Lamar Jackson-Ravens contract drama: Timeline of QB situation, what led to franchise tag before free agency

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are tied together, but only temporarily. With 2023 NFL free agency around the corner, the star quarterback is under Baltimore’s control after the team used the franchise tag on Jackson Tuesday. Because the Ravens designated him non-exclusive tag, other teams can negotiate — and make offers — for the former MVP once free agency begins. Where Jackson will actually fit in 2023 is anyone’s guess.

How exactly did we get here? Let’s recap the quarterback’s contract timeline with an overview:

April 26, 2018 — The Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson No. 32 overall after a trade with the Eagles.

June 5, 2018 — Jackson signs four-year, $9.47 million rookie contract with Ravens, negotiating the deal alongside his mother, Felicia Jones, and without an official agent.

December 12, 2018 — Jackson named Ravens starting QB after going 3-1 in place of injured Joe Flacco.

February 1, 2020 — Jackson was announced as the unanimous 2019 NFL MVP winner after making his Pro Bowl debut as a starter, totaling 47 touchdowns and rushing for more than 1,200 yards while leading the Ravens to a 14-2 finish.

January 3, 2021 — Jackson records a second straight 1,000-yard rushing season, but weeks later is forced to leave the Ravens’ second playoff game early with a concussion.

April 30, 2021 — The Ravens exercise the fifth-year option on Jackson’s rookie contract, securing the QB through the 2022 season for $23 million guaranteed.

June 24, 2021 — Conflicting reports are emerging about the role of Jackson’s mother, Felicia, in negotiating a long-term extension with the Ravens. He is eligible for a new deal entering his fourth NFL season, Jackson remains without an agentthough Felicia is reportedly advising on his contract talks.

December 12, 2021 — Jackson suffers an ankle injury in a Week 14 loss to the Browns and then misses the final four games of the season, the Ravens’ first non-playoff campaign since taking over under center.

March 2, 2022 — Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta says he’d like to sign Jackson to a new contract before the QB’s contract year, but suggests Jackson hasn’t seriously discussed an extension yet: “We’ll work on the urgency of Lamar.”

March 18, 2022 — The Ravens’ rival Browns signed newly acquired QB Deshaun Watson to an unprecedented five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract, prompting speculation that Jackson will seek a similar average per year ($46 million).

March 29, 2022 — Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is doubled on the idea that Jackson isn’t ready to negotiate a new deal, telling reporters that GM can only do so much to bring Jackson to the table. He praises the QB regardless, defending his “unique as hell” focus on winning a title instead of cashing in on an extension.

March 30, 2022 — Jackson downplays speculation his unresolved long-term deal means he’s planning a future split from Ravens: ‘I love my Ravens,’ he writes on Twitter. “I don’t know who the hell (is) putting out this false narrative that I’m thinking of leaving. Stop (trying to) read my mind.”

July 21, 2022 — Cardinals sign QB Kyler Murray, drafted a year after Jackson, to five-year, $230.5 million extension.

August 21, 2022 — The Crows reportedly offers Jackson more than Murray to secure him in the long run. But Jackson remains unsigned beyond 2022, apparently preferring a fully guaranteed deal in the mold of the Browns’ Deshaun Watson.

September 9, 2022 — Two days before season opener, Ravens announce contract talks with Jackson through 2023 offseason: “We really appreciate the way [Lamar] has handled this process and we are excited about our team with Lamar leading the way. We will continue to work towards a long-term contract after the season, but for now we are looking forward to a successful 2022 campaign.”

December 4, 2022 — Jackson suffers a PCL sprain in Week 13 against the Broncos. Coach John Harbaugh says QB injury not season-ending, instead judging Jackson “week-to-week.”

January 12, 2023 — After missing the Ravens’ final five regular-season games, Jackson he excludes himself for the team’s playoff opener against the Bengals, tweeting that his knee is “unstable” and he can’t give “100 percent” of himself. However, Baltimore is is alleged to have committed to keep the QB through 2023, with contingency plans to use the franchise tag in the offseason.

January 16, 2023 — A day after the Ravens fell to the Bengals with Tyler Huntley starting in his place, Jackson posts a cryptic message on social media: “When you have something good, you don’t play with it. You don’t risk losing it. You don’t neglect it. When you have something good, you pour yourself into it. You appreciate it. Because when you take care of something good, that good also takes care of you”.

January 19, 2023 — Harbaugh, who will continue to defend Jackson’s absence from the playoff game the QB didn’t travel to, says he’s “200 percent” sure Jackson remains the team’s franchise QB. Meanwhile, Greg Roman, the Ravens’ offensive coordinator since 2019, announces his resignation.

February 14, 2023 — Ravens hire Todd Monken as new coordinator, considering Jackson’s earlier take on a new hire, but that do not directly involve the QB in their search.

March 2, 2023 — Wide receiver Rashod Bateman hits GM Eric DeCosta after the latter criticizes his own team’s ability to develop passes, claiming that DeCosta is “pointing the finger at us and [Jackson]”for aggressive matches. Bateman is quick to apologize.

March 7, 2023 — Hours before the franchise tag deadline, the Ravens use the non-exclusive label to Jackson, temporarily keeping the 2023 QB at $32.4 million guaranteed, but allowing other teams to deal with him when free agency begins. By doing so, Baltimore waives the use of an exclusive tag, which would have guaranteed Jackson $45 million and prevented him from talking to other clubs.

March 7, 2023 — Several teams, including the Dolphins, Falcons and Panthers, are reportedly backing away from potentially pursuing Jackson, even as they enter the offseason with an obvious QB need. Speculation ensues that NFL owners aren’t just wary of Jackson’s injury history, but may be colluding — wittingly or not — to avoid a continuing trend of fully guaranteeing lucrative QB contracts.

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