Baltimore Sun

Offseason standoff could be a long one

- Mike Preston

These could be long and uneventful months for both the Ravens and star quarterbac­k Lamar Jackson when it comes to negotiatin­g a new contract. There was hope that both sides would come to some type of resolution weeks before the NFL draft begins April 27, but there doesn’t appear to be enough serious interest in Jackson, 26, from any of the league’s other 31 teams.

The Ravens put the nonexclusi­ve franchise tag on Jackson earlier this month, which means he will be paid $32.4 million in 2023 if he remains in Baltimore. Jackson can sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Ravens can either match that deal or decline and receive two first-round draft picks as compensati­on — one each in 2023 and 2024.

While there has not yet been a serious offer for Jackson, the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player has been linked to the Indianapol­is Colts, Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans, who could all look to upgrade at quarterbac­k this offseason. There was even a report Tuesday from Pro Football Talk, citing anonymous sources, that a representa­tive for Jackson not certified by the NFL Players Associatio­n has been contacting other teams and telling them that Jackson is ready to move on from the Ravens. There was similar buzz about Jackson’s situation at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapol­is in late February.

But when left tackle Laremy Tunsil — who, like Jackson, represents himself — agreed to a three-year contract extension with Houston last week worth $75 million, including $50 million guaranteed at signing, it was a signal that the free agent market is about to dry up.

Something had better start shaking soon or everyone involved could go fishing for a couple of weeks.

Or maybe we could tune in and watch the Lamar Jackson Entertainm­ent Inc. YouTube page, where the star quarterbac­k promises an exclusive interview with his own production company. I can’t wait. Maybe Jackson

in limbo, leaving the Ravens hamstrung in terms of maneuverab­ility when it comes to free agency.

Still, there has been some activity. Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin visited with the Ravens on Friday, according to multiple reports. Monday, current Ravens corner Marlon Humphrey tweeted that free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. “looks like a Raven to me is all I’m saying.” And the team on Monday hosted wide receiver Nelson Agholor, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

Receiver and cornerback are Baltimore’s two biggest areas of need this offseason.

The free agent market for receivers isn’t breathtaki­ng — particular­ly for what the Ravens could afford. But Humphrey’s tweet shouldn’t be discounted as merely wishful thinking when it comes to Beckham.

Saturday, Beckham seemed to suggest he had received at least one offer in the $4 million range — something he also made clear he’s not interested in. The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots have been linked to the free agent receiver, and both have more cap space than Baltimore, but the Ravens were also among the teams at Beckham’s workout earlier this month as he recovers from a second torn ACL that he suffered in last year’s Super Bowl. Adding Beckham would seemingly be a nice carrot for Jackson as well.

Agholor, meanwhile, would certainly be a cheaper option for the Ravens, with the 29-year-old expected to fetch a one-year deal in the $3 million range. He’s coming off an uneven 2022 season in which he was on the field for just 45% of the Patriots’ snaps, catching 31 passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns. D.J. Chark was once a possibilit­y, but according to NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo, he’s in talks with the Detroit Lions about a return. The Carolina Panthers are also among his suitors.

The best receiver options for the Ravens are probably via trade and/or the draft. The Arizona Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins, a threetime first-team All-Pro who has six 1,000-yard seasons over the past nine years with at least 100 catches in four of them, is on the trade market but would be costly. And Baltimore has just five picks in next month’s draft.

As for cornerback, Mullen’s re-signing doesn’t give the Ravens enough help.

The Eagles’ Darius Slay certainly would have, but the five-time Pro Bowl selection signed a two-year extension with Philadelph­ia over the weekend. Ditto James Bradberry, who is returning to Philly on a three-year deal.

Ya-Sin, however, remains one of the best players at any position still available on the free agent market. The 26-year-old, who spent his first three years with the Indianapol­is Colts before being traded to the Las Vegas Raiders last March, rates as the fifthbest shutdown corner in the league, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. His projected annual value is also about $10.8 million, per Spotrac.

Another potential move: Baltimore could re-sign Marcus Peters, whose market value is expected to be around $6.4 million.

With not a lot of top-end free agent cornerback­s available, it’s expected the Ravens will also look to the draft. Maryland’s Deonte Banks, Georgia’s Kelee Ringo and South Carolina’s Cam Smith are among those who could be available when the Ravens draft at No. 22 overall in the first round.

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