Jackson hoping for extension “pretty soon” to be with Ravens “forever”

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson doesn’t sound as concerned about his long-term contract status as the many who’ve discussed it throughout the Ravens’ offseason.

Speaking to local reporters for the first time since the playoff loss at Buffalo, the star quarterback and 2019 NFL MVP said he discussed an extension with general manager Eric DeCosta “probably like a month or two ago,” but Jackson made his wishes clear even if he isn’t feeling any great sense of urgency. The Ravens have already exercised their fifth-year option for the 2022 season, meaning Jackson is set to make $23.106 million guaranteed next year after making just $1.77 million in base salary for the upcoming season.

“I would love to be here forever. I love Baltimore,” Jackson said after Wednesday’s organized team activity workout open to media. “I love the whole organization. I love everybody in the building. But hopefully, we’ll be making something happen pretty soon or whenever.”

Both sides have stated their desire for a long-term extension, but the details required to get to that point remain hazy. It’s no secret that Jackson never hired an agent during the pre-draft process or to sign his rookie contract as the 32nd overall pick of the 2018 draft. Asked whether he planned to represent himself during extension talks, the 24-year-old hesitated and smiled with a reply of “maybe.” 

With 2018 league MVP Patrick Mahomes signing a 10-year, $450 million extension with Kansas City last summer and Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott inking a four-year, $160 million deal in March, Jackson is expected to receive somewhere north of $40 million per season in terms of average annual value for a new contract. When that will happen is anyone’s guess, however, with Jackson not giving any strong indication of whether he’d put any deadlines or restrictions on negotiating during training camp or the regular season.

“Being honest, I’m really focused on the season. I’m focused on trying to win,” Jackson said. “I’m not really worried about if it gets done this year or next year. I’m just trying to build and stack, and we’re going to see. We don’t know yet.”

Bozeman “center” of attention

As anticipated since early in the offseason, veteran left guard Bradley Bozeman has made the switch to center, the position he played at the University of Alabama.

It remains to be seen who will be the new starter at left guard, but head coach John Harbaugh confirmed Bozeman, 26, is now the starting center and has “a lot of confidence” in him to handle the job.

“It doesn’t seem hard for him. He’s very comfortable in there,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s making the calls. He’s moving very naturally as a center. He’s snapping the ball very well. I think that’s where we’re at. That’ll be our starting point. Moving forward, he’ll be the center, and then we’ll let guys compete from there.”

Entering the final year of his rookie contract after being selected in the sixth round of the 2018 draft, the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Bozeman started every game at left guard over the last two seasons. The Ravens started three different players at center last season: Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari, and Trystan Colon.

Bateman, another rookie banged up

Rookie first-round wide receiver Rashod Bateman left the field early in Wednesday’s OTA before returning to the sideline and observing the remainder of the session, but concern appears to be minimal.

“It was kind of precautionary; he was here all last week with the rookies,” Harbaugh said. “There’s some soreness, some muscle soreness, things like that. We want to make sure we have recovery. I think just from a standpoint of we’re going to be very precautionary at this time and make sure we get the guys the recovery they need and not too many reps. That was the idea there.

“There’s no injury, but we want to make sure it stays that way with the muscle stuff, soft-tissue stuff.”

The health of rookie defensive tackle Xavier Kelly was a different story as the undrafted Arkansas product was carted off the field with what’s believed to be an Achilles tendon injury, according to The Athletic. Kelly’s exit left the Ravens with just three defensive linemen participating in Wednesday’s OTA with several veterans absent from the voluntary workout.

Injury report and attendance

Sixty-six of the 89 players on the offseason roster were suited up and took part in at least a portion of Wednesday’s workout with several other rehabbing players observing from the sideline.

Those watching included tight ends Nick Boyle (knee) and Jake Breeland (knee), cornerback Tavon Young (knee), and fullback Patrick Ricard. Harbaugh said Ricard is expected to take part in individual work “very soon” while Boyle will likely be held out until training camp.

Despite a statement being released through the NFL Players Association last month indicating that Ravens players wouldn’t take part in voluntary activities, Harbaugh has been pleased with spring attendance and didn’t indicate that any informal negotiating had taken place to adjust workouts.

“The fact that the guys are here, that’s great. There really was not much conversation,” Harbaugh said. “One thing we have talked a lot about is the vaccination stuff. Not in terms of trying to influence anybody, but in terms of understanding what will be required if you’re vaccinated or not vaccinated. Those were kind of the biggest conversations we’ve had along those lines.”

The following notable veterans weren’t present during Wednesday’s session: wide receiver Sammy Watkins, tight end Mark Andrews, guard Kevin Zeitler, left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee), outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith, and defensive linemen Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe, and Justin Ellis.