The Ravens And Lamar Jackson Are In A Hostage Situation - And I'm Not Sure Who The Hostage Is
I'll be honest, I'm not really sure how to start this one off after throwing up a headline like that. It really is a hostage situation. It's a statement I've made a few times over the past couple weeks on Twitter and on my podcast and it continues to feel truer and truer with every day. I just don't know who the victim is in this situation. At this point it's both.
On the surface it would definitely seem to be Lamar. He's a world-class player that deserves a fat contract with long-term security. He hasn't gotten that contract offer in his opinion and if he did, we wouldn't be in a place that makes me want to gouge my eyes out every time I even hear his name. The plot continues to thicken and so it seems the discontent. The more unhappiness Lamar Jackson continues to show, whether it be outright trade requests or simply battling narratives online, the more he gives off hostage vibes.
Last night he took to Twitter to combat rumors that he chose to sit out down the stretch this season
With that said, the Ravens are totally crippled in the meantime. They can hardly maneuver under the cap as they try to hold onto the cap space required to either pay his $33M franchise tag or potentially match a competing offer. They made the calculated move to slap the non-exclusive tag on him, which saves them $12M vs the exclusive tag… but even then they're paralyzed until they have foresight on their QB situation. The second they use up some of the space currently earmarked for Lamar, they leave themselves vulnerable to a team like the Colts swooping in and structuring a deal they simply can't match.
That type of paralysis has led them to restructure a few guys and throw void years onto contracts, a practice they've worked hard to stay far away from in years past. What's worse is that there have had to be some cap casualties along the way to even get under the required cap at the top of the NFL league year. Most notably Calais Campbell was let go, and the organization hoped to come back to the table and get something done with him. We woke up this morning to news that the big fella is moving on to Atlanta.
Calais was a big time player and leader on a strong defensive unit last year, and his loss will certainly be felt in Baltimore and subsequently Lamar if he were to return.
Point of all of this is that the league keeps moving, with or without these two figuring something out. The longer it goes, the worse it gets. And we can play the blame game all we want as to who is responsible for getting us here. I tend to think Lamar's demands are unrealistic and short-sighted, but the organization isn't totally devoid of blame given that they could done more to get way out in front of this.
But none of that matters. The past is the past. Each side has misplayed their hands at times and now each is stuck with no end in sight. And the longer this thing goes, the more each side stands to lose.
The Ravens have a solid roster with or without Lamar, but they do need him. With him, I believe strongly that they're Super Bowl contenders provided he's healthy. Without him, they're a fringe playoff team that just hopes to get the opportunity to get trounced on the road by an AFC power on Wild Card Weekend. Lamar is a difference maker on any team, but the Ravens are right there and can do more to supplement the roster if and when they get this figured out. In the meantime, their alternatives dwindle across the board, not just at QB.
For Lamar, it's becoming increasingly clear what the market is willing to pay for him… and it's not what he wants. Sorry to say it pal, but that DeShaun contract structure ain't walkin thru that door, nor is anything close to it. Maybe there's foul play at hand given owner collusion, but that doesn't change the fact that it's just not happening. At least not this year. And as more and more teams commit and eventually draft their franchise QB's, the less options Lamar is left with.
Both sides have all the incentive in the world to get together and work something out. There's been a ton of emotional shrapnel, but I think both sides need to see the situation for what it is and figure it the fuck out. They're just prisoners chained together otherwise.
And ya know what? The solution might simply be for the two to just commit NOW to each other for another year and try again in 2024. That would be a huge win for the Ravens and require a ton of pride-swallowing by Lamar, but it feels like his best path forward at this point. It's clear teams are objecting to the recent injury history (both injuries occurred on routine passing plays and NOT from him running btw) and diminished play over the past couple of years, and the opportunity to shut them up is right in front of him.
And while the Ravens would of course be the main benefactor by way of getting another year from a great QB, the benefits for Lamar are there too. He talks all the time about his desire and focus on winning a Super Bowl, even doing so last night.
There isn't a team out there better situated right now for Lamar to do so, and freeing that team up to supplement and improve a roster around him is to his benefit as well. The Ravens should offer him a one-year deal worth more than his franchise tag number, fully guaranteed, and go from there. And if he goes out and does big things in 2023, the long-term contract will take care of itself, whether here or elsewhere.
As much as I hate kicking the can down the road and pushing this drama into another year, this feels like the best mutual path forward. Unfortunately, that scenario seems so far from reality at this point. Total pipe dream. Neither side is budging and both sides continue to lose. They're going to continue to lose and we're probably going to get to training camp without anybody having gotten what they wanted, and who the hell knows what Lamar does at that point with regards to actually playing on the franchise tag.
This will only continue to get worse in the meantime. Come on guys. Figure it out.