The Pittsburgh Steelers got their big contract extension of the offseason buttoned up nice and early, completing a new four-year pact with All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in the middle of June—a rather unusual time, at least for the organization, to get a deal done.
The Baltimore Ravens, who are much more willing to work around the clock whenever they feel they can hammer out a deal, are sitting and waiting to get theirs done. That would be what would inevitably be a massive new contract for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who, representing himself, has been in no rush.
He didn’t even report to OTAs for the team, which is of course voluntary, but he was back in the building this week for mandatory minicamp. He has not yet spoken to reporters, but his teammates have done plenty of speaking on his behalf.
“I think everybody knows that Lamar, he’s what drives our team”, his favorite target, tight end Mark Andrews, told reporters about having Jackson back at the facility, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN. “The energy around him being here lifts everybody up”.
Jackson is coming off of his worst season as a starter, posting a 7-5 record with a 16-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio, while only rushing for two more touchdowns. He also fumbled six times in 12 games, down from 10 fumbles the year before.
Of course, he was also playing without a lot of help. The Ravens’ top three running backs all went down with season-ending injuries shortly before the regular season began. They traded away their Pro Bowl right tackle, their Pro Bowl left tackle was injured early, and most of the rest of the offensive line was in flux as well. Even their first-round wide receiver missed a lot of the start of the season.
By the time he got back, he didn’t even spend a lot of time with Jackson before his own injury took him out for the home stretch of the Ravens’ season, which saw them lose six games in a row for the first time in the John Harbaugh era.
Those numbers don’t fairly reflect upon the talent that Jackson is, of course. He was the youngest MVP in league history a couple of years ago, after all. But given his lack of urgency to get a deal done, one wonders if his intention isn’t to play out the year with the idea in mind to strengthen his bargaining power after the season.
Either way, for whatever reason he decided not to participate in OTAs, he’s here now, and he’ll be there in training camp. The front office has been impatiently waiting for him to talk contract with them, and they’re seemingly willing to sit down with him at the drop of a hat. Not a bad position to be in when your employers are desperate to throw an inconceivable amount of money at you.