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Late for Work 2/24: Adam Schefter: It's in Lamar Jackson's Best Interest to Get a Deal Done Sooner Than Later

Lamar Jackson #8 runs the ball against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore Maryland on Sunday, November 28, 2021. The Baltimore Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns, 16-10.

Adam Schefter: It's in Lamar Jackson's Best Interest to Get a Deal Done Sooner Than Later

Pro Football Focus posed the following question via Twitter: "Should Lamar Jackson holdout for a new deal?"

Included on the tweet was this quote from ESPN's Adam Schefter from his appearance on PFF's "Ari Meirov NFL Show:" "If I was Lamar Jackson, I wouldn't step onto the field until a deal is done."

The inference is that Schefter is in favor of Jackson being a holdout, but that's not what he was saying.

Schefter's point was that Jackson, who seems to be the one delaying a contract extension, should want to get a deal done before the start of the season because of the risk of suffering an injury without the security of a contract that will make him one of the highest-paid players in the league.

General Manager Eric DeCosta said at his season-ending press conference that it has been an "unusual negotiation" because he's been dealing directly with Jackson, who doesn't have an agent. DeCosta said he's spoken to Jackson five or six different times over the past year about his contract and is available to talk whenever, but they're "working at Lamar's pace."

"If I'm my own agent, I'm making sure that my deal gets done, especially with the way that he plays," Schefter said. "I'd be real leery about stepping on the football field until my deal was done.

"I think Baltimore is absolutely interested in extending him and the reason it hasn't gotten extended is because Lamar has been more interested in playing football and doing whatever he does. At some point, to me, it's in his best interest to sit down and get that deal done. If I were Lamar Jackson that would be my offseason priority, to make sure that I don't step foot on a football field again until I have one of those lucrative new contracts that puts me in line with these higher-paid quarterbacks in the league."

In regard to Jackson, who has not shed light on who is advising him, acting as his own agent, Schefter said: "I'm sure there are people that have his best interest at heart without a shadow of a doubt. But we're talking about a deal that could be five years, $40 million, a $200 million deal. If you were doing a $200 million deal, I think you'd like to have people work on it that are familiar with that, regardless of the commission."

Getting a deal done this offseason would benefit the Ravens as well as Jackson. An extension would significantly reduce Jackson's $23 million cap hit for 2022, which would allow the team to add more pieces around him.

Pundits Say Ronnie Stanley's Health Is a Key Factor in Ravens' Super Bowl Aspirations

When the Ravens signed Ronnie Stanley to a five-year contract extension reportedly worth $98.75 million in October 2020, they figured they had secured the services of one of the best left tackles in the league for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, Stanley suffered a season-ending ankle injury two days after signing the contract. Stanley was expected to be fully healthy this past season, but he did not play after the season opener and had to undergo a second surgery on his ankle.

DeCosta said at his season-ending press conference that he's optimistic Stanley will be back at an All-Pro level next season. Whether that is the case could go a long way in determining the fate of the franchise next season and beyond.

"When we talk about players that are soaking up so much of your cap that aren't performing, that's where it becomes very difficult to me," Glenn Clark said on Glenn Clark Radio. "If Ronnie Stanley can't be Ronnie Stanley again, it is very difficult for me to come up with the blueprint for how this team wins a Super Bowl without that, given how much money we're talking about, given the significance of the position.

"It just comes off like it is hard to fathom a way that this team can mathematically put together the roster they need to win a Super Bowl that doesn't involve Ronnie Stanley being something at least close to Ronnie Stanley again."

Russell Street Report salary cap analyst Brian McFarland agreed with Clark. He said it might be prudent for the Ravens to draft an offensive lineman early in the draft who can play both right and left tackle.

"It's a question of Stanley's future as well, if he can come back next year or can't come back next year, I think that's probably the answer," McFarland said. "But if he comes back and is only so-so, then you're looking at 2023, what kind of moves do we have to make and what bullet do we have to bite if we're not going to be paying him $12 million if he's just a so-so player now."

Ravens Need Young Players to Emerge In Order to Plug Some Holes

While the Ravens can address some of their offseason needs in free agency and the draft, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said they are going to have to lean on young players already in the organization to emerge and develop into dependable and effective starters at certain positions.

"The Ravens will have enough financial flexibility to plug some holes in free agency but nowhere near all of them," Zrebiec wrote. "And yes, the Ravens will have as many as nine picks within the first four rounds of April's draft, but six of those will come late on Day 2 or in the fourth round on Day 3. Finding plug-and-play starters after the second or third round is not something you can annually count on. It happens. It just doesn't happen often enough to bank your offseason strategy on hitting home runs in those rounds."

The Ravens have made it clear that upgrading the offensive line is a priority, but Zrebiec noted that above-average starting offensive linemen carry a heavy price tag in free agency, and to land a Day 1 starting offensive lineman in the draft, teams have to pull the trigger early because every team needs quality offensive linemen and the supply doesn't equal the demand.

"If [center Bradley] Bozeman walks — and he and the Ravens certainly don't appear close on a contract extension despite periodic negotiations over the past year — does Baltimore project Trystan Colon as a solid starter?" Zrebiec wrote. "Colon, an undrafted free agent in 2020, has held his own in three starts over the past two years. If the Ravens feel like he'd be a quality starting center, they can move on from Bozeman, avoid spending significant cap space on a free-agent center or using the 14th pick on Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum, and earmark the asset toward filling another hole.

"The same thought process applies at guard. If the Ravens believe that Tyre Phillips and Ben Cleveland, third-round picks the past two years, are ready to be above-average starters, they can ignore the position beyond potentially adding depth late in the draft or with a vet-minimum type of free agent."

Regarding the defense, Zrebiec wrote: "The Ravens have a handful of relatively unproven players who may or may not be long-term starting answers. That list includes outside linebacker Daelin Hayes, defensive linemen Broderick Washington and Isaiah Mack, and defensive backs Brandon Stephens, Geno Stone and Ar'Darius Washington.

"If the Ravens believe in the potential of Stephens, Stone and Washington, would they prioritize adding another safety in the draft or free agency? Would it influence their decision on whether to move on from veteran nickel corner Tavon Young, who has been frequently mentioned as a potential salary-cap casualty?"

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