A year ago, when the Green Bay Packers were looking at a crossroads with Aaron Rodgers, the stalemate was allegedly about everything but his contract.
Rogers wanted to communicate more with the front office, be more involved in team planning, and have more respect for the core veterans who built the culture. All of that, plus one giant extra item for the league’s current MVP: a revamped contract that made him the undisputed starter for Green Bay through at least the 2023 season, as well as being the highest paid player in the NFL. When it was all over, the final score was undeniable.
Whatever short-term promises the Packers front office could not guarantee, they were honored with long-term guaranteed money.
This is the formula that will resolve the stalemate between Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Write it down. Laminate it. Revisit it in weeks, months, years, however long it takes to reach the inevitable number. This is what was about last September. This is what we are talking about now. And that’s what it’s all about if Jackson ends up playing the 2023 season under the franchise tag. Focusing on anything else is a shell game that revolves around the same issue.
That was to be taken out at Thursday’s press conference, with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta confirming the same thing they’ve been saying since the start of these talks: They want Jackson to be the Ravens’ long-term starting quarterback. “. ; they want to make a deal; and are not in a hurry to publicly tell in detail why it all dragged on for so long.
Somehow, all of this was taken as revealing news, despite the fact that this was exactly the position that the organization had taken since the beginning of the negotiations. As Of course a team where Jackson is the future quarterback? Well, let Harbaugh add some rhetoric to get the point across again.
“One hundred percent — you know, 200 percent,” Harbaugh said on Thursday. “There is no doubt about that. Lamar Jackson is our protector. He was our protector. Everything we’ve done in terms of building our offense and our team, as we think in terms of the people around him, is based on this incredible young man, his talent, his ability and his competitiveness.”
Yes, if you forgot the platitudes about hard work, communication and optimism, there was no shortage of them on Thursday. Just as there was no shortage of window dressing, from Jackson contributing the next attack coordinator, to investing in a wide receiver depth table, to surrounding offensive elements ready to compete.
Of course, these are all good signs when it comes to the Ravens wanting Jackson back. But then again, the franchise never said that. not I want Jackson back. The Ravens have repeatedly stated that difficult negotiations are underway. That both sides didn’t make a deal. And that some contract negotiations are more difficult and time consuming than others.
Thursday was indeed a one-sentence press conference that could have ended with DeCosta’s first line about his confidence that Jackson’s renewal would be made: “It definitely takes two to tango.”
Right there. That’s all. It’s a message that it’s the same as it was from the beginning, with the two sides looking at each other and trying to figure out the exact contract number and set of guarantees that’s holding Jackson up in the long run.
The ways to solve this problem are as simple as in August. Baltimore can satisfy Jackson on the full guaranteed amount of money he’s seeking, or Jackson can soften his stance on how close he is to a fully guaranteed deal. If nothing happens, Baltimore can seek further control of Jackson’s future through franchise tags, and he can either agree to the trip or refuse and force him to trade.
It has always been the way forward, with various bridges to cross along the way. This week, negotiations will pick up where they left off. A window opens next month for the team to supply Jackson with either a franchise-exclusive tag (which could result in a salary of around $45 million) or a non-exclusive tag (projected to be around $32.5 million). The exclusive tag means that Jackson can only negotiate with the Ravens. The non-exclusive tag would have resulted in Jackson being allowed to enter a free agent contract with other teams and then allowing Baltimore to make a deal or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.
This tag window opens on February 21st and will run until March 7th. If both parties do not make an extension by then, Jackson will be tagged for sure. This is a foregone conclusion.
Once it’s tagged, the burden shifts to Jackson deciding what the move means and how he’ll react to it. Will he immediately refuse to sign an exclusive label and be absent from the team for the entire off-season? Probably yes. Would he make a deal with another team if he was tied to a non-exclusive franchise? Also, most likely, yes. Does it all come to a meaningful crossroads? Absolutely.
One way or another, we’ll find out just how unbridgeable the gulf between Jackson and the Ravens is. Either through the use of a particular tag or how Jackson reacts to it. The key is no more of a mystery than when negotiations broke down last September.
It goes down the Rogers road. There will be many interludes, resolutions and platitudes about what is important. Money remains the main attraction. Just like it’s always been.