Lamar Jackson’s extended absence creates more contract issues for Ravens, and both sides have brought it on

Four months ago, when Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens failed to secure a long-term extension by the quarterback’s season-opening deadline, the contract distortion field was set. . From then on, every change in momentum would be focused through the prism of trading.

Its hot month of September? Ravens should have given him the bag.

Jackson’s average October start? He should have taken the case off the table.

The end of the playoffs? Both parties must do something.

The story came and went. Up and down. Left and right. And finally, headlong into a scenario that neither side wanted to inject into this dragging contractual stalemate: a knee injury for Jackson that caused a prolonged void (16 training absences, five games missed.. .and it goes on), followed by a steady diet of lingering questions.

The new story? It’s something like: What exactly is happening in Baltimore?

That’s the pressing question as Jackson continues to miss practices, long after initial assessments of his PCL sprain pegged a return somewhere in a mid-to-late December window. We are now approaching mid-January and a first-round playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the theories have wandered into territory that seemed inevitable given the current contract distortion field.

Did Jackson suffer a setback? Why is his return taking longer than expected? Is it the lack of a long-term contract? And if he doesn’t dress this weekend and the Ravens lose to the Bengals, what does this all mean for the offseason between the two teams?

There are a lot of questions and essentially no answers this week.

Asked about Jackson’s missed practices on Wednesday and if he could eliminate the quarterback against the Bengals, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters, “I have nothing to add to that. No updates yet.

It’s a statement that could be correctly applied to virtually anything Jackson and the Ravens are dealing with right now, from the quarterback’s injury to his contract status to the impact it will all have on another cycle. of negotiations. And that’s a shame because it’s a scenario that was largely created by both sides. From leaks suggesting Jackson turned down a $250m deal, to Jackson training with fans on social media, to the continued lack of an intermediary agent between player and team – opening the door to the chaos, frustration and lack of consistent information.

It’s a situation that’s starting to feel sloppy on both sides. Probably because he was.

The fallout has led to a pair of questions many across the NFL are asking right now: Were there any complications with Jackson’s PCL sprain, or was it a previously unthinkable “holding” situation where the Baltimore franchise quarterback preserves his health for the next contract negotiation? Only the Ravens and Jackson can answer those questions, but at this point, chances are neither side is entirely credible.

When it all started, it was hard to believe the Ravens would release contract numbers because it would be one of the quickest ways to poison the fan base against their quarterback. On the other hand, it was impossible to believe Jackson would ever hold back on a return to the field – largely because anyone who knows him as a football player will tell you that’s not how he’s built. . Now, everything seems plausible, if only because history has shown us what contract problems look like when they deteriorate. And the longer this one lasts, the worse it looks.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has missed the last five games with a knee injury and could miss Sunday's playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals.  (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has missed the last five games with a knee injury and could miss Sunday’s playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

That’s what the failed contract negotiations of the offseason and this uneven season have created. Looking back, you start to feel like you’ll always end up there. After all, nothing about the logic of this showdown has been well defined. Since the beginning of the negotiation, there has been a dearth of information on the precise location where Jackson and the Ravens fell apart.

Early in the offseason, league sources suggested it was an issue with the length of the contract, with Jackson wanting four years on contract and the Ravens wanting at least five. Then came Deshaun Watson’s five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed deal with the Cleveland Browns, and the chasm between the Ravens and Jackson was suddenly described as huge. Now it was no longer a matter of years, but rather a function of getting a deal that guaranteed every dollar.

But even that information came from an unusually nebulous negotiation, largely because there wasn’t the typical structure of team officials playing with an agent behind the scenes. Instead, it’s the Ravens who go out of their way to publicly say all the right things without saying much, and Jackson says almost nothing beyond some social media exchanges that require deciphering. And now it’s all being dealt with by an injury that may or may not last longer than expected.

Somewhere in all of this, linebacker Roquan Smith got a bar setting contract with the Ravens without an agent. It was a negotiation that, on the other side, featured Smith complimenting the way the team and general manager Eric DeCosta handled the process.

All of this shows that this process can work. For some reason, that’s not working for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Now, it’s hard to process anything else that’s going on without wondering why, let alone what will happen if Baltimore ends the season without its starting quarterback on the field.

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