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The Ravens & Lamar Jackson: risky business

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The general rule of gambling is to risk as much as you're willing to lose.  The Baltimore Ravens are willing to lose Lamar Jackson.  Let that sink in.  

Jackson is a generational talent.  He's still young and in his prime: a dynamic, once-in-a-lifetime talent who was voted unanimous NFL MVP in 2019.  Again, the Ravens are willing to let him go. 

John Harbaugh said of Jackson after this past season: "Eric (DeCosta) wants him here. I want him here. Steve (Bisciotti) wants him here and Lamar wants to be here."  Yet the Ravens are allowing him to shop around.  

In that same press conference, DeCosta said "I truly believe Lamar wans to finish his career in Baltimore."  Still, the Ravens have utilized the "non-exclusive" free agent tag on Jackson that allows other teams to make an offer to him. 

Yes, the Ravens are willing to lose their star quarterback. 

Of all of the mystery and uncertainty surrounding Lamar Jackson's free agency, I see his relationship with the Ravens as the key to what is playing out. No team knows Jackson better than the Ravens.  

Harbaugh said in January, "Everything we've done in terms of building our offense and building our team, in terms of how we put people around him, is based on this incredible young man and his talent, his ability and his competitiveness."  

The effusive praise has to be seen as some posturing: the Ravens were working on a long-term contract with Jackson so they're only going to praise him publicly, AND in the event they have to consider trading Jackson- they need to build up their asset.  

Consider, too, that in five years in their building, the Ravens are familiar with the totality of the Lamar Jackson experience: his dedication, preparation (including sleep and nutrition), work habits, how he handles and rehabs injuries, etc., all the stuff that doesn't show up on a stat sheet. They know better than any team what it's like to interact with Jackson the agent who represents himself in negotiations (DeCosta: "It's a challenge…it's a burden").  

The Ravens have all of the information- positive and negative- and while they'd like to keep him, they're also willing to part ways with Lamar Jackson.

Like any gamble, the Ravens are hedging their bet and hoping to win.  They know their player, they know the market and they knew to implement a free agent mechanism that would likely scare off some potential bidders and cool the market for Lamar Jackson. It's still early in the process (one week) but with each passing day, it appears the Ravens have played their cards well and may very well get what they say they want: a long-term contract with the QB at a price they're comfortable paying. 

In an article on ESPN, Stephen Holder wrote: "Ask yourself: Do you see the Kansas City Chiefs allowing Patrick Mahomes to hit the market? Can you envision the Buffalo Bills making Josh Allen available for a trade? Would the Cincinnati Bengals consider letting Joe Burrow walk?"  Holder's point is that the availability of Lamar Jackson is a rare opportunity. Yes, it is.  

And to answer Holder's question: no, I can't see any of those other teams allowing any of their star quarterbacks to get away. Yet, the Ravens are willing to lose Lamar Jackson.  They seem to be on a likely path (for now) to win their gamble and keep him, but only at the right price. Stay tuned.

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