No assurances, but Beckham and Ravens betting on Jackson staying for 2023

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Odell Beckham Jr. and and the Ravens are buying stock in Lamar Jackson remaining in Baltimore this coming season. 

Of course, that was an easier bet for the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver to make after the Ravens guaranteed him a lucrative $15 million for one season, but the 30-year-old is also aiming to jump-start a once-sensational career that’s been derailed by injuries. Beckham knows such a quest will be easier if Jackson is his quarterback this coming fall, but he received no guarantees from the organization while still acknowledging “the goal was to come here and have that possibility to play with him.” 

Time will tell whether that happens as very little about this saga has been easy to predict, including the Ravens giving the richest single-season wide receiver salary in franchise history to someone who didn’t even play last year. Such a one-year commitment certainly isn’t something you’d expect the Ravens to be making if they were resigned to starting over at quarterback this season.

“I didn’t get any assurances for anything. Life is uncertain,” said Beckham, who was flanked by general manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh during his introductory press conference. “We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, the next day. We only know what’s happened in the past, so to me, it was just excitement about the possibility of that. My thoughts would be that he would be here. I know that these two want him to be here. At the end of the day, it’s going to be up to them.” 

After declining to address Jackson’s status — or to even mention him by name — during last week’s pre-draft press conference, DeCosta returned to a more familiar tone on Thursday, confirming he has spoken to Jackson since the 2019 NFL MVP requested to be traded early last month while declining to divulge any details of their conversation. According to DeCosta, there was also “interaction along the way” of the organization’s pursuit of Beckham, a process that began last season and picked up after the 5-foot-11, 198-pound wideout worked out for multiple teams in Arizona last month. 

Though DeCosta said he hadn’t spoken to Jackson since coming to terms on an agreement with Beckham on Sunday evening, he made very clear where the Ravens stand with their franchise quarterback after more than two years of unsuccessful contract talks and the use of the non-exclusive franchise tag, which opened the door for other teams to pursue him. To this point, no other suitor is believed to have shown meaningful interest in Jackson, whose tag is worth $32.4 million for the 2023 season. 

“Lamar is in our plans. We love Lamar. Our feelings about Lamar have not changed one bit since the end of the season,” DeCosta said. “We’re hopeful still that we’ll get a long-term deal done. He’s the right player for this team to lead us to where we want to be. I think the locker room knows that; the organization knows that; I think the fan base knows that. 

“It’s ongoing, but I can’t think of a situation where we wouldn’t think that our best team is with Lamar Jackson on the team in September.” 

The words sounded all too familiar, but even without a long-term deal, Jackson has no shortage of motivation to have a strong season, something that would now be easier with a healthy Beckham catching passes from him.

In what was the most encouraging sign regarding his 2023 status in weeks — at least from the Ravens’ perspective — Jackson went to Instagram to post a screen capture of his FaceTime call with Beckham not long after news of the agreement leaked. That wasn’t something you’d expect to see if Jackson truly had no intentions of playing for the Ravens again, leading one to believe his trade request was more of a negotiating tactic than a cold ultimatum. 

Asked about that Sunday conversation with Jackson, Beckham said he “could definitely tell that he was excited about the opportunity to be able to get to work if that does present itself,” once again deferring to the organization’s decision-makers regarding the business side. 

“Obviously, I would assume that it’s going to work out. I have that faith and that hope,” Beckham said. “And Lamar, I know — if you’re watching — I would love to get to work with you. I’ll talk to these guys over here. And hopefully that gets done. 

“When you think about the Ravens, you definitely think about Lamar, and I was excited about that possibility.” 

The hefty payday absolutely helped, but Jackson staying was a bet Beckham was still willing to make.

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