Lamar Jackson is still unsigned after the initial free agency rush and it seems almost inevitable that he'll have to sign the non-exclusive franchise tag and play for the Baltimore Ravens next year. Very few teams have the money to sign Jackson outright at this stage and something would've happened by now if anybody was truly interested. The draft will be the final deadline for the Ravens to theoretically move Jackson for the maximum possible return, but it is very likely he'll play on a one-year deal worth $32 million in 2023 and do this all again next offseason.
Everybody always talks about how football is a business but that doesn't mean feelings do not get hurt in the process of conducting that business. It is natural to wonder if Jackson's relationship with the Ravens has deteriorated, fair or not, as a result of these negotiations. There have not been many leaks from either side to suggest as much, but the whole thing at the end of the year with Jackson not playing or even attending the team's playoff game in Cincinnati didn't seem to sit well with everyone in Baltimore. Now he's in a stand-off with the front office. Things may not be terrible but they are far from great.
First Take touched upon the player-team relationship on Tuesday and Stephen A. Smith expressed his opinion that things have gone far enough south that Jackson will never be happy to represent the Ravens again.
"Here's where I'm coming with this: I don't think he'll ever be happy representing this organization again... Could he show up to work because he has no choice? Sure. Collect the $32 million that the non-exclusive tag gives him? Sure. Show up for his teammates, who he's got love for? Yeah. But I don't think that he'll ever have the respect, the affection, or the affinity for the organization that he once enjoyed."
This opinion comes at an interesting time, as Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported earlier in the day that a "representative" of Jackson's has been reaching out to other teams around the league trying to kickstart negotiations on an offer sheet. It's notable because the representative is not certified by the NFLPA (Jackson famously does not have an agent), and that representative is apparently telling those teams that the MVP quarterback is ready to move on from the Ravens. Stephen A. is not reporting anything in the segment above and most of his takes are usually just takes, but occasionally his opinion is informed enough that it portends future news.
This could be one of those times. It wouldn't really be surprising. And it may even prove to be meaningless in the long run. Players leaking that they are unhappy is as reliable a negotiating tactic as teams leaking they are looking into trade packages for the same players. Jackson is not going to be able to pressure the Ravens into giving him what he wants if he tells anybody who will listen that things are fine and dandy.
The contract dance will continue until training camp and perhaps even beyond that. But even if things don't get that bad, the history of star players who play under the franchise tag is not great for the Ravens. Usually they leave as soon as possible and/or go to extreme measures to get their way. So no matter what is true and what is a negotiating tactic, it's hard to imagine a long-term future for Jackson in Baltimore unless a deal gets done in the next few months.