With the new league year beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is a free agent, with a large asterisk.
As a player subject to the non-exclusive franchise tag, Jackson can speak to any teams that possess their original first-round picks for 2023 and 2024. He can go to them. They can go to him. They can negotiate terms. He can sign an offer sheet with one of them, giving the Ravens five business days to match.
If the Ravens don’t match, the new team surrenders the 2023 and 2024 first-round picks to Baltimore.
And unless Jackson hires an agent, he has to handle all of this himself. He’ll either be calling teams or waiting for teams to call. He’ll be negotiating with them the same way he was (or wasn’t) negotiating with the Ravens.
Given the difficulties the Ravens had in working out a contract with someone who already worked for them, what will happen now that negotiations can occur between Jackson and teams to which he has no connection?
Jackson may believe that negotiation isn’t necessary, that he wants what he wants and he’ll wait until someone offers it to him. There’s a certain basic appeal to that approach, but it’s likely unrealistic. Unless a team (like the Commanders) has been secretly plotting to make a run at Jackson the moment the ability to do so arrives, with full awareness of the fact that the only way to get him is to show up with exactly what he wants, it’s not happening.
At some point, negotiations have to happen. At some point, Lamar has to know when to say “yes.” Otherwise, it’ll come down — again — to whether Lamar and the Ravens can work out a contract before the July 17 deadline for doing a multi-year deal.
Yes, he needs an agent. Now more than ever, he needs one of the firms that specialize in representing the interests of franchise quarterbacks. He needs to forget that it will look like an admission that he was mistaken to not have one earlier.
As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter (yes, that was his name) once said, “Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.”
The wise and prudent move for Lamar Jackson would be to hire an agent. Anyone with any amount of influence over him should be urging him to do so.
Lamar Jackson is now free to talk to other teams originally appeared on Pro Football Talk