Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has set a Week One deadline for signing a new contract with the team. Coach John Harbaugh has said there will be a deal when it’s done.
So what happens if it’s not ready for the first week?
Of course it would still be possible after the first game of the regular competition. It’s not a real deadline, but something imposed by Jackson. He can change his mind at any time, and the Ravens can make him an offer at any time that is close enough to what he wants to make it happen.
If the deal doesn’t close before the end of the 2022 season, the Ravens will have limited time to continue negotiating exclusively with Jackson. Then they have to decide if they want to apply the franchise tag and, perhaps more importantly, if they want to use the non-exclusive version or the more expensive exclusive tier.
The Ravens ran through that analysis a decade ago, after Joe Flacco turned down the team’s best offer in August and bet on himself. He won and struck a market-defining deal on the eve of the tag application deadline — at a time when teams like the Browns and Chiefs were supposed to be ready to try and sign him to an offer sheet like the non-exclusive tag was used.
The Ravens may welcome the chance to use the non-exclusive tag with Jackson. If another team signs him on a quote form, the Ravens just have to match it and he’s signed. While certain games can be played to make it harder for the Ravens to match, the league closed the loophole on Steve Hutchinson a long time ago. Still, the Ravens would have to risk another team making (and Jackson accept) an offer they can’t or won’t match — and to accept two first-round picks as compensation.
A tag and trade is also possible, with the Ravens sending Jackson to a desired destination in exchange for acceptable compensation. That’s the only way Jackson could get to Miami right now, as the Dolphins lost the first round of the roster next year due to the Sean Payton/Tom Brady probe.
All of this gives the Ravens and Jackson the opportunity to strike a long-term deal at any time. That window wouldn’t close until July 15, 2023, if he’s tagged by the Ravens and not traded.
The easiest way to avoid all this is to close a deal within four weeks. That is of course easier said than done; otherwise a deal would have been struck by now.