Only negotiations toward a landmark contract stand between the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson being mutually committed to a long-term relationship.
Jackson can become an unrestricted free agent in March after attempts by general manager Eric DeCosta and owner Steve Bisciotti fellshort of the former NFL MVP's expectations.
But head coach John Harbaugh and DeCosta said Thursday that the Ravens are fully committed to Jackson and growing the offense around his unique skill set.
"Eric wants him here, I want him here, Steve wants him here, and Lamar wants to be here. It's gonna work out," Harbaugh said Thursday.
Jackson, who turned 26 on Jan. 7, did not travel with the Ravens for the wild-card playoff loss at Cincinnati, sparking speculation he was ready to move on in the offseason. But Harbaugh said on Thursday the Ravens feel so strongly about Jackson's place with the team that he'll have a say in Baltimore's pick to replace Greg Roman at offensive coordinator.
"One hundred percent," Harbaugh said. "Two hundred percent. There's no question about it. Lamar Jackson is our quarterback. He's been our quarterback. Everything we've done in terms of building an offense and building the team, how we think in terms of putting people around him, is based on this incredible young man, his talent, his ability and his competitiveness.
"He and I were talking today, too, and the thing about Lamar that stands out -- he's an incredible competitor. ... He's just a massive competitor."
The Ravens have until March 7 at 4 p.m. ET to work out a deal with Jackson or use the franchise tag to keep him from free agency.
DeCosta said he's ready to resume negotiations with Jackson, but getting back to the table won't win the war considering the Ravens are expected to be just under $34 million below the 2023 salary cap. That's not enough to meet the exclusive franchise tag projection for quarterback at $45 million. The non-exclusive tag of around $32 million might sound more palatable. But it also guarantees the right for other teams to negotiate with Jackson, who acts as his own agent.
"We'll do what's best for the club," DeCosta said.
In September, Jackson reportedly turned down a five-year deal through the 2027 season that included $133 million guaranteed at signing. At issue for Jackson was the fully guaranteed deal the Cleveland Browns gave Deshaun Watson. His five-year, $230 million contract is an NFL anomaly in that it's fully guaranteed. Bisciotti openly admitted the Watson deal is "groundbreaking, and it'll make negotiations harder with others."
The Denver Broncos made Russell Wilson the second-highest paid player in the NFL on Sept. 1. His $49 million annual average salary stands behind only Aaron Rodgers' $50 million per-year salary with the Green Bay Packers.
Patrick Mahomes (10 years, $503 million with the Chiefs) and Jackson's lone successful quarterback draft class peer, Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, includes $150 million guaranteed and a potential sum of $258 million over six years.
DeCosta said Thursday he believes Jackson wants to finish his career with the Ravens, and the franchise is eager to re-engage in contract talks.
"It certainly takes two to tango," DeCosta said, adding he met with Jackson on Thursday. "Our focus is to get a long-term deal done."
Baltimore drafted Jackson in the first round in 2018, after the selections of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Allen and Josh Rosen.
He has 12,209 yards with 101 passing touchdowns, and 4,437 rushing yards with 24 TDs on the ground in 70 career games.
--Field Level Media