Perennial Pro Bowl quarterbacks and players with contract talks on deck are not always expected at voluntary offseason workouts.
That's the position of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh as Baltimore opens organized team activities.
“We've been down this road many times through the years,” Harbaugh said. “I'll just let Lamar speak for himself on that.”
Jackson replied on social media to a message about the start of OTAs that was composed on the team's Twitter feed. “Can't wait to get back,” the QB wrote.
The last time the Ravens had a Pro Bowl passer in a contract year, Joe Flacco opted to bet on himself and wound up landing a massive deal to become the highest-paid player in NFL history in 2013 (six years, $120.6 million, $52 million guaranteed).
Jackson, 25, is set to play the 2022 season on his fifth-year option worth $23.016 million. That annual average salary is 15th in the NFL among projected starting quarterbacks according to USA Today. Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to be traded by the 49ers but has a 2022 salary over $27 million.
Waiting might be the hard part for Baltimore, but the payoff might outweigh the risk if Jackson delivers on the field this season.
Top quarterback salaries exploded again in the offseason with seven players at the position, including Derek Carr (Raiders) and Matthew Stafford (Rams), now over the $40-million annual average.
Harbaugh and Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said following the NFL draft, the team is prepared to negotiate with Jackson, but said contract talks are not a priority at this time. Jackson said his only focus is the Super Bowl.
While waiting, the market could shift dramatically again on the Ravens. Three recent deals — Patrick Mahomes with the Chiefs, Deshaun Watson with the Browns and Aaron Rodgers with the Packers — all pay more than $45 million per year. The salary-database site Spotrac projected Jackson's present annual value at $43.7 million.
As for when the timing will be right for a Ravens-Jackson deal, Harbaugh said it's not for him to decide.
“It's up to him,” Harbaugh said.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey said he talked to Jackson and knows he plans to join the team when it matters.
“If it was training camp, it would be really bad. But I think as long as guys are working, no matter where they are, that's the key,” Humphrey said. “We'll be really excited to get him out here.”
Jackson had a combined 18 interceptions over his first three seasons before throwing 13 picks in 12 games of 2021. He had 16 touchdown passes last season, a steep decline from his 2019 MVP total of 36.
He had 767 rushing yards and two touchdowns last season after back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
Tight end Mark Andrews said he sees a bounceback season coming from Jackson.
“I know Lamar. I've talked with him. I know how hard he's working,” Andrews said. “I know he's extremely motivated, extremely hungry. So there's no worries over there.”