— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) July 21, 2022
Concerns about a potential holdout were immediately squashed, only to be replaced by a possible “hold in”. Hold in players are those negotiating a new contract, who show up at camp and go to meetings, but they don’t physically participate during practice sessions.
Let’s just call it a passive-aggressive tactic. On Wednesday, we’ll find out if this unconventional ploy is one that Lamar plans to put into motion. The bet here is that he’ll practice per usual.
That said, nothing about this contractual saga involving Lamar and the Ravens seems usual or conventional. First, Lamar has no representation and that triggers unnecessary pressure between the team and the player. Making matters even more perplexing, Lamar doesn’t seem all that interested in talking about a new deal. Despite the fact that Murray’s deal sets the bar for talks with Lamar and despite the fact that there are no other franchise quarterbacks waiting for new deals to drive prices up even higher other than the Ravens No. 8, conventional thinking would suggest that the two sides could strike a deal.
Provided they want to.
More on that in a moment…
Average per year
1. Aaron Rodgers $50.2M
2. Kyler Murray $46.1M
3. Deshaun Watson $46M
4. Patrick Mahomes $45M
5. Josh Allen $43M
1. Deshaun Watson $230M
2. Kyler Murray $160M
3. Aaron Rodgers $150.8M
Where will Lamar Jackson eventually land?
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) July 21, 2022
I have to admit that when I saw the aforementioned video of Lamar walking into The Castle on Thursday, I thought the possibility of a new deal with Lamar was in play. And given the Ravens style, a Friday, happy hour announcement might be on its way.
The happy hour came and went without the elusive announcement.
Some believe that there’s a bit of gamesmanship going on between the two sides. Lamar has been rather coy about contract talks but did post this rather cryptic image to his Twitter timeline cover.
This image has since been wiped from Lamar’s Twitter account.
Meanwhile, the Ravens have maintained that they’ve reached out to Lamar a few times to discuss a deal without any meaningful progress – at least none they’ve publicly admitted to. GM Eric DeCosta is on record saying that the Ravens are operating on Jackson’s timetable in contract discussions while adding, “We will work at Lamar’s [Jackson] urgency. So, he and I have had ongoing discussions. We’ve talked fairly recently, as well. He knows how to find me; I know how to find him.”
There’s little reason to think that the Ravens are playing games. DeCosta and team owner Steve Bisciotti are known to be straight-forward and forthcoming. If anything, the most perplexing element in this contractual situation is Lamar’s passive approach to a new contract. The market is set. Go get yours. Close the deal. Why risk an injury when so much is at stake?
Not long ago Bisciotti shared a few interesting thoughts with Jeff Zrebiec from The Athletic. The more I ponder these thoughts, the more I think the Ravens have no plan to push Lamar towards the bargaining table.
“Everybody expects you to say, ‘I’ve got to get mine now,’” Bisciotti said. “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 that [Super Bowl win] to say, ‘Now, I deserve to be on top.’ People can speculate any way they want. I don’t think he is turned on by money that much and he knows it’s coming one way or the other.”
The Ravens have converted $8.965M of star CB Marlon Humphrey’s $10M base salary into a signing bonus, creating $7.172M in salary cap space, per source.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) July 25, 2022
Now that the Ravens have restructured the contract of Marlon Humphrey, they have enough cap wiggle room to get through the season and possibly make a modest signing or two. The cap space that a Lamar Jackson signing could provide in 2022 really isn’t needed since pricier free agents are long gone. The fact that the Humphrey restructure occurred might even suggest that the team doesn’t expect Lamar to sign anytime soon. Bisciotti even insinuated that Lamar could borrow a page from the Kirk Cousins’ book on skillful negotiations.
“Kirk Cousins did it that way. What if Lamar says that? ‘I’ll play on the fifth year. I’ll play on the franchise (tag), I’ll play on another franchise (tag) and then you can sign me. And that gives me three years to win the Super Bowl so you can make me a $60 million quarterback because that’s where it will be four years from now.’ That might be the case, but I don’t talk to Lamar. It’s not my role. I don’t know the answer.”
I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Bisciotti at length several times. His words are always purposeful. He takes a moment to absorb the question before responding and when he does, he’ll take you on a short journey, the destination of which provides clarity and a perspective that is refreshingly unique and on-point. So I’m quite certain that the Kirk Cousins approach has been discussed internally at One Winning Drive – and maybe the Ravens aren’t trying to discourage the methodology, assuming of course that is the angle that Lamar has adopted.
Looking back on the 2021 season, it’s hard to draw conclusions about Lamar’s level of play. Through 12 weeks when the Ravens were the AFC’s No. 1 seed sporting an (8-3) record, Lamar was in play for his second MVP award. Despite a shabby offensive line and without his one-two punch of Dobbins-Edwards in the backfield, Jackson carried the team on his back and showed signs of development in the passing game. But then suddenly, everything came undone as the season skidded sideways and out of control. The Ravens fell from the conference’s top perch to the bottom rung in the AFC North and while the free fall wasn’t all on Lamar, his noticeable drop off and repeated failures in the face of pressure is cause for concern.
Now the point could be made that the offensive line will be markedly improved in 2022 and that it’s safe to assume the running game could approach the 2019 form with the returns of Dobbins and Edwards. So maybe Lamar’s shoddy play during his last 4 complete games represents an aberration of sorts and his poor decision-making in the face of blitz schemes collectively are nothing more than a temporary lapse of reasoning.
But are we sure? Can we, and more importantly can the Ravens, successfully conclude that Lamar can counter the adjustments made by opposing defensive coordinators during that four game patch?
Ravens have been bottom-10 in o-line spending every single year since drafting Lamar Jackson… until this season
2022: #5 👀 https://t.co/kLktCkVCaC
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) July 24, 2022
At this point, the Ravens have time on their side thanks to that $23M fifth-year option and if they need it, the franchise tag in 2023 and 2024. There’s no pressing need to create cap space at the moment. There’s not another franchise quarterback waiting to sign a new contract that could push the market for such QB’s even higher. So if Lamar wants to play out the season and let his play do the talking, there’s no reason for the Ravens to get in the way of such intentions.
Just sit back and let it play out.
Like DeCosta said, “He knows how to find me; I know how to find him.”