The Ravens plan to resume contract negotiations with Lamar Jackson quickly, with the intention of signing him to a long-term as their franchise quarterback, General Manager Eric DeCosta said Thursday.
DeCosta said he and Jackson "communicate quite often" and that they spent time together earlier in the day.
"It certainly takes two to tango, but I think Lamar and I have a great relationship," DeCosta said. "I told Lamar, 'This thing has been a burden for both of us.' But when it's over, we're all going to feel like a million bucks."
If the Ravens do not sign Jackson to a long-term deal within the next few weeks, they will have a window between Feb. 21 to March 7 to place the franchise tag on Jackson to avoid him becoming a free agent. If the Ravens tag Jackson, they will have until July 15 to sign him to an extension, before he would have to play under the tag next season.
Baltimore can use the exclusive or non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson. Using the exclusive tag would prevent Jackson from leaving the Ravens unless they trade him. The non-exclusive tag is less expensive, but it would allow Jackson to sign an offer sheet with another team. The Ravens would have the right to match that offer and keep Jackson, or accept two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing him.
DeCosta, Harbaugh and front office executives will have their annual meeting with Owner Steve Bisciotti at his Florida home in the near future. If Jackson has not signed by then, the discussion about which tag to use on Jackson would become more urgent.
"You don't have to make that decision for two months, six weeks?" DeCosta said. "We're going to be going down to Florida at some point with Steve. We talk about a lot of different things. That will probably be something we talk about. I would love to be able to go down there and not have to talk about Lamar Jackson, because we got a deal done."
Jackson was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2019, leading the Ravens to a franchise-best 14-2 record, and the two-time Pro Bowler is still just 26 years old. The Ravens have made the playoffs in four of the five years that Jackson has been their starting quarterback.
However, 2022 was the second straight year that Jackson's season was cut short by injury. He missed the final six games of this season, including the playoffs, after suffering a knee injury Dec. 4 against the Broncos. In 2021, he injured his ankle in Week 14 and did not play in the final four games, all of which the Ravens lost to miss the playoffs.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he was "100%, 200%" behind Jackson remaining the starting quarterback. Harbaugh said Jackson was "close" to returning this season and may have played at some point during the playoffs had the Ravens advanced beyond Super Wild-Card Weekend. Harbaugh also said it was unfair to categorize Jackson as injury prone.
"I don't anticipate this being any kind of a trend," Harbaugh said. "Lamar, I don't believe, is a guy that's going to have those issues going forward. Lamar is a very durable player. I know that people make take issue with that, I get it. But I don't believe there's going to a problem going forward, because I know how hard he's going to work.
"Lamar Jackson is our quarterback. Everything we've done in terms of building our offense and building our team, how we think in terms of putting pieces around him, is based on this incredible young man and his ability. He's an incredible competitor. All he wants to do is win at everything he does. That's the kind of guys you want to build this team around. That hasn't changed, it will never change."
DeCosta doesn't think Jackson's contract status factored into him not returning this season.
"Lamar can speak to that, but my feeling is no," DeCosta said. "I think Lamar was hurt. We see him every single day. It was just bad timing, bad luck for us, bad luck for Lamar."
Jackson does not have an agent and represents himself in negotiations, adding an unusual dynamic to the discussions. However, DeCosta said his bond with Jackson remains very solid.
"Our relationship with Lamar I think is fantastic," DeCosta said. "Now you can say, 'What's it like negotiating?' That's a challenge. That's a business relationship. Anytime you negotiate with anybody, it's not always going to be an easy conversation to have. That doesn't affect our feelings for each other, or John's feelings for Lamar.
"That's the challenge really for a player representing himself. We have to keep those two personalities separate, Lamar Jackson the agent vs. Lamar Jackson the player. The player is somebody who I hold in extremely high regard."
DeCosta said he was not discouraged that a long-term agreement wasn't reached with Jackson last season after months of discussions, and that he believes Jackson wants to finish his career in Baltimore.
"These negotiations, they all happen differently," DeCosta said. "Ronnie Stanley's contract took about a year-and-a-half. Mark Andrews' contract took probably three or four days. We did Roquan's (Smith) contract over a span of six days, over the course of one month."
The Ravens will have a new offensive coordinator in 2023, with Greg Roman leaving to pursue other opportunities. That will have a direct impact on Jackson if he's with the Ravens next season, because Roman had been the team's offensive coordinator since 2019, designing an offense centered around's Jackson's diverse talents.
Harbaugh said Jackson will be in the loop as the Ravens choose their next offensive coordinator.
"He will be involved, I'll keep him abreast of what's going on, and I'm sure he'll have some input along the way," Harbaugh said.
After the season, many of Jackson's teammates expressed their strong desire to see him sign a long-term deal this offseason.
"You can't let a guy like him go," veteran defensive end Calais Campbell said. "I know it's football, and there's always some new exciting toy, new exciting kid that has potential to go out there and be great. But this is a for-sure, a known. You know Lamar Jackson is an incredible player. I think it's in the best interests of the Ravens' organization to give him a long-term contract, make him our guy."
DeCosta was asked if he would entertain trade offers for Jackson if a long-term agreement isn't reached.
"That's something that we're not going to talk about at this point," DeCosta said. "Our focus right now is to get a long-term deal done. It's going to take some time, it's going to take some effort, some great communication, give-and-take. But I'm confident that we'll be on the right path to get that done."