OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In his first media session in five months, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson offered little clarity about his contract situation or how he would handle the lack of a new deal before training camp or the start of the season.
Jackson deflected questions about his contract situation Thursday, saying a variation of “We’re having a conversation about it” eight times during a 10-minute news conference.
He did express confidence when asked if he believed he would play in Baltimore for the rest of his career.
“I expect so,” Jackson said. “So, yes, I do.”
Jackson is set to make $23.016 million on his fifth-year option in 2022. If the sides can’t reach an extension by next offseason, the Ravens are expected to use the franchise tag to keep Jackson from becoming a free agent.
For the first time in his five-year career, Jackson skipped the three weeks of voluntary organized team activities but said his absence was not contract-related. He reported to mandatory minicamp and participated in all three practices, which marked the first time he had been in the Ravens’ facility since the season ended five months ago.
He provided mixed messages when pressed how he would proceed going forward if he didn’t receive a new deal.
Asked whether he would play in Week 1 without a new contract, Jackson said, “We’re in conversation right now.”
A few minutes later, Jackson was asked again whether he would show up for training camp and play the season without an extension. “We’re having a conversation about it. I don’t know,” he answered.
But during the same interview session, Jackson didn’t sound like a quarterback contemplating a holdout. He said he will meet with his wide receivers and tight ends for throwing sessions at Florida Atlantic leading up to training camp.
“We’re going to work, watch some film and just build our chemistry some more,” Jackson said. “Football season is here, really. So we’re going to grind right now.”
Jackson also said he doesn’t buy into the narrative that he should stay away from the field unless he gets a new deal because of his dual-threat style, which some believe leaves him more vulnerable to injury.
“I play football,” Jackson said. “That’s what I’m here for.”
Jackson was also dismissive about the impact of Deshaun Watson’s contract on his situation. After being traded to the Cleveland Browns in March, Watson signed a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract, which is $80 million more guaranteed than anyone else in the NFL had ever received.
“I’m a man of my own,” Jackson said. “I don’t worry about what those guys get.”
For much of the past year, Ravens officials have said Jackson has shown no urgency in starting negotiations. Jackson said he had “a conversation” with the team about his contract and they are “keeping it private.”
Jackson looked in great physical condition, adding 15 pounds of muscle mass to increase his weight to 220 pounds. He threw the ball with more velocity and showed instant chemistry with a wide receiver group without Marquise Brown, who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals.
“As far as the throwing, catching and targeting and playmaking stuff, I was happy to see that,” coach John Harbaugh said. ‘I was wondering about it, how was it going to look. To see it look that good and see the shape he was in and how well he threw the ball, for a coach, that’s exciting.”
The Ravens don’t believe the contact situation will become a distraction for Jackson.
“He’s a master of that,” Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban said. “He’s tremendously good at focusing on the task at hand.”