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Ravens GM DeCosta has big decision over L. Jackson

Lamar Jackson. Photo by Joe Glorioso/All-Pro Reels via Flcikr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Joe Glorioso | All-Pro Reels
Lamar Jackson. Photo by Joe Glorioso/All-Pro Reels via Flcikr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We recently learned from Orioles general manager Mike Elias that when it comes to dealing with a beloved Baltimore athletic character like Trey Mancini, it really is strictly business, nothing personal.

It’s time to find out how much of “The Godfather” Eric DeCosta, the Ravens’ general manager, has seen, as negotiations into a new contract for Lamar Jackson, the city’s most popular figure, heat up.

As Jackson enters his fifth season – the last of his initial contract – he approaches it with some questions.

The biggest of those questions is whether he can return from a bone bruise of his right ankle, which cost him the last four games of last season. It’s the ankle he plants and throws from, and his successful return is key to the Ravens’ 2022 fortunes. Lamar Jackson is one of only nine players in NFL history to win the Most Valuable Player Award after receiving the Heisman Trophy in college. He is a preternaturally gifted player, what with his skill at running for yardage,

And while the Ravens have reached the playoffs in his first three seasons, they have yet to break through to the Super Bowl, much less win one, the way Jackson’s predecessor, Joe Flacco, did.

Jackson’s supporters – and they are legion around town – point out that he has never had an elite level pass catcher to throw to, outside tight end Mark Andrews.

It’s a fair point. For all the Ravens’ drafting acumen over the 25-plus years they’ve been in town, the one area where they’ve come up short historically is in selecting good wide receivers.

Meanwhile, Jackson’s detractors – and they are numerous outside Charm City – say he is largely one dimensional, that he relies too much on his legs and not on his arm.

No less a figure than Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, a Super Bowl champion with the 49ers, has put the blame on Jackson’s lack of development on the Ravens, saying their emphasis on running harms the star quarterback’s advancement.

All of that leaves DeCosta, and, by extension, team owner Steve Bischotti with a dilemma: What do they do with Lamar Jackson when his contract ends?

By all indications, the team is prepared to back up the proverbial Brink’s truck and dump a lot of cash on Jackson’s front yard.

Given what other NFL quarterbacks like Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson have signed for recently, Jackson should expect a yearly payday in excess of $45 million.

Still to be decided is for how long the team signs Jackson and how much of that money is guaranteed.

The Browns, for instance, signed Watson, who faces an 11-game suspension for alleged sexual harassment against numerous women, to a five-year, $230 million deal, of which every penny is guaranteed.

Jackson, who has given the team a deadline of the beginning of the season to reach an agreement, may very well want what Watson got, but has kept his feelings close to the vest, which is interesting since he has no agent.

The Ravens would be foolish to give Lamar Jackson a fully guaranteed contract, but Eric DeCosta, like Mike Elias, will have to figure out to balance the business and the personal. Wish him luck!

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.