It felt like Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens were playing hardball with each other this season.
Jackson’s knee injury ended up costing him more time—the remainder of the regular season and Baltimore’s lone playoff game—than initially anticipated, raising questions about whether the quarterback was proceeding with caution due to the lack of a long-term contract. And Ravens head coach John Harbaugh did little to quell that buzz, even feeding the beast to some extent, praising backup Tyler Huntley for playing hurt in Baltimore’s wild card loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Who is responsible for the drama arising from the parties’ inability to reach a long-term deal before the 2022 season? Depends who you ask of course. But it’s absolutely remarkable that Harbaugh didn’t put more effort into defending Jackson against outside skepticism. Most NFL coaches probably would.
“That’s definitely how things are done, unless your last name is Harbaugh, right?” a manager from another NFL team recently told The Athletic’s Mike Sando. “That’s what he and his brother (Jim) do, and there’s another guy who handles things like that — he wears cut-off-arm sweatshirts and hoodies, and his name is Bill Belichick.”
Bringing Patriots head coach Bill Belichick into the conversation doesn’t mean much, of course, except to add context to Harbaugh’s ruthless handling of the situation. But what if the staring contest lingers in the off-season? So what are the Ravens going to do with their All-Pro quarterback?
Presumably, Jackson (who has no agent) and the Ravens will return to the negotiating table in hopes of finding common ground. If that proves unattainable, Baltimore could place the non-exclusive or exclusive (more likely) franchise tag on Jackson, or even trade the 2019 MVP.
It’s rare that a QB of Jackson’s caliber and age (26) becomes available, so this will no doubt be a storyline to follow as long as the cloud of uncertainty hangs over Baltimore.