Sports

Lamar Jackson’s contract weirdness, Bruce Arians news and more

In the latest NFL offseason drama, the Baltimore Ravens are saying they want to extend quarterback Lamar Jackson. Incredibly, Jackson isn’t engaging. What next?

The Baltimore Ravens say they want to extend Lamar Jackson. But is Jackson interested?

Jackson, one of the league’s best quarterbacks, is entering his fifth-year option and due $23 million. Yet he isn’t returning the urgency of Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta.

The theories of why are aplenty. Some believe Jackson eventually wants out of Baltimore, something he denied on Twitter last week. Others say it’s because he’s determined to win a Super Bowl and will worry about his financials later. For a player due top-dollar at the sport’s most-expensive position, that’s hard to believe.

However it’s important to note, Jackson is without an agent. His mother, Felicia Jones, is his representation. It’s an incredibly tough negotiation to ask for near $50 million annually and potentially record-breaking money with a high-powered agent. Without one, good luck.

While this situation has been stalled for awhile, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti gave an interesting quote at the NFL’s Owner’s Meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday. Bisciotti, who rarely speaks publicly about his team’s contractual dealings, offered this nugget, via the team’s website:

“Unless he has a change of heart, calls Eric and says ‘I’m ready.’ Eric can’t keep calling him and going, ‘Hey Lamar, you really need to get in here and get this thing done.’ It’s not a GM’s job.

“Eric can structure contracts any way he wants. I think we’re a pretty aggressive team and when Lamar’s ready…we’ll pay him when he’s ready.”

So where is this headed? FanSided reached out to three prominent agents and a former NFL general manager to get their perspectives on the situation. Here are their comments via text messages:

Agent #1: “Weird deal to be honest. If I’m Eric (DeCosta) I don’t do a thing. Kid isn’t a franchise quarterback (in my opinion) especially based on franchise decision-making like this. Let it play itself out and all your answers will come over the 17-week season. If you think he’s a Super Bowl winning quarterback on the level of Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, etc., then $40-42 million is the safe number.

“Once you get (to the) $45-50 million range it can destroy your franchise and Eric has been burned overpaying for talent, or declining talent, before.”

Agent #2: “If I were his agent I would want to reset the market. Fully guaranteed contract with more full guarantee at signings and a higher APY than (Deshaun) Watson. The guy who just set the market hasn’t played football in over a year and comes with an inordinate amount of risk. Furthermore, I don’t believe the Ravens won a game without Lamar last year — or close to that.  Any offer less than that is disresepctful.

“DeCosta may not like it, but the market is what the market bears. There is no logical, credible argument that Lamar Jackson hasn’t earned more in every metric than Watson. He has to give him the deal or he has to franchise (tag) him. There’s no middle ground in this one. I just hope Lamar realizes that and doesn’t screw this up.”

Agent #3: “I’d ask to be the highest paid with a no-trade and no franchise/transition clause.

“Ravens know they gotta pay about $95 million (over the) next three years with the option and two franchise tags. Will they have the stomach to take that to close to $150 million? Doubt it.”

Former GM: “I would look for options, not saying move on — I would just have to make sure we were covered. Some of the worst deals we make as GMs are done when we have no options. That makes you desperate and having to overpay. It might cost them a second-round pick but I’d find a guy I like, that we can develop. Say Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky, who I like and have a hunch about — and draft him. You can never go wrong with spending some capital on a QB.

“I think Lamar is giving them reasons to find other options if it’s true he is not interested in signing. When the media says ‘what are you doing?’ you have a legit reason — I’m doing. what’s best for the Ravens. As far as what kind of money should be offered, just look at the market. He’s not Pat Mahomes, he’s not Josh Allen, he’s not Aaron Rodgers, he’s probably not Deshaun Watson, probably not Matthew Stafford at this point but everybody has their list of where he should fit in. It doesn’t matter what we think — it’s what the Ravens think and how they fit him in. They offer him that and make a little premium but we all have limits.”

