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Roquan Smith’s contract shows Ravens can successfully negotiate with player who represents himself

AFC North rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati are set to do battle once again in the Wild Card Round, and things are reportedly not looking good for Lamar Jackson's status on Sunday.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has insisted on representing himself in contract negotiations with the team. The inability of Jackson and the team to do a deal has created, at times, a sense that the Ravens were being unreasonable.

Another player who represents himself managed to get a long-term contract from the team, only weeks after joining it. Linebacker Roquan Smith landed his contract after the conclusion of his rookie deal -- but without having to play a playoff game.

It wasn’t an easy process, but I have the utmost respect for [G.M.] Eric DeCosta,” Smith told reporters regarding his new deal. “I think he’s a very fair, honest guy. A lot of times people say, ‘Oh gosh, players can’t negotiate without agents, and things like that.’ And that’s not something I truly believe in. Because like talking with Eric throughout the process, like I said, he was honest, you know, kept his word. And man, I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and I can’t thank him enough for actually being fair and, you know, seeing the value in me and making this happen and making Baltimore home for me.”

Smith, who arrived via trade from Chicago midway through the season but nevertheless became the team’s MVP, said that the negotiations began in mid-December. He said he worked on doing the deal during his off days, mainly on Tuesdays.

Other players are paying attention to the fact that the Ravens can indeed do a fair deal with a key player who chooses not to use an agent. And that the player can get the deal done, too.

“Negotiating his own contract while still leading our defense,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said on Twitter, “and [shout out] to [G.M. Eric DeCosta] and front office for never letting him leave Baltimore!! Much deserved.”

Players are smart. Players pay attention. Players may be starting to think that Lamar has been too stubborn, too unreasonable, too insistent on a five-year, fully-guaranteed contract -- instead of taking the best offer that a “fair” and “honest” negotiator would make.

With Jackson not practicing or playing more than a month after suffering a knee injury, players have to be wondering what’s going on. They have to be wondering whether Jackson would be playing if he had his deal. And they have to be wondering whether Jackson now deserves more of the blame than the team for not getting that deal done.