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Eisenberg: I'm Not Feeling Lamar Jackson Contract Drama

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) smiles during an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, November 7, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) smiles during an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, November 7, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

No secret, the football world is closely monitoring Lamar Jackson's contract situation as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.

The subject dominates whenever Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta takes questions from the media. Jackson can also count on fielding questions about it in any interview.

I'm always reading and hearing that Jackson's future is one of the NFL's biggest storylines in 2022.

But if so, where's the drama?

Jackson is going to play for the Ravens this year. We know that. He is under contract, due to make $23 million.

After 2022, the Ravens can use the franchise tag to keep him as their quarterback for two more years. It would be expensive, but other teams have done it, and with the salary cap set to rise sharply, the Ravens can handle it.

Bottom line, it's quite possible Jackson could continue playing for the Ravens for three more years without signing a new deal. They certainly don't want him to get away.

Yes, the situation could affect the Ravens' ability to build a team around Jackson, and I get why there's interest, but I'm sorry, I can't hyperventilate for three more years.

Maybe I could get more worked up if the Ravens and Jackson were barreling toward some imminent deadline that could result in his departure. But I don't see him leaving Baltimore anytime soon.

Getting him signed would free up salary cap room the Ravens need to make more moves in free agency – a big incentive in 2022. Yet DeCosta seems fine with paying him the $23 million he'll get this year if there's no new deal.

"We can certainly take on that amount," DeCosta said last month. "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."

Jackson seemingly doesn't feel much urgency, either. Speaking at the NFL Combine last week, DeCosta issued what amounted to an open invitation to his quarterback to pick up the pace.

"I think that it takes two sides to actively put their heads together and get a deal worked out. We are ready to be there for Lamar at any point when he decides that he really wants to work on it," DeCosta said.

Settle in, folks. This situation may well be a marathon, not a sprint.

It doesn't mean Jackson is unconcerned about getting paid. On LeBron James' "The Shop," he was asked what lessons he could take from James, the NBA superstar. "Being a champion and being a billionaire," Jackson said.

A new contract would bring Jackson closer to the latter. It would be the largest deal in Ravens history.

But even if he doesn't sign soon, he could make more than $30 million on the franchise tag in 2023 and well over $30 million in a second year on the tag.

That's potential total earnings of close to $90 million over three years starting in 2022.

The Ravens would know Jackson's price point going forward if they signed him, but they already know it's going to be a lot, regardless. Since Jackson joined the Ravens in 2018, they're 37-12 in his regular season starts and 6-10 when he doesn't start. The time has come to start paying the bill for that success.

Maybe I'd find the situation more ominous if Jackson and the Ravens weren't so friendly. But both sides depict an excellent relationship almost bordering on a partnership.

How in the name of Aaron Rodgers and Kyler Murray can you call it a dramatic contract standoff if there are no vague utterings and ultimatums, no passive-aggressive social-media scrubbings or anything the least bit adversarial between the team and its quarterback?

If Jackson still hasn't signed a new deal in two years, that would be the time to start hyperventilating. The Ravens would be running out of ways to keep him in Baltimore.

Right now, though, the chances of him going elsewhere to play quarterback anytime soon are slimmer than slim.

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