The Baltimore Ravens continue to work toward a contract extension with star quarterback Lamar Jackson, an act that has kept the team’s fan base biting their nails in anticipation.
Both sides are saying good things about the other, trusting the process will result in something that they can agree on. But there has been no indication as to when that will happen, and with free agency two weeks away, the Ravens would like to hammer something out so that they can get to their free-agent game plan.
That’s why GM Eric DeCosta took the podium at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday while knowing that his questions weren’t going to be about the NFL Draft prospects.
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Instead, he discussed Jackson first and foremost.
“You can’t win in this league without a strong quarterback. That’s been proven. So, we want Lamar here,” DeCosta said.
Head coach John Harbaugh has consistently backed Jackson’s talent and leadership at the quarterback position for this team, and he did so again Wednesday.
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“He’s my quarterback, he’s my guy. I love him,” Harbaugh said. “As a coach, I’m looking forward to seeing it get done. But it’s not easy. It’s never easy. It’s the business part of it. But I’m really hopeful and excited.”
What the Ravens would like to avoid, if possible, is franchise-tagging Jackson. There are two separate options: the exclusive tag, which doesn’t allow teams to talk to him, and the non-exclusive, which has the opposite effect. The non-exclusive would allow the Ravens to match any offer Jackson gets from another team or receive two first-round picks for letting him go.
“We’re hopeful to get a deal done with Lamar before that happens,” DeCosta said. “But sure, they’re big numbers. We’ve known they’re big numbers. We’re prepared for that. We have four or five or six different plans based on what happens over the next 10 days.”
Those numbers DeCosta mentioned depends on which tag the Ravens could use. One would think Baltimore would hit Jackson with the exclusive tag, which would be roughly $46 million for one year (average of the top five salaries at the position for 2023).
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Baltimore would have until July to work out an extension if a tag is used.
While that’s an option, as DeCosta said, the Ravens will continue working with Jackson to iron something out.
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The close is ticking, though. The franchise tag window is March 7. If Jackson isn’t tagged, he will become an unrestricted free agent.