Lamar Jackson’s Relationship With Ravens Is ‘Fractured’: Report

Lamar Jackson

Getty Lamar Jackson's relationship with the Baltimore Ravens is "fractured," according to a report.

Lamar Jackson getting the non-exclusive franchise tag from the Baltimore Ravens is a sign the quarterback’s relationship with the franchise is “fractured.” That’s according to Mike Sando of The Athletic, who explained the strategy behind using a tag that allows other teams to negotiate with arguably the most dynamic player at his position in the NFL.

Sando described how the point of contention is value: “My read is that the Ravens and Jackson fundamentally disagree over his value, and the relationship between the parties is fractured.”

The Ravens surprised some by putting the non-exclusive tag on Jackson before the deadline on Tuesday, March 7, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:

The surprise comes from the Ravens leaving the door ajar for a team to make Jackson an offer. If he likes the offer, but the Ravens won’t match it, they get two first-round draft picks in return.

It seems straightforward, but Sando and others believe the Ravens are taking a calculated risk nobody will offer those picks for Jackson.

Ravens ‘Calling Bluff’ Strategy Is Risky

Sando believes “Baltimore is calling Jackson’s bluff regarding his worth, but that is not all. Had the Ravens gone the exclusive route, the status quo would have prevailed, because there would not have been a mechanism available for a third party to jump-start talks. The stalemate likely would have continued. Now, there could be movement.”

The note about wanting to generate “movement” is interesting. It speaks to the stalemate the Ravens have found themselves in with Jackson recently.

Rapoport provided details by revealing the Ravens are trying to sign Jackson to a long-term deal: “They have tried a variety of different ways. They have tried deals heavy in guarantees. They have tried all sorts of ways to get Lamar Jackson to respond and to take some sort of deal that would make him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL.”

As Rapoport noted, using a tag that allows Jackson to still have conversations with other teams, is a way for the Ravens to let the market set his value. If Jackson isn’t offered what he’s expecting elsewhere, he’s more likely to accept what the Ravens are willing to give him.

Or so the logic goes. For some, including Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus, using the non-exclusive tag is still a “shocking development.”

It’s telling both Spielberger and Rapoport made mention of “guarantees.” The amount of money the Ravens will rubber-stamp in his next deal has become a major issue during these negotiations.

Part of the problem is the benchmark set by the Cleveland Browns when they gave Deshaun Watson a record $230 million fully guaranteed last offseason. Being forced to do something similar is the main thing the Ravens want to avoid.

Ravens Won’t Meet Deshaun Watson Benchmark

Sando thinks the Ravens “would prefer moving on from Jackson to paying him the type of deal Watson received, which is why they are willing to use the non-exclusive tag.”

General manager Eric DeCosta’s reticence to meet the Watson and Browns threshold is understandable, despite Jackson’s obvious talents. For one thing, the 26-year-old has been hampered by injuries in recent years, much to the detriment of the Ravens.

An ankle problem ruled him out of the final five games of the 2021 season. The Ravens went 0-5 without him and missed the playoffs.

History repeated itself when a PCL injury kept Jackson on the shelf for the business end of last season, including the 24-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs. The Ravens’ recent Super Bowl window has legitimately been pushed closer to shut by Jackson’s struggles to stay on the field.

Yet, if there’s any bad feeling from the Ravens, their QB1 could return the disdain over the front office’s inability to equip him with marquee wide receivers. Jackson needs better targets and a more expansive passing scheme.

If he can’t get those things from the Ravens, Jackson will likely want to pursue those opportunities elsewhere. That’s assuming there are suitors for a trade.

It’s barely credible somebody wouldn’t want to part ways with prime draft capital for a playmaker like Jackson, but teams were all too eager to deny interest in the aftermath of the Ravens using the tag.

Among them, Josh Kendall, who covers the Atlanta Falcons for The Athletic, quickly ruled the NFC South franchise out of any race for Jackson:

Kendall’s denial came on the heels of Heavy’s Senior NFL Reporter Matt Lombardo being told by a league source “the Lamar Jackson conversation between the Ravens and Falcons progressed tremendously.” at the Scouting Combine.

If Jackson’s left on the tag for long, expect at least one team to step forward to at least discuss a deal. The only way for DeCosta and the Ravens to avoid this is to repair a relationship seemingly going downhill fast.