Lamar Jackson sets hard deadline for contract talks as extension threatens to loom over Ravens season

Wednesday marked four days out from Baltimore's season opener, and Lamar Jackson still doesn't have a new contract.

After previously suggesting that Week 1 would mark the end of his negotiations, the Ravens quarterback set a firmer deadline while speaking with reporters on Wednesday.

"As of right now, you know, we're still talking," Jackson said. "The week's not over yet. But soon. Soon. Probably be a deadline. Probably be cut off after this week.

"Kickoff, I will not be talking about a contract. I'm thinking straight Jets around kickoff time."

When pressed about a precise deadline, Jackson said this:

"Then end of this week," Jackson continued. "Friday."

Jackson's approaching the fifth and final season of his rookie contract after the Ravens exercised a $23 million option for 2022. Without an extension, he'll be eligible for free agency in the offseason. In that instance, the Ravens would maintain and likely exercise the franchise tag to keep him from hitting the open market.

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But the absence of an extension threatens to loom over the Ravens season with the long-term future of their former MVP quarterback uncertain. Jackson, who doesn't have an agent, has declined to discuss details of the talks. He maintained his line on Wednesday.

"I have no clue," Jackson said when asked if he felt closer to a deal than previously. "You have to ask the guy who I'm talking to."

Aug 21, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks on against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Will Lamar Jackson start the season without a contract extension? (Joe Camporeale/Reuters)

How close are Jackson, Ravens to a deal?

The Ravens have likewise remained mum. But reporting suggests that the two sides aren't close.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske reported prior to Jackson's statement that "there was pessimism Tuesday afternoon" about a deal getting done this week and that Jackson is likely to play the season on his rookie contract "barring a last-minute shift."

Meanwhile, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that "nothing is imminent with his contract." According to both reports, guaranteed money remains a sticking point in negotiations with Deshaun Watson's Cleveland Browns contract playing a factor.

The Browns signed Watson to an unprecedented fully guaranteed $230 million contract after acquiring him in a trade from the Houston Texans this offseason. The deal appeared to reset the quarterback market, but other high-profile quarterbacks have since signed contracts absent similar guarantees.

Kyler Murray signed a $230.5 million extension with the Arizona Cardinals in July with a maximum value that mirrors Watson's. But the guarantees are capped at $160 million. Russell Wilson signed a similar deal with the Denver Broncos in August worth $245 million that includes $165 million in guarantees.

It's not clear how far apart Jackson and the Ravens are in negotiations or if Jackson is demanding a fully guaranteed deal similar to Watson's. As a former league MVP, it stands to reason that he would demand a more lucrative deal than Murray's. Jackson and Murray are both 25 years old.

How firm Jackson's deadline is likewise isn't clear. It's artificial, but both sides have expressed a desire for Jackson to focus on football once the season starts. Having an extension in place would make doing so considerably easier.