It’s time for the Ravens to take a fresh approach to Lamar Jackson contract negotiations

INDIANAPOLIS — Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta is an avid baseball fan. A native of Taunton, Mass., DeCosta is an avid Boston Red Sox fan. However, DeCosta is studying how other MLB organizations conduct their affairs. Also.

As he continues to deal with the contract impasse involving his star quarterback Lamar Jackson, DeCosta might be better served to follow the example of the general manager of his favorite team’s biggest rival.

Last April, after his team failed to agree with Aaron Judge on a long-term contract extension before the self-imposed deadline on Opening Day, the New York Yankees general manager , Brian Cashman, took the unusual step of announcing the organization’s $213.5 million offer for the star outfielder.

Cashman said he did so for “transparency purposes” and because the offer had to go out anyway. However, it was easy to see the move for what it was: a bargaining tactic aimed at showing fans the effort the organization went to to sign Judge while putting the blame on the player for refusing a sum. exorbitant money.

Judge later told he was upset that Cashman went public with the terms of the offer and felt it was an attempt by the organization to turn fans and the media around. against him. But that didn’t stop him from signing a nine-year, $360 million extension with the Yankees in December. Piles of money tend to comfort grudges.

High-level negotiations are difficult. They can produce rancor and resentment. But in the end, the resolution usually comes down to two questions: does the player want to be there? And does the team give the player the level of compensation he wants?

At this point, when it comes to the Ravens and their contract clash with Jackson, the answer to the first question is: we think so. Jackson has publicly stated at various times that he wants to spend his entire career in Baltimore, and it’s unclear if that has changed. The answer to the second question is clearly no. If the Ravens had made the offer Jackson wants, this whole ordeal, which has turned fans off and tested the patience of the player and the organization, would have been long over.

Except we’re still at it, and Jackson’s status is one of the biggest stories in this week’s NFL Scouting Combine. This threatens to have a significant impact on the team’s free agent plans in a matter of weeks and the team’s draft plans in nearly two months. Here we are with almost daily reports that paint a picture of two sides moving away from each other rather than toward each other, and reveal numbers and facts that seem to change depending on who you ask, who you believe or when you read them.


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Here, we try to deduce the meaning of Jackson’s social media posts and debate a seemingly endless game of what he said, she said. Here we are with the Ravens in a position this week where they almost have to line up potential trade partners for Jackson in case the contract thaw doesn’t flex as the quarterback playing this season on the tag isn’t a good option for person. — regardless of what the Ravens say publicly.

That can’t be what the Ravens and Jackson had in mind.

Ravens decision makers mostly stayed above the fray and didn’t add to the noise beyond DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh singing Jackson’s praises and expressing confidence that a deal will be concluded. It’s the Ravens way. They don’t negotiate through the media. It was even more important than a typical negotiation for DeCosta that things remain calm and there are no leaks, simply because he is dealing directly with Jackson, who does not have an agent.

The details coming out of the Ravens’ side can be seen as a breach of trust in Jackson, who is not easily trusted, and only complicates delicate contract negotiations.

Earlier this offseason, DeCosta actually pointed the finger at the NFL Players Association for leaking some details about the contract talks.

But it’s fair to wonder where that cloak of secrecy got the Ravens. That doesn’t appear to have brought them any closer to a long-term contract extension until Tuesday’s close of the two-week franchise tag window. That hasn’t stopped the public perception that they may be mishandling contract negotiations with one of the game’s brightest stars. It hasn’t stopped speculation and reports about what they have offered. to Jackson and what they did and didn’t want to do.


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When ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith went on TV last week to say someone from “Jackson’s camp” contacted him and two of Smith’s main takeaways were that the Ravens could be in the process of underestimated Jackson and didn’t try to fit him into their offensive coordinator. research – the first depends on your perception and the second is obviously wrong – it does not help the reputation of the organization.

The Ravens did not respond. Maybe it’s time they did. When DeCosta and Harbaugh meet the media Wednesday afternoon at the Indiana Convention Center, you can probably expect them to repeat talking points from their season-ending press conference in January. Jackson is their man, they’ll probably say. They’re still optimistic about getting a deal, and if they can’t, they still have the franchise tag at their disposal.

But why stop there? Why not provide a little more information on the Ravens’ offers to Jackson? And even if you don’t go full Cashman mode, at least paint a clearer picture. Why not push back a bit on the idea that the Ravens are “disrespecting” their franchise in the face with below-market contract offers? Why not address claims that the Ravens did not include Jackson in the search for the offensive coordinator and did not keep him informed of other organizational decisions?

Surely you run the risk of offending or angering Jackson, but where did handling the situation with protective gloves get you? Yes, providing information about your contract offer could help other teams if Jackson gets the non-exclusive franchise tag and has the ability to come up with outside contract offers. But is it even important? There are no secrets in the NFL, and the type of deal Jackson sought is well documented.

Look, DeCosta is an extremely tough place. Negotiating the biggest contract in team history directly with your franchise quarterback is an unenviable task. By all accounts, Jackson has been as elusive in negotiations as he has been on the field. DeCosta must maintain a strong relationship with Jackson while finding the best deal possible.

Anyone who doesn’t understand how difficult it would be for the Ravens to trade Jackson, regardless of the level of offers, should walk around town on “Purple Friday” and note how many No. 8 jerseys they see. Jackson’s popularity is immense, and swapping the face of the franchise — and the city’s most beloved athlete — isn’t easy to get started. And that’s before the Ravens even pondered the task of finding a worthy successor to a 26-year-old former unanimous MVP in his prime.

But even before you come to that decision, DeCosta’s job is to protect the organization — and the organization is taking a beating right now from a perception standpoint. It might be time for the Ravens to start fighting back.

(Photo: G Fiume/Getty Images)

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