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Lamar Jackson reveals trade request from Ravens, but does it really change anything?

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Lamar Jackson pulled back the curtain for the rest of the world on Monday, revealing he requested a trade from the Ravens more than three weeks ago. 

Explaining the organization “has not been interested in meeting my value,” the former NFL MVP posted the news on Twitter just as John Harbaugh was beginning a media session at the owners meetings in Phoenix, which was a miraculous coincidence if it weren’t deliberate. While the head coach was clearly aware of the trade request Jackson made on March 2, Harbaugh couldn’t have appreciated the timing of the announcement, especially in the wake of how optimistic he’s remained — at least publicly speaking — throughout the negotiating process between Jackson and general manager Eric DeCosta. 

Harbaugh tried to maintain that positive tone throughout Monday’s interview session, saying the Ravens continue to plan new coordinator Todd Monken’s offense around Jackson as their quarterback. He at least acknowledged he “can’t tell the future” with the uncertainty surrounding the 26-year-old’s future even before the trade request.

But as the surprise and angst over Jackson’s announcement wore off, reality returned to the forefront. 

What does this really change since it’s old news to the parties directly involved? 

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It’s worth noting that Jackson made the request five days before general manager Eric DeCosta announced Baltimore would be using the non-exclusive franchise tag, which was all but an invitation for the star quarterback to find a suitable deal with another team with the price of two first-round picks attached to an offer sheet if the Ravens wouldn’t match. But nearly two weeks since the start of the new league year when Jackson could begin negotiating with other teams, his market has appeared all but nonexistent with observers pointing to any number of reasons why, some more prominent than others. 

In a statement released March 7, DeCosta said he still hoped to “strike a long-term deal that is fair to both Lamar and the Ravens.” And even if he’s willing to grant Jackson’s trade wish as Baltimore did for Marquise Brown, Orlando Brown Jr., and Hayden Hurst in recent offseasons, it’s unclear whether a team will step up when there’s been so little evidence of anyone sniffing around during the offer sheet process, which isn’t drastically different from a trade if we’re being practical.

Might a team change its stance on Jackson if the fear of the Ravens matching an offer sheet were to be removed from the equation, or would other teams remain unwilling to meet his contract demands in addition to Baltimore’s asking price in a trade? 

At the very least, what Monday did reveal was a signal that Jackson — still without a certified agent — is finally willing to play some hardball, whether it proves to be effective or not.

To this point in the two-year saga, the two-time Pro Bowl selection has appeared too passive in negotiations, especially for someone desiring a fully-guaranteed contract in the wake of Deshaun Watson’s shocking deal with Cleveland last March. Skipping voluntary workouts last spring may have been a sign that all wasn’t well with negotiations, but such an act remained inconsequential in the big picture, especially when Jackson showed up for mandatory minicamp and training camp on time. The perceived disconnect over his knee injury late last season left many to wonder about the status of the two sides’ relationship, but the benefit of the doubt remained even as Jackson didn’t travel with the team for the wild-card playoff loss in Cincinnati. 

Announcing his trade request as “a business decision that was best” for him and his family — and abruptly putting his head coach under the media spotlight — isn’t something Jackson can deny or downplay like his bizarre handling of the Ken Francis reports last week. What is left to interpret is whether his now-public trade request is more of a negotiating ploy in a still-salvageable situation or a signal that Jackson is reaching the point of no return with the team that drafted him. 

But if no team comes calling to rescue Jackson at a price that appeases him or forces the Ravens to up their own offer, is he willing to go further by sitting out training camp or even the 2023 season, forgoing the $32.4 million non-exclusive tag amount? If he remains determined to get the Watson deal or something similar, this is where we remember the former Houston quarterback requested a trade and ultimately sat out the entire 2021 season, albeit with numerous allegations of sexual assault and harassment attached to his name.

If you never believed Jackson would request a trade, perhaps we should no longer assume he’ll give in and play on the tag in 2023. 

The Ravens seemingly gain leverage each day Jackson goes without another suitor, but what’s their plan at the most important position on the field if he is indeed willing to sit out? Does a quarterback prospect like Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker become a name of greater interest as the draft draws closer? 

Like we’ve said before, get comfortable being uncomfortable as this drama continues to unfold.

But as unsettling as Jackson’s tweets felt for Ravens fans still hoping for a compromise, did his revelation really change anything? 

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