The clock is ticking on the Ravens and Lamar Jackson as the quarterback approaches unrestricted free agency at the start of the new league year this month.
Of course, no one really expects Jackson to simply hit the open market because the Ravens would presumably use the franchise tag.
At his Combine press conference on Wednesday, General Manager Eric DeCosta said the team has not decided if it would use the exclusive or non-exclusive franchise tag with Jackson. But DeCosta also said, “We’re hopeful that we’ll get a deal done with Lamar before that happens.”
The long-term contract negotiation between Jackson — who is representing himself — and DeCosta has been ongoing, though the G.M. declined to say whether or not Jackson has demanded a fully guaranteed contract.
“We met recently,” DeCosta said. “We both understand the urgency of the situation. There’s been a good dialogue, good discussion. I’m optimistic as I continue to be optimistic and we’ll see where it goes.”
While there is uncertainty, DeCosta said the organization has been preparing for all the different scenarios regarding Jackson for the last year. And the club is prepared for whatever scenario eventually comes up.
That includes being familiar with the quarterbacks in this year’s draft, though that’s something DeCosta said he would be doing anyway.
“I don’t really shortchange [it]. I love football. I love the art of evaluation. I look at all the top players,” DeCosta said. “I’m going to do a top 150 players in every single draft class. I’ve done that. I look at guys in free agency. I enjoy it. So, for me, that’s not something that changes year-to-year. That’s just a part of the process. To build a draft board, you have to look at the players. Someone’s got to do it. So I would rather it be me than somebody else.”
Still, at least publicly, Plan A is still for the Ravens to get a long-term deal done with Jackson before the franchise tag deadline on March 7, with DeCosta saying “there’s no doubt” that Jackson has earned the right to be among the upper-echelon of quarterbacks when it comes to pay.
“We’ll have a plan,” DeCosta said. “Obviously, I’m going to think about everything. But I’m not really — I don’t fear a lot of different things. If you think about it, and you plan for it, you discuss it, you talk about it, then what’s the point of fear? So, it’s not like we didn’t know we might be in this position last year at this time.
“So, we’ve had a full year to really discuss all the different plans. We’ll make the right decision.”