So I’ve been trying for two weeks to come up with a joke for the Lamar Jackson problem and frankly, it’s been a problem, because this is a very weird situation the likes of which we haven’t really seen before. Lamar Jackson remains unsigned and under the non-exclusive franchise tag as of this writing, and there is no clear single reason why. It’s complicated. There is a lot contributing to this. So I guess the best way to do it would be to look at what I think are the major factors as to why an MVP-level player at the most premium position in the sport has essentially been shoved in a locker.

Owner collusion and the DeShaun Watson contract
So this is the big nasty reason. The Browns, on top of selling their souls to give a serial rapist the biggest deal in NFL history, straight-up shattered the QB deal market by making it fully guaranteed. The other owners are apparently extremely unhappy about that, and are now effectively boycotting the idea of fully guaranteed contracts because of how much Lamar will cost. Watson was not the first QB to get a fully guaranteed contract (I believe it was Kirk Cousins to the Vikings, hilariously also after being tagged twice in a row by a team unwilling to pay him), but Cousins’ deal was significantly lower than Watson’s. The owners do not want to give their players fully guaranteed contracts for a number of reasons. 1: capitalism, they want to hoard as much money as they can get away with. 2: guaranteed money means just that: guaranteed. You can’t structure a contract to sort of plan for the future not working out. 3: it makes the salary cap a nightmare problem because now you have one guy taking up even more % space.

The market effectively dictates what players are worth, and the Browns rapist simping bullshit inflated the QB market to even more absurd levels. This is the NFL owners attempting to crack that market and send it back down. Now, I’m actually of the opinion that QBs are indeed paid too much proportionally, but mostly because I want to see a higher floor for everyone else and QB contracts make it difficult. But the market says that this is what QBs are worth now. Lamar is not DeShaun Watson: he’s better. He’s a better person, and he’s probably a better player, especially if last year’s Watson is anything to go by. He has his flaws, but by god the man has clearly shown he’s championship caliber and anyone who calls him a running back is just being a hater. The Ravens have failed him in these past seasons just as much as he’s come up short. In fact, the Ravens have finally taken steps to address the problem, firing their war criminal strength coach and sending very limited offensive coordinator Greg Roman out the door. Now they just have to not get bitten by injuries and get dudes who catch.

The fact that many of the teams who immediately pulled out on the Lamar sweepstakes are the same teams that were all-in on the Watson sweepstakes (like Atlanta) says a lot that owners are up to something. There’s no reason for the Falcons to not take a gander at Lamar. Lamar is an instant upgrade at QB for a significant portion of the league and to see teams all kinda pretending they don’t notice him is extremely weird. They had no issue going in for a worse player and person, but not this guy?

This kind of goes along with the problem of pricing but the Ravens effectively played their hand perfectly here. Lamar wants insane money, the kind I’d make a fort elite money comic out of in the old days. One of the biggest issues with the non-exclusive tag is that it gives the holding team a chance to match any offer and immediately negate the offer. So if the Falcons offer Lamar 220 fully guaranteed, the Ravens can just go “yup, same” and Lamar is now stuck on the Ravens even if he wants to go to the Falcons. A lot of people have speculated that this is a major turnoff for other teams, because why would they bother putting forth the offer if the Ravens will just match it? To effectively get Lamar off the Ravens, a team would have to offer a number the Ravens won’t match, and the Ravens appear to be willing to match pretty high if reports are accurate. So why bother offering him anything? He’s already going to cost so much, the extra it would take to get the Ravens to balk and let him walk would be astronomical. The other thing that works in the Ravens favor here is that the Non-Exclusive tag is not as high a price as the usual exclusive tag. So they are betting on no team making him the huge offer they won’t match and making him effectively crawl back to daddy and possibly signing the tag deal and play for even less than he’d be worth on the regular tag.

There is also a possibility Jackson has helped create this mess by representing himself with no agency (or his family doing so on his behalf). Now, representing yourself is not inherently going to be an issue. Laremy Tunsil just negotiated a killer deal for himself, as his own agent. The advantage is obvious: no fees. All that money goes to you. The problem is that agents exist to understand this situation. When you pay an agent, you are paying for a guy who knows how to negotiate, who knows how to run PR for you, and who knows what all the technical contract details are. People hire agents because that shit is hard to do. There is some reason to wonder if Jackson wasn’t able to work through a deal by the deadline because he doesn’t have an agent, he has his mother. I can’t find any information on what Lamar’s mother does for a living outside being his manager, so her experience and ability to negotiate is not something I can comment on. Maybe she’s great at this and we simply can’t see it from the outside.

These 3 main factors are what I personally believe have led to this weird scenario of a gifted young QB being available for all but nobody biting. Since I’m just a dude on the internet there are untold amounts of information I don’t know about all of this, and I’m mostly waiting for it to play out. I think Lamar is destined to be a Raven at the end of all this. I think nobody will sign him, I think he’ll effectively be forced back to Baltimore, and Baltimore will make him a substantial (but not Watson level) contract offer that he will sign. The big question I have is how broken is the relationship between Jackson and the Ravens? Watson’s relationship with Houston went south so badly that he decided to hold out and not play football entirely (and then he because too toxic to even attempt to re-sign). If Jackson can’t get what he wants from the Ravens, will he hold out? Does he never want to put on the Ravens uniform ever again? Is the taste of Old Bay ruined for him forever? Or does he actually still like Baltimore and is simply trying to get what he feels he is worth in the current QB marketplace? That’s the question I want the answer too, and time will tell.

I hope when you read this Wednesday morning he hasn’t signed yet, god I’ll be mad if I jinx myself again.