The Baltimore Ravens reportedly aren't concerned about quarterback Lamar Jackson skipping the start of organized team activities amid contract uncertainty.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Sunday on SportsCenter that Jackson "promised" he'll return to the team eventually, and the front office remains hopeful about a long-term extension:
"Here's what I'm hearing: the Ravens are not overly concerned because Lamar Jackson has promised to show up at some point. It might be for mandatory minicamp, but he's going to be there. This is not contentious from what I'm hearing, and so they believe they're still in a very good place with the player. And then also, they're going to sort of let the money come to them here, where if he doesn't want to do a deal, right, if he continues to be patient, they can play him this year on a fifth-year option, which is around $23 million, and then next year would be a franchise tag, $30-something million, well below the market for a former MVP who's won 37 games and only 12 losses as a starter.
"So, they believe if he wants to do that then they could go year-to-year here, sort of like a rental situation. They don't want that; they want to sign him long term. But I've talked to multiple league execs who say maybe they would do the same thing, especially with some of the injury concerns with his running style. So, they want to get it done, but they're not going to panic too. They have options."
There were questions about whether the situation was starting to become contentious based on comments by Ravens head coach John Harbaugh after Jackson was absent when OTAs got underway.
"We've been down this road many times through the years," Harbaugh told reporters Wednesday. "I'll just let Lamar speak for himself on that. It's for him to talk about. You can ask him."
Jackson, who hasn't publicly stated his reason for skipping the voluntary practices, responded to criticism Friday from NBC Sports' Chris Simms about the decision:
Lamar Jackson @Lj_era8
Lamar wants to be Lamar Chris. This part of OTAs is Voluntary my Guy I will be there, just not on your watch it’s probably other QBs not attending Voluntary OTAs either but since it’s Lamar it’s a huge deal. Find something else to talk about🙄 <a href="https://t.co/2Nx2b767bb">https://t.co/2Nx2b767bb</a>
The 2019 NFL MVP is set to enter the final year of his rookie contract, which would make him eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2022 season. It's a virtual lock the Ravens would use the franchise tag to keep him for 2023 if extension talks fall short, though.
Fowler's note that the front office is interested in a long-term deal should make the process easier, but so far there's no indication an agreement is close.
Jackson is coming off his worst statistical season since taking over as Baltimore's starter in 2019. He tallied just 16 passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions across 12 games. He added two rushing scores after scoring 19 times on the ground over his first three NFL seasons.
He missed the end of the season with an ankle injury, but he resumed throwing in February and there's no indication that's the reason he isn't attending OTAs.
So far it's unclear when Jackson may return. It would be a massive setback for the Ravens if he isn't leading the offense when the regular season gets started in September, but so far it doesn't sound like a long-term holdout is on the table.
Tyler Huntley, who made four starts when Jackson was sidelined by injuries last year, will likely assume most of the work with the first-team offense for the time being. Brett Hundley and rookie Anthony Brown are the team's other quarterbacks.
The next key date in the saga is June 14. That's when the team is scheduled to begin its mandatory minicamp.
If Jackson isn't on the field for those practices, the level of concern in Baltimore will likely begin to rise.