The biggest negotiation this offseason is the same as it was last offseason, and that's the contract extension for Lamar Jackson.
General Manager Eric DeCosta fielded several questions on the topic during his press conference Friday, painting a picture of where things stand now.
"The first thing I would say is this is an unusual negotiation because I've been dealing with a player," DeCosta said.
"I would never divulge a conversation with a player. So for me to talk about it in specifics would be prohibitive. What I can say is that Lamar and I have had probably five or six conversations at different points over the last year in regards to his contract. We picked up his option, as you know. I think at this point I would say we're working at Lamar's pace."
Jackson indicated last year that he was in no rush to get a contract extension hammered out following his third season. When asked about it after the Ravens' season ended, Jackson said his immediate focus was getting healthy and preparing for the offseason.
"He's comfortable where we are right now. I think he feels that we have a lot of unfinished business, he has a lot of unfinished business," DeCosta said. "He wants to win the division. He wants to win the Super Bowl. I think he and I both share that same vision. That's basically where we stand. There's a great line of communication."
If the Ravens and Jackson do not strike a deal this offseason, the fifth-year option would cost about $23 million for Jackson. DeCosta said he feels it's not a bad price and that the Ravens can have the salary cap space to accommodate it.
There were six quarterbacks who carried salary cap hits above $23 million in 2021: Seahawks' Russell Wilson, Vikings' Kirk Cousins, Packers' Aaron Rodgers, Falcons' Matt Ryan, 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo and Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, respectively. In 2022, there are currently 11 quarterbacks slated to have salary cap hits bigger than Jackson's.
"Based on who Lamar is and what he has to offer, that's not a huge ticket for a quarterback of that ability and of that personality and what he brings to the table for the team," DeCosta said.
Jackson's 2021 season was a tale of two halves. He was in the MVP conversation after the first half, leading the Ravens to miraculous wins over the Chiefs, Colts and Vikings, to name a few. Jackson showed that he made strides as a passer and could lead the team to comeback wins with his arm.
However, Jackson and the Ravens offense struggled under a heavy blitz in Miami, then Jackson got sick and missed the game in Chicago, and he returned with his worst game as a pro when he threw four interceptions against the Browns. Jackson nearly led the Ravens to a comeback win in Pittsburgh, but a two-point conversion fell short. He suffered his ankle injury the following week in Cleveland, knocking him out for the final four games. It was a tough ending for Jackson, but the 2019 MVP still earned a second trip to the Pro Bowl.
Asked whether Jackson's midseason struggles, which were certainly exacerbated by the offensive line and other injuries, had an impact on how DeCosta viewed Jackson and the team's willingness to sign him to a long-term extension that has long been viewed as an eventual formality, DeCosta said "nothing has changed."
"Lamar is a Pro Bowl quarterback," DeCosta said. "There's a lot of upside with our offense and Lamar is a big part of that. He's the right person to do it."