Late for Work 6/21: Lamar Jackson Extension Expected 'Sooner Than Later'

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QB Lamar Jackson

Pundits Debate Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield Extensions

Lamar Jackson said he's not focused on a contract extension, but that hasn't stopped pundits from continuing the conversation.

This time, ESPN's "Get Up" asked its panelists whether they would sign Jackson or Baker Mayfield to a long-term deal first.

ESPN's Mike Tannenbaum didn't take long to answer.

"This is easy. Sign Lamar Jackson ASAP," Tannenbaum said. "League MVP. He's dynamic. … He has to get better, all players do, but he's already played at such an exceptional level."

Tannenbaum said he expects Jackson to receive a contract similar to Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson, around the $39-40 million average annual value.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Sunday that Jackson and the Ravens have had preliminary discussions about an extension, and would like to get a deal done "sooner than later."

"[The Ravens] know he's going to be in such a high tax bracket that they want to spread that salary cap over the next few years of his rookie contract," Fowler said, via Bleacher Report. "But if it bleeds into the season, Baltimore is OK with that too because last year they did cornerback Marlon Humphrey, left tackle Ronnie Stanley – both of those deals happened during the season. So, no urgency, but they want to get this done sooner than later."

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio said Jackson's situation is particularly interesting because he's representing himself. He does not have an agent.

"Chris Simms and I recently discussed this dynamic and others arising from the fact that the Ravens are negotiating the richest contract in franchise history directly with the player," Florio wrote. "It's delicate. It's complicated.

"Regardless, don't be surprised if the first domino — the Lamar Jackson deal — comes before training camp. And don't be surprised if Mayfield and [Josh] Allen decide to wait to agree to terms of their own until Jackson's deal is done.

Is Bradley Bozeman One of the Most Important Ravens?

The importance of Jackson can't be understated, but The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer believes Bradley Bozeman is a key piece in determining the Ravens' success this season.

"[T]heir second-most important might be the amiable Alabama center turned NFL left guard now entrusted with getting the ball to the quarterback without incident," Shaffer wrote. "Or at least it feels that way after a season in which the Ravens' pistol and shotgun snaps were no longer the formality they'd been in years past.

"… The position has perhaps never been more important, not just in Baltimore but also around the NFL. Earlier this month, former Bills general manager Doug Whaley said some league scouts and executives believe center has eclipsed left tackle as the offensive line's most important position, owing to the complex defensive alignments that offenses see (and that centers must recognize) before every snap."

After starting the last two seasons at left guard, Bozeman said he's pumped for the move to center. It's the position he played at for most of his time at Alabama.

Many people say that the center is the "quarterback" of the offensive line. He's responsible for communicating with the offensive line before every snap. It's early, but pundits feel Bozeman is checking all the right boxes.

"After all the tension headaches Ravens centers caused last year, Bozeman did what was asked of him this offseason: He kept his snaps on target and heart rates low," Shaffer added. "Bozeman's relocation has opened up the competition at left guard, where there's no apparent front-runner. But with how often the Ravens operate out of pistol and shotgun formations, and the breadth of offensive coordinator Greg Roman's playbook, it should help to have a steady hand paired with Jackson."

Stock Up for Ravens' Young Talent

Unlike last year, a more normal offseason schedule gives us a better look of how the Ravens' roster is shaping up.

Here are some players whose stock is up according to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.

WRRashod Bateman

"There will still be skepticism, primarily because of the team's run-heavy approach and the Ravens' history with young receivers. However, Bateman has given the team every reason to believe he'll be a significant contributor from Day 1. … He hasn't looked like a rookie."

RBJ.K. Dobbins

"Ravens coaches have been vocal about their desire to get the running backs more involved in the passing game, and Dobbins has shown this offseason that he's capable of contributing out of the backfield. Dobbins dropped a pass in the first open OTA, but I can't remember another one over the ensuing three weeks. He regularly was involved in the passing game and made several tough catches, too. Dobbins still has to show a better feel for blitz pickup. Otherwise, he's giving the coaching staff plenty of reasons to keep him on the field more."

DTJustin Madubuike

"It's obvious the second-year defensive lineman has gotten after it this offseason. He's looked leaner and more explosive than he was as a rookie. He's also looked much healthier. A third-round pick last year, Madubuike flashed as a rookie and showed enough for coaches and teammates to believe he'll become a high-impact player. What fellow Ravens saw from him over the last couple of weeks only strengthened that belief. If he stays healthy, he's a candidate for a breakout year."

DBBrandon Stephens

"The rookie third-round pick hasn't looked like a guy with just two years of experience as a defensive back. He hasn't made a ton of plays, although he did have an interception in last Tuesday's minicamp practice. He has just looked comfortable with how he's been utilized, and it's been rare to see him out of position. He also passes the eye test from a physical standpoint. The Ravens taking him with the second-to-last pick of the third round was viewed as a reach in some circles, but team officials believe in his ability."

Marlon Humphrey Ranked as NFL's Second-Best Cornerback

Cornerbacks have been at the top of NFL headlines in recent weeks with some of the best players holding out ahead of mandatory minicamp.

That prompted NFL.com's Bucky Brooks to rank his top five players at the position. Second on the list was Marlon Humphrey.

"It's hard to find an elite cornerback with inside and outside capabilities," Brooks wrote. "That's why Humphrey deserves such high billing as an all-star defender with a polished game and versatile skills that enable him to snuff out top receivers on the perimeter or in the slot. With the Ravens' top corner exhibiting exceptional lockdown skills, turnover production (one interception and a league-high eight forced fumbles last season) and tackling ability, No. 44 must be included in any conversation about the best players at the position."

To play at such a high level in the slot and on the outside puts Humphrey among the best cornerbacks, and the Ravens won't have to worry about a holdout. Humphrey inked a five-year, $97.5 million extension last October and Humphrey has participated in the entire offseason program.

After leading the league in forced fumbles last season, Humphrey told reporters that his focus is on getting more interceptions. The Ravens' depth at the position should make that possible.

Tavon Young returned to practice after suffering a season-ending knee injury last season and is among the highest-paid slot corners in the NFL. The Ravens also drafted Shaun Wade, who played his best football at Ohio State on the inside.

"In the past, the Ravens have primarily resorted to sliding Humphrey inside to the slot," Ebony Bird's Justin Fried wrote. "Humphrey is capable of playing both outside and in the slot, but he's undoubtedly most valuable outside.

"It would likely be better to keep him on the boundary, especially given the abundance of options the Ravens have at their disposal."

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