As the season draws near, the artificial deadline to get a deal done in Baltimore looms. I don't get the sense Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are hammering out the fine points of any potential deal, either.
The sources I speak to in Baltimore and around the league remain skeptical and doubtful a long-term deal between Jackson and the Ravens will get done this week. Though neither side is detailing snags in contract negotiations, the prevailing thought is that guaranteed money is among the central issues here.
Jackson, who does not have an agent, has seen the $230 million fully-guaranteed contract Deshaun Watson signed back in the spring, as well as the not-fully-guaranteed deals signed by Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson that eclipsed Watson's average annual value.
Many have clamored for Jackson to hire an agent, who could act as a buffer during negotiations with the team so nerves aren't frayed. I know that many agents over the years — and especially the past several months — have attempted to offer their services to Jackson but to no avail.
Jackson is well within his rights to not hire an agent, and I'm told he has no desire to. Fees are typically 3 percent of a contract, though for a contract of this size, many representatives would take a smaller percentage. Jackson and his mother, Felicia Jones, have always done things their way, and up to this point it's hard to argue the results.
"I don't have any updates on that," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters Monday. "There's nothing that I'm aware of; it's been football, football, football for players and coaches. That's kind of where we're at. My interactions with Lamar [Jackson] have been all football, and he's been focused and locked in on that 100%, from a football standpoint. So, that's kind of where we're at, and personally I don't really have anything to add that I know of."
One source familiar with the negotiations told me it seems as though Jackson's feelings are "if it happens, great." Jackson is comfortable playing the fifth-year option of $23 million should a deal not get done in the coming days.
"He's confident," another source said. "He knows he's going to produce. Where's the urgency if you know you're gonna produce?"
Jackson's contract price has undoubtedly increased since this time last year. Should he again take the Ravens to the playoffs, the number increases even more. A franchise tag in 2023 would be north of $45 million, which would bring Jackson's two-year cash flow to nearly $70 million. It'd also make for a very difficult cap number for the Ravens next season that would give Jackson even more leverage to negotiate a deal with higher guarantees.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has admitted Watson's fully guaranteed deal will make "negotiations harder with others," and it appears it may have done just that in Baltimore. But I'm told by one source "there's no beef" — and by another source that "there's no animosity" — between Jackson and the Ravens as it relates to the negotiations.
It's not personal. It's strictly business.
Trubisky Steelers' starter ... for now
The QB1 job in Pittsburgh has been Mitch Trubisky's to lose since he signed his deal in March. "It was up to him," one Steelers source said, and he did nothing to lose the job. Mike Tomlin said as much Tuesday when he said "it's good to come to decisions based on what people are doing" as opposed to what they aren't doing. But you can forecast a legitimate concern: What happens when Trubisky struggles and Steelers fans are chanting for Kenny Pickett? Pickett is going to take all the backup reps at practice this week, and he'll be the first guy off the bench if needed. Pickett grew more confident the more reps he got in exhibitions. Trubisky has to avoid the big mistakes early.
One Bills player to keep an eye on
The news of the Bills splitting reps Thursday at CB2 between Kaair Elam and Christian Benford didn't surprise me. Benford had a solid preseason (and great if you consider it relative to his sixth-round selection), while Elam struggled a bit in Buffalo's zone scheme early in camp. Depending on how Buffalo wants to play the Rams, keep an eye on Elam playing more man and Benford in zone.