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Ravens, Lamar Jackson haven’t started negotiating yet

Wild Card Round - Baltimore Ravens v Tennessee Titans

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JANUARY 10: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens throws a pass during their AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on January 10, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Ravens defeated the Titans 20-13. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

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A report from over the weekend indicated that the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson are “far apart” in their negotiations on a second contract for the 2019 MVP. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the two sides aren’t “far apart,” because negotiations haven’t even started.

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, a first-round pick in 2018, is due to make $1.77 million in 2021 under his slotted contract for the 32nd pick in the draft. Things get interesting in 2022, thanks to last year’s CBA. Because Jackson qualified for one Pro Bowl on the original ballot in his first three seasons, Jackson’s fifth-year option will be the quarterback transition tender for 2021. (If he’d made a second Pro Bowl on the original ballot, he would have been entitled to receive the franchise tag in 2022.)

For 2020, the quarterback transition tender was $21.749 million. This year, given the anticipated dip in the cap from $198.2 million to roughly $182 million, the 2021 quarterback transition tender (and thus Jackson’s fifth-year option amount) will be in the range of $20 million. Any new contract that Jackson signs will have to take that into account.

The Ravens, in turn, will have to take into account the cautionary tales of the Carson Wentz and Jared Goff contracts. Both players got market-value long-term deals after three seasons. Both the Eagles and Rams will unload the balance of those contracts on March 17.

For any team with a first-round quarterback who has completed three seasons, the question becomes whether to extend the contract or wait for more evidence. On one hand, the contract won’t get any cheaper, if the quarterback keeps playing well. On the other hand, a team’s opinion on a quarterback can quickly change. If so, it’s better to have the flexibility in the event that it does.

Unless Jackson hires a good and experienced agent to negotiate the deal, the Ravens will have to balance a desire to treat Jackson fairly with a temptation to steamroll someone who is going it alone. As I’ve said before when it comes to players representing themselves, 97 or 98 percent of what a good and experienced agent can negotiate typically will be more than 100 percent of whatever the player negotiates on his own.