbid during the nearly 2 1/2-year process. The team beat him when he did applied the non-exclusive franchise tag on him on Tuesday.
While some said it was risky business for the Ravens to allow Jackson to sign with another team, I thought the decision was superb and showed that the team’s front office thoroughly studied the landscape and his value throughout league.
The excitement at The Castle might be a little subdued, but there was definitely a bit of a high.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta could have used the exclusive franchise tag on Jackson, 26, which would cost about $45 million, but instead chose the non-exclusive tag, which is about $32.4 million USD.
Jackson is free to begin negotiations with other teams on Monday, and the Ravens would have five days to match that offer or allow the former Louisville star to move on and receive two first-round picks from that team in exchange .
So essentially, the Ravens are willing to allow Jackson to test the open market to determine his value. But since the Ravens applied the tag, quarterback-needy teams like Atlanta, Carolina, Washington and Las Vegas have said they have no interest in him.
Was there collusion between the teams to reset the quarterback market after Cleveland signed Deshaun Watson to a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract last season?
A better question is when hasn’t there been some form of collusion when a top talent is involved in negotiations or looking for a job?
That’s why Jackson needs an agent. They know and have relationships with various general managers around the league. They have a better feel for executives and are more in tune than those who gave Jackson advice in the NFL Players Association. Agents are buffers that can filter through complaints and personal accusations.
Jackson has no one to blame but himself.
The team to watch right now is the New York Jets. If their negotiations with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers fall through, they will make a push for Jackson because coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas know they will likely be fired if New York doesn’t make the postseason. They think they are one quarterback away from being a contender.
That’s when the Jackson situation will get interesting, but hear me out…the Ravens should only take the two first round picks.
Jackson must be offended and embarrassed by the Ravens applying the non-exclusive tag, but it’s hard to imagine them investing $45 million in a disgruntled quarterback who has missed 11 games due to injuries in the final months of the past two seasons. Why would any general manager or coach put their team in jeopardy again with another one-year deal?
If the Ravens re-sign Jackson to a long-term deal, coach John Harbaugh will have a lot to do in the locker room. All this player talk in support of Jackson is just bullshit. They’ll have each other’s backs because one day they could be in the same situation, but some have privately questioned their desire to return from a sprained knee last season.
In six seasons, Jackson has already become one of the most polarizing athletes in Baltimore history. The win-loss record (45-16 regular season) is impressive, and the performance of the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player was simply amazing.
Jackson has won just one playoff game since the Ravens drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick. 32, and his inaccuracy and deficiencies as a passer may be why some teams have rejected him recently.
But the turning point, when he alienated a lot of Baltimore fans, was not being on the sideline with the Ravens during the playoff loss at Cincinnati in January. It was unforgettable and will only be unforgivable if he wins big in Baltimore.
Ravens are not blameless. Lowballers were initially known in negotiations, something that dates back to when Ozzie Newsome started as general manager before being replaced by DeCosta in January 2019.
There will be some retaliation from players around the league in free agency because of how they treated Jackson. But overall I liked their approach.
Owner Steve Bisciotti never backed down from his original comments about how poorly the Browns handled the Watson negotiations and that he was never going to give Jackson a fully guaranteed contract.
DeCosta pursued Jackson, but not to the point where he was going to bankrupt the team. You pay quarterbacks like Rodgers, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes to elevate and carry their teams, but Jackson is not in that class. He’s a good player, not a great one.
When talks with DeCosta and Jackson broke down, the Ravens brought in Newsome, the league’s first black general manager, who will continue in the black community if Jackson leaves.
But that probably would have been different if Jackson had an agent. He should have signed a five-year deal, with three of those seasons guaranteed and renegotiated starting on or after the third year.
But he didn’t have an agent for advice, and now he could only get a fully guaranteed contract if the Jets fall through with Rodgers.
The Ravens won because Jackson was unfamiliar with this arena. As talented as he is, he didn’t know how to play this game.