Speaking of limits, the Cleveland Browns paid quarterback Deshaun Watson a record $230 million guaranteed over five seasons despite facing 22 civil suits alleging sexual assault and misconduct. If you’re Jackson, as our first source pointed out, you should be asking far more. After all, Jackson has a clean off-field record, was an unanimous MVP, has the same amount of playoff victories and division titles, and is a year younger.

Yet in the same interview as outlined above, Bisciotti talked about the Watson deal in relation to negotiations with Jackson and said the following:

“Acknowledging that it could have an impact is different than me worrying about it. My competitors have always done things differently than us. You have to stake out your way. We don’t change because of that.

“I had a reaction to it. I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract. To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking and it will make negotiations harder with others. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to play that game. If I was in bogged-down negotiations with Lamar, then maybe I would have a quicker reaction to that news.”

Bisciotti didn’t say the exact words, but it sounds like Baltimore would be hesitant to top Watson’s deal. If that’s the case, negotiations might start going even slower.

Sure, DeCosta could view this elongated delay as a blessing. Jackson can play for $23 million this year and then be franchise-tagged twice at somewhere near $40 and $50 million annually. Or, DeCosta could fret with the possibility of Jackson’s situation getting ugly.

Say Jackson has a down season in 2022 but wants top money and won’t play on the tag without acrimony. Now DeCosta is put in the position of dealing with an unhappy player in an era where teams are more willing to move on, or he swallows hard and pays long-term, or he trades Jackson but does so with much less leverage.

While it would be foolhardy to suggest Baltimore is shopping Jackson or has any intention to do so, what if a team like the Seattle Seahawks came calling? Seattle general manager John Schneider currently holds the No. 9 overall pick, two second-round picks (Nos. 40 and 41) and a pair of selections in both the first and second rounds of the 2023 Draft. He could make one hell of an offer.

Right now, there’s no public issue between the two sides, save for perhaps Baltimore trying to prod Jackson into having a conversation about his future with the Ravens. Things are good.

Of course, we’ve recently seen how situations can go from fine to frayed. Just ask Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals.

Jackson and the Ravens have time to get a mega-extension done and leave all worries behind.

Yet with each passing day, the chance of a potential issue becoming real increases in Baltimore.

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Power rankings

Top 10 teams in need of a uniform redesign

1. Washington Commanders (yes, already; go simpler, get rid of the gradients)
2. Tennessee Titans (better numerals, stripe the pants better)
3. Miami Dolphins (just go back to the originals)
4. Atlanta Falcons (again, the originals)
5. New England Patriots (Pat. Patriot.)
6. Baltimore Ravens (do something with the pants and numbers)
7. Philadelphia Eagles (love that they’re going to the 90s throwbacks. Make them permanent)
8. Seattle Seahawks (they’ve grown on me, but simpler and with silver helmets)
9. Arizona Cardinals (simpler. Much simpler)
10. Houston Texans (not horrible, but I’d like to see a red helmet, change it up)

Quotable

“The development of him for the second year should be a big jump. It should be. That’s what we’re looking for.”

– Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus on expectations for quarterback Justin Fields

Eberflus’ statement is both obvious and confounding. If course the Bears want to see Fields improve over a pedestrian rookie stat line which included seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. However, what did Chicago do to support him?

The offensive line remains a mess, star receiver Allen Robinson left for the Los Angeles Rams with no replacement brought in, and even worse, the Bears don’t have a first-round pick. Wanting Fields to improve is a given, but the Bears have provided no support in that endeavor.

Podcast

Random stat

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has only played four games in his career without Tyreek Hill, all coming in 2019.

In those contests, Mahomes averaged 363.3 yards per game on 8.97 yards per attempt with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Info learned this week

1. Daniel Snyder might be facing his midnight moment

If the latest allegations are true against Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder, we’re about to see the final moments of his NFL ownership.

Owners and the league have proven over the decades they’ll put up with the unsettling and unforgivable. Snyder is the ultimate example, remaining owner in Washington through allegations of sexual harassment against his franchise in 2020 that brought an investigation and subsequent report from attorney Beth Wilkinson, who suggested Snyder be mandated to sell. Yet the NFL took no action, because it didn’t request her write-up, nor did it release her findings.

