It has been impossible to handicap the years-long standoff between Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, so good luck trying to do so as we head even deeper into uncharted waters.
With the Ravens having used the nonexclusive franchise tag on Jackson last month, executives and agents around the NFL think it’s increasingly unlikely that an offer sheet from another team will materialize before the draft, which begins April 27.
The Ravens have until July 17 to reach a contract extension with Jackson; otherwise, he could only play on a one-year tender, with the next notable deadline coming at the midseason trade deadline. (Jackson must report to the Ravens by Week 10 to avoid his contract tolling for next season.)
Jackson, a 26-year-old former MVP, reached this unfathomable place in part because he had no formal representation, instead gambling on himself by playing out his entire rookie contract.
But given each passing week in what has become one of the messier sagas in recent NFL history, the superstar might benefit from the services of an accomplished agent who could attempt to figure out why seemingly no franchise leaders even want to speak with him, let alone sign him.
Perhaps more importantly, formal representation might help Jackson gather evidence for a collusion case, should no market develop for a player of his magnitude at the game’s most important position.
Bizarre times, indeed, with owners spinning yarns about how exciting their middling young quarterbacks might be — Desmond Ridder! — and almost all QB-needy franchises distancing themselves from Jackson publicly or privately.
Jackson has further muddled things by going back and forth with fans on social media about his relationship with the Ravens, while his business partner, Ken Francis, ran afoul of the NFL’s management council for supposedly making improper inquiries on his behalf.
Lamar Jackson announces he has requested a trade from the Ravens
“It’s pretty crazy to me that no one is even talking to him,” said one general manager, whose team does not need a quarterback and who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to create problems with other organizations. “The Falcons. The Jets. The Colts. None of them.
Aaron Rodgers has a better market than him, right? Carolina gives up all of that to move up to [the first draft pick] without even talking to him. [Colts owner Jim] Irsay is okay taking the fourth quarterback in a so-so quarterback draft and doesn’t want to talk to him? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
As one NFL Players Association official put it: Owners “keep coming out and saying they don’t want to give him a guaranteed contract, but none of them want to speak directly to him to find out what he would actually want from them. They have the chance to find that out, but none of them want to. It’s totally ridiculous.”
So what should Jackson do now?
Three veteran agents praised him for going public with his trade demand late last month, putting more pressure on the Ravens and pushing back on the narrative that teams should refrain from trying to sign him to an offer sheet that Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti will simply match.
The agents suggested variations on a theme to nudge the process along — or at least to expose teams for pretending Jackson isn’t part of the quarterback marketplace by creating paper trails and data points.