OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Shortly before the Baltimore Ravens' coach and general manager met with reporters to wrap up the season, offensive coordinator Greg Roman's agency announced he was stepping away to pursue other opportunities.
It was the first big move for what could be the league's most intriguing team this offseason.
The question, obviously, is whether the next coordinator will have Lamar Jackson at quarterback. General manager Eric DeCosta said at Thursday's news conference that the team will start negotiating again with Jackson, who has reached the end of his rookie contract.
“It certainly takes two to tango, but I think Lamar and I have a great relationship. I think we communicate quite often. We spent some time together today as a matter of fact,” DeCosta said. “These negotiations ... they all happen differently. Ronnie Stanley's contract took about a year and a half. Mark Andrews' contract took probably three or four days.”
Jackson's contract talks have clearly reached an actions-speak-louder-than-words stage. The team and its star quarterback have generally kept things amicable in public — Jackson didn't hold out last offseason, and DeCosta said in September he appreciated how the 2019 MVP had handled the process — but now time is getting short.
Jackson injured his knee in early December and didn't play again. Perhaps inevitably, that led to speculation that his contract status was affecting his timetable for returning. DeCosta said he didn't think that was the case, and coach John Harbaugh said Jackson might have been able to return if the Ravens had extended their season a bit longer. They lost to Cincinnati in their playoff opener.
DeCosta stressed that the team has a good relationship with Jackson, although the fact that the 25-year-old quarterback is representing himself in negotiations presents some challenges.
“Any time you negotiate with anybody, it's not always going to be an easy conversation to have. ... We have to keep those two personalities separate — the Lamar Jackson the agent versus Lamar Jackson the player,” DeCosta said. “The player is somebody who I hold in extremely high regard. He's a fantastic competitor, one of the most infectious personalities we'll ever see, one of the most talented players in the league, a truly wonderful person in the community.”
“I told Lamar that, ‘Hey, this thing has been a burden for both of us,’” DeCosta added. ”I said, ‘But when this thing is over, we are going to feel like a million bucks.’ And that’s truly how I feel.”
The Ravens have good reason to show optimism about bringing Jackson back. The franchise tag is an option, and if they are entertaining the idea of trading him, they'll want to have as much leverage as possible. DeCosta wouldn't talk about that possibility and said the team's singular focus is on reaching a long-term deal.
At this point, fans are left to parse comments from the GM and coach and analyze Jackson's social media posts — but for now, DeCosta is trying to stay upbeat.
“If you go into a negotiation with a negative feeling, then your chances of getting that done are not going to happen,” DeCosta said. “I think we try to be creative and strategic, and I truly believe Lamar wants to finish his career in Baltimore. I just believe that in my conversations with him, and just watching him. ... All of those things kind of work together for me to tell me that we still have a chance, and that I should be as optimistic as possible.”
Harbaugh said he'd already talked to Jackson about the offensive coordinator position and would keep him involved in that search. He said he doesn't think the uncertainty about the quarterback's future will make it hard to find a good candidate.
“This is going to be a highly sought-after job. This is one of the top football-coaching jobs in the world,” Harbaugh said. “Everybody's going to want this job.”
Roman’s agency, Athletes First, announced his move. Roman took over as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator in 2019. That year Roman was honored as The Associated Press Assistant Coach of the Year and Jackson was the NFL’s unanimous MVP.
But Baltimore's offense wasn't that great this season even when Jackson played. Injuries and lack of depth at wide receiver were a big problem. The team also had problems in the red zone, and that proved costly all the way until the end.
“There were records set here," Harbaugh said. "We're all really proud of those things. Greg's a great coach and he did the best he could every single week, every single day.”
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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