Late for Work 3/2: The Latest in the Lamar Jackson Contract Negotiation Buzz

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QB Lamar Jackson

Report: Negotiations Between Ravens, Jackson Haven't Started

There was a report over the weekend that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are "far apart" in contract extension talks. Yesterday, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio disputed the report.

"Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the two sides aren't 'far apart,' because negotiations haven't even started," Florio wrote. "The report specifically says that the 'sides' are far apart. At this point, it's not even known what Jackson's 'side' is. He has never had an agent, and it's not known yet whether he or someone else will be taking the lead in the discussions with the team."

Jackson worked with his mother, Felicia Jones, on his rookie contract. He has referred to Jones as his manager (not agent).

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said on "The Lounge" podcast that Jackson's contract could somewhat depend on what Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott gets, and that "it makes sense" for both sides to reach a deal this offseason.

"The Ravens have very smart people doing contracts," Rapoport said. "I think they can come up with something that makes sense and I think they would benefit from doing it early and he would benefit too because he would get the kind of security that any player wants."

On a completely unrelated (and hilarious) note, Jackson is among the odds-on favorites to become Kim Kardashian's next boyfriend by SportsBettingDime.

Browns Will Have Better Offense Than Ravens in 2021, Two Pundits Predict

The Ravens had one of the best offenses in the league over the past two seasons, but two pundits don't think they will even have the best offense in their division next season.

Pro Football Focus' Eric Eager and George Chahrouri debated whether the Jackson-led Ravens or Baker Mayfield-led Cleveland Browns would have the better offense in 2021, and both went with the Browns.

"This is a weapons game," Eager said. "Jarvis Landry is the best wide receiver among those two teams, and you take the combination of [Harrison] Bryant and [Austin] Hooper, you can make a case that [the Browns] have possibly a better tight end group. So when I look at this, I have to think it's Mayfield, especially considering the Browns' offensive line is trending in one direction, the Ravens' offensive line trending in another."

Said Chahrouri: "It's crazy, but as good as running with Lamar is, if you can't throw, and they couldn't throw last year, I'm going to go with the sustainable offensive scheme. … I like [Head Coach Kevin] Stefanski and Mayfield. I think it gives them a chance to win the division."

It's well-documented that the Ravens were first in the league in rushing and last in passing last season, but the Browns' offense wasn't balanced either. Cleveland was third in rushing and 24th in passing.

Comparing quarterbacks, Jackson threw 26 touchdown passes in 15 games, while Mayfield had 26 in 16 games. Jackson had the edge over Mayfield in quarterback rating (99.3 to 95.9) and completion percentage (64.4 to 62.8).

If one accepts that the Browns had better weapons, then they must also accept that Jackson did more with less.

These types of debates make for interesting conversations in the offseason, but they shouldn't be taken too seriously, especially before the draft and the start of free agency.

Steps the Ravens Should Take to Get Over the Playoff Hump

The Ravens have had plenty of regular-season success the past three seasons, but they've been unable to get past the divisional round in the playoffs. So what can they do to fortify their roster and make a deep postseason run?

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec came up with a 10-step plan. Here are some of those steps, accompanied by Zrebiec's comments:

Create more salary-cap space

"There aren't too many ways to create cap space without weakening the roster. Start with restructuring Ronnie Stanley's deal and potentially Marlon Humphrey's as well. Then look to sign the two restricted free agents, running back Gus Edwards and inside linebacker Chris Board, to extensions with lower 2021 cap numbers. Those would constitute modest savings, but it all counts in a year in which the salary cap will drop significantly."

Make a decision on Orlando Brown Jr.

"Brown, the two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle who is entering a contract year, wants to be traded to a team that will play him at left tackle. The Ravens are at least listening, as they should. What they shouldn't do is settle on a deal for Brown in fear that he'll be a distraction if he returns to the team as the right tackle. Brown still doesn't have much leverage, and if his attitude and play are subpar this year, he'll only cost himself money. If he opts to sit out, he'll cost himself money and a shot at free agency next March. He should be plenty motivated even if he's back in a Ravens uniform playing a position he doesn't want to play.

"Either way, it would help to have finality on Brown's status for 2021 by the time free agency starts. That would give the Ravens a better idea of their needs and what they have in terms of cap space and draft picks to address them."

Prioritize strengthening the offensive line

"Any way you look at it, the Ravens are going to need to use major assets to solidify their offensive line. They should start with using a chunk of their cap space on one of the top available free-agent interior offensive linemen. Green Bay Packers pending free agent Corey Linsley would be a strong addition who would fix the problematic center spot and allow the Ravens to keep Bradley Bozeman at left guard. Washington guard Brandon Scherff, New England guard Joe Thuney and Atlanta center Alex Mack all are reasonable plan Bs. If the Ravens are able to get one significant interior building block in free agency, they can do the rest in the draft."

Upgrade the receiving corps

"While the wide receiver-obsessed sect of the Ravens' fan base will surely disagree, they don't need a total overhaul here. … But the Ravens are still missing a productive veteran who can take pressure off Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, make plays in the clutch and threaten defenses. I'd start with trying to see what it would cost to bring Tennessee's Corey Davis to Baltimore."

Re-sign Tyus Bowser, target pass rusher early in the draft

"In a perfect world, the Ravens would re-sign either Matthew Judon or Yannick Ngakoue, but at this point, it appears both will get far more money on the open market than the Ravens want to pay. So barring their markets not materializing, let them walk and focus on building the group from what remains. Bowser is not a great pass rusher, but he does a lot for the defense and he can absorb some of the responsibilities Judon took on. His modest sack numbers should keep his price down and allow the Ravens to bring an ascending player back at a reasonable price. … Then, try to come out of either Day 1 or 2 of the draft with a pass rusher who can contribute immediately."

Should Ravens Target Marvin Jones Jr.?

Zrebiec noted that if Davis' price is too high or he isn't interested in going from one run-heavy offense to another, the Ravens should turn their attention to free-agent wide receivers such as Will Fuller V and Marvin Jones Jr.

NFL Network's Mike Giardi said Jones, in particular, would be a great fit for the Ravens.

"Getting a big target and maybe a real No. 1 receiver would be a very good thing for this offense," Giardi said. "Someone like Marvin Jones from the Detroit Lions might be a good fit for that football team. He's a professional. He's had one good year after another in Detroit playing out of the limelight."

Jones, who turns 31 on March 12, led the Lions with 76 catches for 978 yards and nine touchdowns last season with Kenny Golladay sidelined for much of the year. The 6-foot-2, 199-pound Jones had a career-high 1,101 receiving yards in 2017 with Detroit.

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