11 things we learned from Ravens QB Lamar Jackson’s news conference — and 5 things we still don’t know

Published 5/4/2023 5:32 p.m. EDT, Updated 5/20/2023 3:30 p.m. EDT

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson laughs during an interview following a press conference at the Under Armour Performance Center on Thursday, May 4. Jackson and the Ravens recently came to an agreement on his contract extension, a 5-year deal worth $260 million.
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On Thursday afternoon, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson took his seat at a podium inside the team’s Owings Mills facility with a lot of money made and a lot of ground to cover.

Jackson had just finalized a five-year, $260 million contract extension that made him the NFL’s highest-paid player. Next up: a half-hour with local reporters and his first media availability since a knee injury sidelined him in early December. One big Ravens story after another had filled those five months, and only rarely had Jackson weighed in.

Thursday’s news conference with coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta offered few bombshells, but it did help fill in the gaps. Some of them, anyway. Here’s what we learned — and what we still don’t know.

What we learned

1. Jackson said he never wanted to leave. Other teams reached out after the Ravens designated him with the nonexclusive franchise tag in March, allowing him to negotiate a deal elsewhere, but Jackson said he “didn’t really care about other teams. I wanted to be here.”

Jackson eventually tired of the back-and-forth with Ravens officials, especially as the offseason dragged on. He said he was “satisfied” when “the numbers were right,” and appreciated the Ravens’ commitment to him throughout the two-plus years of contract talks.

“I thought we would get the process done,” Jackson said. “I didn’t have a doubt in my mind because, like they said, they love me, I love being here, I love my teammates and I love the fan base. I really love the fan base and my teammates. So I didn’t have a doubt, really.”

From left: Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh, quarterback Lamar Jackson and General Manager Eric DeCosta answer questions during a press conference at the Under Armour Performance Center on Thursday, May 4. Jackson and the Ravens recently came to an agreement on his contract extension, a 5-year deal worth $260 million.

2. Jackson will continue to represent himself. During the offseason, Jackson said prospective agents reached out to him “every week,” some boasting about their client list. Jackson wasn’t sure how they got his phone number, but the recruiting was persistent.

None of it swayed Jackson. He said he’ll continue to represent himself in negotiations because “I won’t put my trust in anyone else but myself.”

“If you’re going to represent yourself, you have to have a strong mind,” he said. “I wouldn’t say you get out there and put your feelings in it because it’s not about feelings. You can’t take things with a, ‘Oh, yes, I don’t like what you said. I don’t agree with this.’ What they feel is how you feel. It’s a grown-man thing at the end of the day, so you have to be a grown man if you’re going to handle business.”

3. Jackson didn’t demand that the Ravens acquire two big-name wide receivers. Last month, former NFL executive Michael Lombardi reported on “The Lombardi Line” that a source close to Jackson told the Ravens, “Get Hopkins and get Beckham and then we can talk.” The Ravens had already signed Odell Beckham Jr. to a one-year, $15 million contract, while DeAndre Hopkins was under contract with the Arizona Cardinals.

Jackson clarified that he’d asked the Ravens whether they could get both, not demanded that they do. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I want them or nothing else,’” he said. “Like, nah. That’s not how you conduct business.”

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4. Jackson said Jalen Hurts’ deal didn’t affect the Ravens’ negotiations. On April 17, the Eagles and Hurts, Philadelphia’s star quarterback, agreed to a five-year, $255 million contract, which seemed to establish a framework for Jackson’s own megadeal. But Jackson, as DeCosta did a week ago, suggested the news didn’t resonate much.

“I didn’t worry about Jalen’s deal,” Jackson said. “It was like — we came to terms. We came to something both of us mutually agreed on, like I said. And now we’re here.”

5. Jackson’s SpongeBob SquarePants tweet was a sign. On April 25, Jackson got an offer he liked. That night, he texted DeCosta to indicate a contract extension was feasible — and he tweeted a GIF of SpongeBob SquarePants, with no context added other than a smiling emoji.

“The SpongeBob message was definitely a message to the fan base, let them know that we’re moving on up,” he said.

6. Jackson’s in touch with offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Monken said at his introductory news conference in February that he hadn’t “had the chance to talk to any of the players yet, really,” and at the NFL scouting combine in early March, Harbaugh indicated that they had yet to connect. “There’s plenty of time for that,” Harbaugh said.

But Jackson said he’s talked with Monken “a couple times,” that he’s got his team-issued iPad and that Monken’s offense “looks different, and I’m liking it so far.”