On Saturday, more bad news for Snyder. According to A.J. Perez of Front Office Sports, Snyder withheld ticket sales money from other league owners. Under league rules, visiting teams get 40 percent of the gate. Snyder was allegedly keeping more than his share.

If this is true, Snyder can start cleaning out his desk. It’s over. Owners will look the other way on plenty, but being conned out of money isn’t one of them. It’s the cardinals sin in that club, and should it be proven, Washington will have a new owner in short order.

2. Arians makes way for Bowles in Buccaneers’ shakeup

Bruce Arians is headed to the front office. Todd Bowles gets his second chance.

On Wednesday evening, Arians surprised the football world by ceding the head-coaching position in Tampa Bay to Bowles, his standout defensive coordinator who in four years with the New York Jets in their top spot, went 24-40.

Of course, those are the Jets, and these are Tom Brady’s Buccaneers.

While much has been made of rumors surrounding whether Brady wanted a change at coach, the reality is this: Arians is 69 years old and has past health problems. He’s won his Super Bowl. He is staying on to work in the front office, a far less-demanding job. Additionally, Arians is one of the most blunt-force personalities in the league. If Brady wanted him out, it would have gotten ugly.

Meanwhile, Bowles gets an opportunity to prove it was the Jets and not him. After toiling in East Rutherford without a legitimate quarterback or much else, for that matter.

With Brady and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich providing an elite offensive braintrust, Bowles can focus on the defense while overseeing the other side. It’s a wonderful match in theory, and one the Buccaneers should be excited about.

3. OT rule doesn’t solve problem, but it’s a potential step

Nobody will ever get Josh Allen’d again. Of course, you can say the same for Patrick Mahomes.

Both Mahomes and Allen were victims of the old postseason NFL overtime rules, which were changed last week at the league’s Owner Meetings in Florida. From now on, each team will possess the ball at least once in overtime come the playoffs, with sudden death in the event of a tie afterwards.

So what does this do? Well, depending on the coaching philosophies of those involved, it could extend a shootout by one touchdown and extra point apiece before a deciding field goal. Or, it could alter strategy.

Take the AFC Divisional classic between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City from January. Maybe the Chiefs go for a two-point conversion on their first possession, knowing Buffalo can only tie and therefore, a short drive and a Harrison Bunker kick wins it. Or, maybe Kansas City scores the conventional seven points, and Buffalo decides to go for a win-or-lose, two-point conversion trailing 43-42.

In short, this doesn’t solve the problem because there’s no perfect solution. People will find complaints to levy if coaches don’t go for two points, and plenty won’t. However, it does create drama while also ensuring nobody such as Allen or Mahomes ever. has to watch helplessly from the sideline with his, and his team’s fate, on the line.

4. Giants in tough spot with James Bradberry due to salary

Talk of a James Bradberry trade has been simmering for weeks. The main problem, however, isn’t pick compensation but financials for the star New York Giants cornerback.

Bradberry, 28, has one year remaining on his deal. If he’s dealt, the acquiring team takes on $13.3 million in 2022. Said team then either lets Bradberry walk in the upcoming offseason or extends him into his 30s.

Per league conversations, some believe Giants general manager Joe Schoen is hamstrung more by Bradberry’s large cap hit than the draft pick needed back for him. Realistically, New York isn’t bringing back more than a late-round selection, if it can trade Bradberry.

There’s also a world where Bradberry eventually gets released, although New York would be taking on $11.7 million in dead money while saving $10.1 million. With a post-June 1 cut, the savings jump to $11.5 million, but that means dead cap in ’23, and that makes little sense for Schoen.

Ultimately, the Giants are likely trying to wait and hope for a bidding war to result in a trade bringing back a decent Day 3 pick. We’ll see over the coming weeks if they can make it happen.

5. Rams sign Wagner, keeping in line with methods

What’s another five years and $50 million for the Los Angeles Rams?

