Lamar Jackson talked to the media for the first time this offseason today. He elected to train on his own during OTAs and did not report to the Baltimore Ravens facility until the start of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
The very first question asked? Why did he not attend the voluntary portion of the Ravens’ offseason workouts?
“I just wanted to stay away and just grind,” Jackson told the media. “I just wanted to come back and see how I felt. I feel good. I asked my guys how would they feel if I stay at home. They [said] it’s cool. I want to get some chemistry, they’ll tell me they want to get some chemistry. I [said] we’re gonna get that regardless when we get back. When we first started [the] offseason back in February James Proche and [Rashad Bateman] was out in California with me.”
A logical question to start the press conference with, but the reason for it was the question that followed, which would be the dominating topic for the entire nine-minute session.
The Ravens picked up their fifth-year option on Jackson’s rookie contract, guaranteeing him $23 million for the 2022 season, but that’s it. They could franchise-tag him next year, but this is not a situation where starting quarterbacks find themselves, especially after winning an MVP in their second season.
Patrick Mahomes signed his nine-figure extension after two seasons as the Kansas City Chiefs starting quarterback. Josh Allen, taken by the Bills in the same draft as Jackson, signed his extension after his third. Jackson’s average-yearly salary before this season was $2.3 million, and he has been playing on that deal from 2018-21.
He told the media that his decision to be elsewhere during OTAs had nothing to do with his contract, and following that he was mostly evasive when asked about the status of his extension. Jackson — who represents himself — repeatedly gave this standard response, “we’re having conversations.”
Ravens team owner Steve Biscotti said in late April that the onus is on Jackson to get those conversations started.
“[GM] Eric [DeCostra] can’t keep calling him and going, ‘Hey Lamar, you really need to get in here and get this thing done,’” Biscotti said to the media. “It’s not a GM’s job.”
That much is very true. While the Ravens’ front office appears to have as good of a working relationship with their players as any team in the NFL, it’s still running a business. If a player isn’t prioritizing negotiating a new contract, then they can use that time and energy on someone else on the roster, or on bringing in new talent.
It’s also Jackson’s prerogative to take his contract negotiations at whatever pace he feels comfortable, and it’s really nobody’s business but his. However, a person can’t help but be curious why someone like Jackson, in line for potentially a $300 million extension with at least half of it fully guaranteed, is playing on a fifth-year team-option, something quarterbacks usually only settle for when they have no choice. Jackson is the face of the franchise along with his snazzy vizor.
When he doesn’t answer questions on why he doesn’t have a new contract when the Ravens are on the record saying that they’re ready to negotiate, people will make up their own theories because the situation is puzzling. Biscotti said the reason he believes Jackson hasn’t been in a rush to get an extension done is, “The kid is so obsessed with winning a Super Bowl, that I think deep down he doesn’t think he’s worthy. I think he wants to say, ‘Now I deserve to be on top.’”
When asked about those comments, Jackson did shoot down that ludicrous logic.
“I still want my Super Bowls, but I think I’m worthy [of a contract extension].”
As odd as is the way Jackson’s contract situation has played out to people on the outside looking in, who have content they want to produce over the summer off of it, we should just leave him alone. It truly is no one’s business how he decides to handle this.
Jackson has decided to bet on himself both on the field as a football talent and off the field in representing himself as the person who truly has his best interests at heart. Those are the only legitimate conclusions that can be drawn at the moment. Any assumptions made that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s making a huge mistake, or that the Ravens are taking advantage of him should be avoided.
Maybe Jackson will be a trendsetter for future rookie quarterbacks, or possibly a cautionary tale. That judgment can be made at the end of his career. For now he doesn’t want to talk about how, at the moment, he’s still playing on the final year of his rookie deal. While it shouldn’t be assumed that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he also shouldn’t be used as some pillar of some grand “there’s no I in team,” ideal.
He’s going about his business in a different way. He can do what he wants.