7. Jackson’s fully healthy. Jackson, who suffered a season-ending Grade 2 PCL sprain in December, said his knee “got better” a month ago and that he’s been cleared medically.

“I’m great,” he said.

8. DeCosta thinks highly of the Ravens’ team-building efforts, but knows they haven’t been enough. Asked about how he’d evaluate his construction of the Ravens’ roster around Jackson, DeCosta said he’d “probably give us a ‘B,’” but that the Ravens are “on our way to being an ‘A.’”

“We’ve done a lot of good things, but we haven’t achieved what we said we would, what Lamar said we would,” DeCosta added, referring to Jackson’s draft-night pledge to win a Super Bowl. “We’re not there yet. In 2018, Lamar stood up there and he said what we were going to do. We’re not there yet, but we’re going to get there. And we’re on our way. The team’s not set yet. We still have a few months to build the team out. But I think you can feel the energy. You can see the roster. It’s a strong roster. We’ve got a lot of really, really good players in place. Excellent coaching staff. And we’ve got the mindset and the culture that John built.”

9. DeCosta plans to make the most of the savings from Jackson’s deal. Jackson’s salary cap hit for 2023 is projected to be $22 million, down from the $32.4 million the Ravens would’ve incurred had Jackson signed the franchise tag. DeCosta said the Ravens “need every dollar we can” because of their spending on players like Beckham and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.

“Lamar joked a few years ago that ‘EDC’ stands for ‘Every Dollar Counts,’ and that is how I think about it, because every dollar does count this year,” he said. “We spent a lot of money, and we do it every year because we want to win. This does give us a little bit of relief, but it’s not like we’re leading the league in cap room.”

10. Harbaugh has no plans to rein in “Lamar-ball.” Asked whether the Ravens would seek to limit Jackson’s running this year, Harbaugh recalled telling Jackson: “You play like you play.” He said he’d leave the decision on whether Jackson runs to the player himself.

“There’s nobody like him, and there never will be, as a player,” Harbaugh said. “So let’s go be the best Lamar Jackson that God intended you to be. So when he feels like it’s time to take off and run, he will. ... You encourage him to play the way he plays. So I think he’s going to throw when it’s time to throw and he’s going to run when it’s time to run. And we’re going to play that kind of football, and it’s going to be great.”

11. Jackson’s next step is unclear. He was noncommittal about whether he’d attend organized team activities, the voluntary offseason practices he skipped last year. OTAs in Baltimore begin the week of May 22.

“I’m going to be in soon,” Jackson said. “I’m going to be here soon.”

What we still don’t know

1. Did Jackson make any concessions in their negotiations? For months, Jackson was reportedly seeking a contract that was either fully guaranteed or had guaranteed money in excess of what the Cleveland Browns offered quarterback Deshaun Watson (five years, $230 million). Jackson still ended up with the second-most guaranteed money ever ($185 million), but his contract didn’t have the precedent-setting structure that many owners feared it would.

2. How does Steve Bisciotti feel? The Ravens owner, who’s rarely made available for interviews, did not join DeCosta and Harbaugh at Thursday’s presser. DeCosta said Bisciotti “gives us a chance to do our jobs. He’ll provide advice and guidance. He’s great at that.” His signoff on the deal indicated his enormous support for Jackson. But Bisciotti himself hasn’t commented on the historic deal, which seemed in jeopardy at times after he acknowledged last year that Watson’s contract would “make negotiations harder with others.”

3. What happened after Jackson’s trade request? He and the Ravens needed only a month to patch things up and agree on a deal. A lot happened in that span: Beckham was signed, Hurts reset the quarterback market, and the NFL draft loomed. But DeCosta told NBC Sports on Wednesday that the Ravens’ final offer to Jackson was not too different from what he’d been offered in September, before contract talks were suspended.

4. Who reached out to Jackson? He said there was outside interest after he was tagged, but he didn’t say who reached out, nor did he elaborate on how significant the interest was. Jackson wasn’t asked about Ken Francis, a business partner of Jackson’s who the NFL Players Association said tried to negotiate with team officials on Jackson’s behalf.

5. How does Jackson want to play? He’s bristled at the notion of being a “running quarterback,” and indicated after the departure of offensive coordinator Greg Roman that he’s ready to play in a “pro-style” offense. Jackson said Thursday that he told someone he wants to “throw for, like, 6,000 yards with the weapons we have,” but didn’t talk about his goals as a runner. Many productive running quarterbacks, such as Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick, had fewer rushing attempts as they aged out of their athletic prime.