No general manager goes big-game hunting more than general manager Les Snead. On Thursday, Snead handed out said deal to former Seattle Seahawks All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner with incentives making it worth up to $65 million. Of course, we don’t have details yet, and that could significantly skew the optics of these numbers.

Regardless, turning 32 years old in June, the Rams are banking on Wagner holding off both offensive linemen and Father Time.

Yet this can’t be considered surprising. Los Angeles has made a litany of huge swings I recent years, dating back to its trades for quarterback Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford, corners Jalen Ramsey, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, edge rusher Von Miller and receiver Brandin Cooks. There have also been the signings of receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Robert Woods and Allen Robinson, edge rusher Leonard Floyd and left tackle Andrew Whitworth among others.

While Snead has struck out occasionally — see the early extension to running back Todd Gurley — his track record speaks volumes. And if Wagner works out, the Rams have another big-name stud.

Two cents

On Wednesday morning, safety Malcolm Jenkins announced his retirement. His career deserves a moment.

Jenkins played 13 seasons, splitting time between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. He reached three Pro Bowls and won two titles, one in each city. Most impressively, though, was how he played. Or rather, that he always played.

Over his final eight seasons, Jenkins played 16 games each time. From 2012 until the end of his playing days (when Pro Football Reference begins listing snap counts), Jenkins played at least 92 percent of defensive snaps each year, and five times didn’t miss any snaps. Over that span, he also logged 1,268 snaps on special teams, truly becoming the ultimate team player.

Jenkins won’t reach the Hall of Fame. He’s the classic Hall of Very Good player. But his career deserves a tribute, because few played for so long, and so often.

Inside the league

Could the Pittsburgh Steelers make a big move?

Over the last few months, there’s been ample league chatter about the Steelers wanting to take a quarterback in the upcoming draft. And while there’s an obvious need long-term, Pittsburgh shored up its current situation by signing Mitchell Trubisky on a two-year deal.

For general manager Kevin Colbert, there are options. He could wait until 2023 when the rookie quarterback crop is expected to be much better. Or, if he’s enticed by Malik Willis or the hometown Kenny Pickett, he could strike in a month.

If it’s the latter choice, Colbert may need to move up considerably. The last time he did so was 2019, when the Steelers went from No. 20 up 10 spots to nab linebacker Devin Bush, surrendering first- and second-round picks that year and a third-round selection in 2020.

For Colbert, moving up will be a chore. If it’s Willis, he’ll likely need to jump ahead of the Carolina Panthers at No. 6 overall to feel safe. The good news? The New York Giants hold the fifth spot, and with two top-10 picks, could be willing to move back and hoard draft capital for their rebuild.

But making such a move would be costly. Pittsburgh would likely need to part with two first-round picks and perhaps a future third-rounder. Yet if the Steelers believe in Willis — or Pickett — that’s the price to be paid, and maybe it’s worth the freight.

History lesson

Most football fans know about the American Football League. Fewer are aware of the AAFC.

The All-America Football Conference formed in 1946 and played four seasons before dissolving. Of the seven clubs remaining by the final campaign, the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns were merged into the NFL.

However, the Colts have an interesting twist. The team folded after the 1950 season. But in 1953, the NFL gave Baltimore another shot with the same team nickname. This time it stuck.

Parting shot

For only the first time since I’ve started writing this column more than three years ago, there won’t be one next week. Or the week after.

On Saturday morning, my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Genevieve, our second daughter. She arrived at six pounds and three ounces, checking in at 19 inches long. And, if you know our history, you understand how thrilled we are even beyond the regular excitement anybody has while adding to their family.

So for the next two weeks, I’m going to be out of pocket, with the column returning April 25. In the meantime, don’t forget about me. I’ll be back with force and plenty of nuggets for the NFL Draft.

Thanks for understanding, and I’ll be back to annoy you all soon.

https://fansided.com/2022/04/04/lamar-jackson-ravens-contract-update-deshaun-watson/ Lamar Jackson’s contract weirdness, Bruce Arians news and more

John Verrall

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