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What A Disaster: The Ravens Have Placed The NON-EXCLUSIVE Franchise Tag On Lamar Jackson

Welp, here we are. Franchise tag time. And not just any tag... the non-exclusive tag. Meaning any team can negotiate and offer Lamar the contract that he's looking for. The Ravens will have the right to match that offer, or receive two 1st rounders from the offering team to get him.

It's a ballsy move for sure, and it’s obvious these two sides are miles apart. We're all trying to read between the lines and figure out what the Ravens are thinking here, but my best guess is that they're daring Lamar to go out and find his best offer. They must be at such an impasse that they know they won't get anything done with Lamar unless he has the opportunity to go seek an offer that the Ravens don't think exists. That, or they are truly content letting him walk away. In which case, how the hell are they not able to get a haul bigger than two first rounders??

All of this has been so damn hard to predict, every step of the way. The Ravens have been doing their PR gamut as they are wont (and right) to do and Lamar's side has been straight crickets. We're all left to do our own guesswork on what's gonna happen based on a bunch of reports from Jeremy Fowler and Ian Rapaport that are essentially the same old shit regurgitated for anyone who has paid attention to this situation from the start. The Ravens continue to say, even today, that they are focused on getting a contract done with Lamar that is "fair to the Ravens and fair to Lamar".

It doesn't look good, obviously. Let's back this thing up and walk through the timeline again.

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta flew down to Florida early in 2021 to engage in initial negotiations with Lamar, as well as address a few other odds and ends. Things seemed to go nowhere. The team re-engaged in the 2022 off-season and reportedly offered $250M and $133 guaranteed. Lamar obviously turned his nose up at that in light of what was an absurd DeShaun Watson contract, all context considered. 

Maybe the organization was willing to go higher than the reported offer if they happened to be close to a deal. Or maybe that was the absolute best offer they were willing to agree to at that point. But they weren't close. They never have been. And it's not as if anything that's happened over the past year (or two years, really) has compelled the Ravens to sweeten the pot. Performance on the field wasn't quite as elite as it was in years past, and his injuries have sunk the Ravens' chances in consecutive years. You can certainly make the case that that speaks to his value, but it's a fair concern to invest highly in a QB that has started to develop a pattern too.

Regardless, it's really sad that things are where they're at. If I could do anything, I would go back 2 years and find a way to make him our QB for years to come and avoid this potential scenario entirely. But they were too far apart at that point with plenty of time left on the clock. "What could go wrong?", both probably said. 

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Well, we found out what could go wrong. Everything. And when things go wrong, it's typically a good thing to have an agent to help wade you through those muddy waters. 

In the early going, I had no problem with that arrangement at face value. I can certainly appreciate anyone willing to roll up their sleeves and get a job done on their own, and keep a little more coin in the process (in theory). 

The concern then, and certainly now, is the magnitude and complexity of the situation. This isn’t a 3rd contract from an aging veteran who has been around the block a few times and has the framework of his value right in front of him. This is a massive market-altering deal that can significantly impact a team’s ability to remain competitive. And there's no question that the NFLPA has been in his ear in an effort to get a deal that resets the market.

Yes, Lamar should be paid top dollar. And yes, he has immense marketing appeal both locally and nationally. Some teams value that more highly than others. The Ravens do appreciate and value that to some degree, but they’re not going to handcuff themselves to a deal that keeps them from remaining competitive long-term. They’ve got a good roster with a chance to contend now and later. 

They're definitely playing with fire here, but that long-term competitive mentality remains at the forefront of their decision-making process. It's hard not to think they've misplayed their hand at face value, but we don't know all the details of negotiations to this point. The Ravens seem willing to engage. Lamar doesn't appear to be. That may just be optics, or it may be truth. They can't make Lamar sign long-term. 

Maybe the relationship is so strained at this point that this was really the only way forward. I remain unsure why they couldn't have given him the exclusive tag and let him negotiate his own deal and get more for him via trade... but perhaps they've tested the waters with other front offices and the market hasn't quite been there. The non-exclusive tag at least saves $13M, which will help avoid a bunch of cap cuts/restructures ahead of next week's league new year... but man. What a risk this is. The Lamar Jackson era started with a massive gamble, and there's a chance it ends that way too.

All I know is that it's a sad state of affairs here in Baltimore, with seemingly no end in sight.