Ravens, Lamar fail to reach agreement on deal

Sports

Lamar Jackson turned down the Baltimore Ravens‘ offers for a contract extension and is now betting on himself this season.

On Friday morning, the Ravens announced they were unable to come to an agreement on a new deal by the quarterback’s self-imposed deadline.

“Despite best efforts on both sides, we were unable to reach a contract extension with Lamar Jackson,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate how he has handled this process and we are excited about our team with Lamar leading the way. We will continue to work towards a long-term contract after the season, but for now we are looking forward to a successful 2022 campaign.”

Jackson, who is one of the few players in the NFL representing himself, had said he wanted to suspend talks before the start of the regular season. On Wednesday, he indicated that Friday would be the cutoff.

“I’m confident that’ll happen when it’s time,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after practice Friday. “Lamar is going to be playing quarterback here for a long time. He and I talked about it yesterday like, ‘Hey man, let’s go be our best and go focus on football.’ And that’s what he’s been doing all along. So I know nothing will change with that and we’re just focused on Sunday.”

It was not expected that the sides would reach a deal before the start of the season. In March, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged that Deshaun Watson‘s fully guaranteed $230 million deal with the Cleveland Browns would complicate future negotiations with quarterbacks. The gap in guaranteed money between Watson and the second-highest-paid quarterback, Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals, is $40.5 million.

If the sides are unable to reach a new deal by March 7, Baltimore would have to place the franchise tag on Jackson to keep him from becoming a free agent. The only quarterback over the past five years to receive the tag was Dak Prescott, who eventually reached a long-term contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

Jackson, 25, will make $23.016 million in his fifth-year option but has no guaranteed money after this season. Over the past six months, three quarterbacks have signed deals that have exceeded $165 million in guaranteed money.

Jackson, who has taken more hits (737) than any other quarterback since 2018, was asked this week whether he feels it’s a risk to play with no guaranteed money beyond this season.

“It was a pretty big risk last season. The year before,” Jackson said Wednesday. “I’m just playing football. Anything can happen. God forbid the wrong thing happens.”

Jackson has proved to be one of the NFL’s top playmakers and winners over the past four seasons. Since he became the Ravens’ starter midway through the 2018 season, Baltimore is 37-12 (.755) with him and 2-5 (.286) without him. He was the unanimous NFL MVP in 2019.

But Jackson is coming off his most challenging season. He threw a career-worst 13 interceptions and missed a career-high five games, including the last four because of an ankle injury.

The last time a Ravens quarterback turned down Baltimore’s offers for a contract extension and played out his rookie deal was Joe Flacco in 2012. That year, Flacco led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title and then became the highest-paid player in the NFL the following offseason.

On Sunday, Jackson and the Ravens face Flacco on Sunday in their season opener at the New York Jets.

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