When the Green Bay Packers came to a crossroads with Aaron Rodgers a year ago, the so-called stalemate was about everything but his contract.
Rodgers wanted more communication with the front desk, more involvement in the planning of the team, and more respect for the core veterans who built the culture. Added to all this is a huge side element for the league’s reigning MVP: an overhauled contract that makes him the undisputed first player in Green Bay for at least the 2023 season and the distinction of being the highest paid player in the NFL. When it was all over, the final scoreboard was undeniable.
Short-term promises that the Packers front office couldn’t guarantee were resolved in big colors with long-term guaranteed money.
This is the formula that will solve the stalemate between Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Write it down somewhere. Laminate it. No matter how long it takes to reach the inevitable number, revisit weeks, months, years later. Last September was about that. Now about that. And that’s what would happen if Jackson played the 2023 season under a franchise label. Focusing on anything else is a shell game moving around the same problem.
At Thursday’s press conference, when Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta reaffirmed the same thing they’ve been saying since the beginning of this negotiation, this should have been the conclusion: they want Jackson as the Ravens’ long-term quarterback. ; they want to make a deal; and they are in no hurry to explain to the public why all this has taken so long.
Somehow, despite the stance that the organization was in from the moment the negotiations started, all of this was treated as illuminating news. How certainly The team where Jackson is the future quarterback? Well, let Harbaugh use a little rhetoric to get the point home again.
“One hundred percent — you know, 200 percent,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “There is no doubt about it. Lamar Jackson is our quarterback. He became our quarterback. Everything we do in terms of building our offense and building our team, how we think in terms of the people around him, is based on this incredible young man and his talent, talent and competitiveness.”
Yes, if you’ve forgotten the stereotypes about hard work, communication, and optimism, you didn’t have a shortage of them on Thursday. Just as there is no shortage of window dressing issues, from Jackson providing input to the next offensive coordinator, to investing in a wide receiver depth chart, and surrounding offensive pieces ready to compete.
All of these are good signs, of course, when it comes to the Ravens wanting Jackson back. But still, the franchise never said that do not do I want Jackson back. What the ravens have said – over and over – is that this is a tough negotiation going on. The two sides could not reach an agreement. And that some contract negotiations are more difficult and time consuming than others.
Thursday was truly a one-sentence press conference and could have ended with DeCosta’s first sentence about his confidence in getting Jackson’s extension done: “Tango definitely takes two.”
It’s right there. This much. This is the message that the two sides are looking at each other and trying to find the exact contract number and set of guarantees that hold Jackson back in the long run, that this has been in the same place all along.
The ways to solve it are as simple as in August. Baltimore could meet with Jackson with the total guaranteed money he was looking for, or Jackson could soften his stance on how close he was to a fully guaranteed deal. If neither, Baltimore could seek continued control over Jackson’s future with franchise labels and either continue the journey or decline and force a trade-off.
This has always been the way forward, with several bridges to cross along the way. Negotiations continue this week from where they left off. Next month, the window opens for the team to put Jackson either a special franchise label (which will potentially result in a salary of around $45 million) or a non-private label (estimated at around $32.5 million). Private label means Jackson can only negotiate with Ravens. The non-exclusive tag would have resulted in Jackson being allowed to negotiate a free agency contract with other teams and then allowing Baltimore to either comply or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.
This tagging window opens on February 21 and extends until March 7. If neither side has an extension by then, Jackson will definitely be tagged. This is an inevitable result.
Once tagged, the burden passes to Jackson, who decides what the move means and how he will react. Would he immediately refuse to sign a private label and stay away from the team all season? Probably yes. Would he negotiate a deal with another team if he had a non-exclusive franchise label? Also, probably yes. Do they all come to a meaningful crossroads? Absolutely.
One way or another, we will find out just how insurmountable the chasm between Jackson and the Ravens is. Either by the use of a particular tag or by how Jackson reacted to it. The key exit is no bigger an enigma than when negotiations broke down last September.
This goes the Rodgers way. There will be a lot of side-shows, judgments, and platitudes about what matters. Money remains the main attraction. As usual.