INDIANAPOLIS — When the Baltimore Ravens’ brain trust held a season-ending news conference on Jan. 19, the tone was optimistic, but pointed: There was considerable groundwork in contract negotiations with quarterback Lamar Jackson and the time to do the job was shrinking.
Six weeks later, the talks remain mired in limbo, while the atmosphere among the Ravens continues to grow tense.
The latest twist came this week, when general manager Eric DeCosta somewhat surprisingly shaded his wide receivers when he met with reporters on the NFL scouting team, framing Baltimore’s struggles to assess his position. Tax It was sure to attract the attention of his locker room:
“I would say a lot of people would say the same thing; it’s a challenging position to evaluate in different ways. If I have an answer, it means I probably have some great receivers, I think. We’re constantly trying.
The response from one of DeCosta’s wideouts — 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman — was predictably cool. A less predictable aspect is that Bateman responded publicly on social media, while also including Jackson’s defense.
A That tweet has since been deleted Moments later, Bateman responded directly to DeCosta’s comments:
“[H]”Ow bot you play to your player’s strengths and stop pointing fingers at us and #8,” Bateman wrote, referring to Jackson.[B]Damn whoever you let do this….we take the heat 24/7. & keep us healthy … care about America & see what happens .. no promises … you are not tired and control players for no reason.
After downloading the message, Batman tweeted “My apologies” with a hug emoji.
It can’t erase or change the simplicity of the message: Bateman was frustrated enough to go public with his general manager (which, you could argue, was fair game given DeCosta’s comments), and he chose to add Jackson. His message despite the quarterback not being part of DeCosta’s quote.
The line “Blame whoever let you do this” also appeared to be a veiled reference to former offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who stepped down from the “post” in January and was replaced last month by Georgia Bulldogs offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Jackson is said to have been made out of being a central part of the operation. If that wasn’t enough, Bateman’s addition of “keep us healthy” and “care about America” came a day after the NFL Players Association released league-wide team report cards that ousted Baltimore’s strength coaches and ranked them dead last in the NFL. with an F- grade.
In that report card, which resulted from an anonymous poll of more than 1,300 of the NFL’s 2,200-plus active players, the NFLPA Baltimore’s strength coaches “[W]Also below the second worst team [in the NFL]. Players don’t realize that a strong workforce helps them be more successful. The team recently parted ways with head strength coach Steve Sanders, so we’ll be interested to see if the area improves in his absence.
That criticism of Sanders drew tweets from former Ravens players Carl Davis Jr. and Quincy Adeboyo, who went straight to the former coach.
“I suffered from strength training. Two labrums and several pec strains.” Davis Jr. wroteRefers to past injuries.
“Definitely ruined my career” Adeboyejo wrote. “3 years of season ending injuries after being healthy my entire previous career.”
On its own, the conversation about public floggings and injuries by the NFLPA should concern the Ravens. But Bateman’s comments directed at DeCosta, and coupled with Jackson (who ended his season with a nagging injury), add another layer to Baltimore’s deteriorating streak. That puts more focus on pressing questions about how the Ravens and their star quarterback enter coin-flip territory between signing an extension or being traded this offseason.
DeCosta didn’t seem to be answering some questions, especially after the last six weeks, when he didn’t say anything at the combine this week. Not even the usual “we’re making some progress” comment.
If anything, DeCosta’s comments about negotiations with Jackson seem lifted from his season-ending news conference six weeks ago. begins.
“Yeah, Lamar and I talk,” DeCosta said. “We met recently. It’s been an ongoing discussion. We both understand the urgency of the situation; it’s been a good conversation, a good discussion. I’m optimistic, I’ll continue to be optimistic, and we’ll see where it goes.
Pressing on the challenges of negotiation, DeCosta subtly noted an aspect that will continue to be an issue. Most elite quarterback negotiations involve some sharp-elbowed moments when a general manager openly expresses his criticisms of a player to their agent, pushing the talks forward as both sides seek to find common ground. Jackson doesn’t have an agent, which makes that kind of negotiating tactic very dicey. GMs know they can say some pretty harsh things to an agent. In this case, DeCosta would have to tell Jackson those things directly, and it could affect the future of Jackson’s relationship with the front office and coaching staff.
“I think when you’re dealing with an agent, sometimes you can speak more freely [and] Position yourself a certain way,” DeCosta said. “You have different arguments that you don’t tell a player. So, I think that’s part of it. There’s a lot of respect — tremendous respect — because I’m with a player like Lamar, a player like Roquan Smith who represented himself. Every day, you You see commitment, [and] You understand where they are coming from. So, it’s definitely a different movement.
Instead of approaching the franchise tag deadline with some sort of drag on Tuesday, it appears the Ravens and Jackson are no closer to a long-term deal. Meanwhile, the two sides have been exchanging behind-the-scenes leaks that offer different stories about the deal Jackson wants.
All indications from league and union sources are that Jackson is seeking a long-term, fully guaranteed contract similar to the one Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson signed last year. ESPN’s Stephen A. Despite Smith’s statement, Jackson did not seek a fully guaranteed contract, which was consistently shot down by multiple sources familiar with the negotiations between Jackson and the Ravens.
The next five days will reveal what it all means, and the final answer to what kind of franchise tag the team will place on Jackson will likely be followed by his response to his move. Either he accepts the tag and goes into the offseason with the team, or he rejects it and asks for a trade. A last-ditch extension that seems less likely to happen with each passing day.
The time for that is drawing near. And the only change that has happened is that things around the Ravens have gotten worse rather than better.