Offseason of discontent for Ravens, Jackson continues with no end in sight

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The Lamar Jackson takes are everywhere, some more grounded in reality and logic than others. 

The Ravens are screwing over their former NFL MVP quarterback who’s meant everything to their success — past, present, and future! 

Jackson is greedy and holding the only organization that took a chance on him hostage! 

The 32 owners are obviously colluding!

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The NFL Players Association is taking advantage of the 26-year-old to do its dirty work! 

Baltimore — or any team — should just give Jackson whatever he wants while also putting top talent around him. 

Nobody else wants a declining, oft-injured player who hasn’t been able to finish each of the last two seasons. 

The cost of a massive guarantee and two first-round picks, the realities of the salary cap, and the Ravens’ ability to simply match any offer sheet are nonstarters for most teams.

If you really need a franchise quarterback, such variables shouldn’t matter. 

Jackson needs an agent.

No, he doesn’t. 

Deshaun Watson’s contract is a foolish outlier handed out by one of the worst franchises in American sports over the last 25 years. 

That deal is the new cost of doing business for an elite quarterback, and the Ravens had more than a year to sign Jackson before it came to that anyway. 

Yes, it’s all so exhausting and repetitive as many try to find the villain in a story that may or may not have one. Like it or not, both the Ravens and Jackson have arguments with merit, regardless of whether you agree with them or their methods. 

But a week into the start of the new league year, the ratio of speculation to actual substance regarding this saga is out of control. To this still-early point in the process, outside interest does appear to be lacking or is at least working very quietly in the shadows. There’s no guarantee it stays that way, of course, with Jackson having no incentive to sign the non-exclusive franchise tag or accept Baltimore’s best offer before next month’s draft when teams could potentially pivot on their thinking at quarterback. At the same time, the deeper we move into the offseason, the more difficult it becomes for any team to transform its salary cap and roster construction to the degree necessary to sign Jackson to the kind of offer sheet the Ravens would have difficulty matching.  

The best advice for Ravens fans is to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Look no further than Tuesday’s report from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk as a prime example. Being taken aback by a Jackson representative telling teams he’s “ready to move on from the Ravens” is denying reality at this point. 

After more than two years of unsuccessful negotiations, even the most optimistic purple supporters need to let go of warm fuzzies and the idea of this being a kumbaya relationship between Jackson and the organization. That doesn’t mean a compromise won’t still be reached, but it may even get downright ugly before this is all over.

The truth is the Ravens assumed real risk — calculated as it might be — of losing their star quarterback by not giving him the contract he wants and ultimately using the non-exclusive franchise tag to invite other teams to try to sign him. Meanwhile, Jackson is never going to get the massive guarantee he desires by telling other teams he isn’t ready and willing to leave the Ravens — even if he still wants to stay in Baltimore. Until Jackson explicitly states he wants out — and even that wouldn’t guarantee anything — the notion of him being “ready to move on” doesn’t warrant such hyperventilating.  

This is a tough negotiation after all. 

Even more difficult is its impact on Baltimore’s offseason as the Ravens remain the only NFL team not to have added an outside player via free agency or trade since the start of the new league year. It appears that general manager Eric DeCosta is maintaining as much salary cap flexibility as possible to match a potential offer sheet, but that’s not helping improve the rest of the 2023 roster in the meantime, leaving the Ravens in no man’s land. At the same time, what wide receiver or notable veteran chasing a Super Bowl is eagerly signing up — at least at a team-friendly price — without knowing if Jackson is even going to be here? 

Yes, the Ravens seem stuck for the time being, and that’s a sobering thought, especially with the July 17 deadline for a long-term contract still nearly fourth months away and there being no guarantee of a resolution even by then. If you think things are frustrating now, imagine going through this all over again next year. 

What is clear is no one should be making any strong assumptions about how this is all going to play out. With each passing day, the smart money remains on Jackson staying put for at least 2023, but how confident can anyone really be after more than two years of a negotiation that was supposed to be a non-story still being one today?  

Unfortunately, this offseason of discontent has no end in sight for the Ravens or Jackson. 

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