Here’s why some NFL players are lobbing accusations of collusion over Lamar Jackson

Here’s why some NFL players are lobbing accusations of collusion over Lamar Jackson

A year ago this week, two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Deshaun Watson on any charges related to multiple women who alleged Watson sexually assaulted or sexually assaulted them while trying to massage the quarterback. then of the Houston Texans.

Once Watson was criminally clean, multiple teams—the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, and New Orleans Saints—had the opportunity to trade and sign Watson, who at that point had not played a full season and was 28 years old. -25 as a Texans starter with one playoff win.

The Cleveland Browns outbid everyone else, signing Watson to a five-year, fully guaranteed, $230 million contract and sending three first-round draft picks to Houston.

And yet here we are 12 months later, and two of those three teams that were in hot pursuit of Watson and still without a long-term quarterback are telling reporters, including Yahoo! Sports’ Jori Epstein, that they are out for Lamar Jackson. That came hours after the Baltimore Ravens placed an exclusive tag on the QB, allowing any other team to make an offer and potentially sign him if the Ravens don’t match.

Jackson was the NFL’s second unanimous MVP when he was 23 years old. His Ravens have won 45 of his 61 career starts. He celebrated his 26th birthday eight weeks ago and is, by all accounts, a mainstay in his South Florida neighborhood and in Baltimore. He can be traded for two first-round picks rather than the three picks Houston was asking for, and he hasn’t been accused of misconduct by more than two dozen women. However … he is not attractive to these QB-desperate teams, but Watson was?

Of course.

You’ll forgive us if we don’t believe them.

Will Lamar Jackson play for the Ravens in 2023? (Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports)

Current and former players think something is wrong too. JJ Watt, Robert Griffin III, Tyrann Mathieu, Jaquan Brisker and Quandre Diggs were among those who cast doubt on reports that teams that should want a quarterback don’t want Jackson, with Diggs using the catchphrase in his tweet and Mathieu saying that anyone who asks. Jackson’s ability has not had to play defense against him.

The story continues

You’ll know if we smell even a little collusion in the air, the stench wafting over it all like a Rottweiler just sprayed by a skunk (don’t ask how I know that).

Not long after the details of Watson’s megadeal came to light last March, Ravens team owner Steve Bisciotti went on the record to express his displeasure with it and that it would make negotiations with other quarterbacks more difficult. difficult.

Bisciotti and the Ravens could have signed Jackson to an extension in 2021 after his third season. That was long before the Browns’ contract with Watson, so part of the reason he’s in this messy situation right now — assuming he doesn’t want to be — is his own fault. Moreover, the price for players, especially for center backs, never goes down. 2018 first-round draft pick Josh Allen signed a six-year extension with the Buffalo Bills through 2021 that includes $150 million in guaranteed money and a maximum of $258 million. Jackson and Baltimore could have done something similar and didn’t, and now the price has only gone up.

Jackson has suffered injuries in each of the last two seasons. It’s also worth noting that the Ravens were third in the league in back-to-back games lost to injury in 2022 and lost the third-most in the league since 2009, and in the NFL Players Association poll , Baltimore players appreciated the strength. coach Steve Saunders at an F-minus, far and away the worst in the league. It’s likely no coincidence that Saunders was fired last month.

(We’ll pause here to reiterate that while it’s admirable that Jackson represented himself, it’s long past time for him to get an agent or even a lawyer who could have fought him team-wise at the bargaining table .)

Bisciotti and other team owners are apparently still concerned that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam broke ranks to guarantee Watson’s deal. This is not now, nor has it been or ever will be Lamar Jackson’s problem.

If he told Bisciotti and general manager Eric DeCosta that, as a league MVP who is more talented than Watson without any baggage, he deserves the same deal if not a little better, he is 100% correct.

If the owner class is salty with Haslam, don’t invite him to whatever ridiculous Michelin-chef-catered-yaht-yaht-in-St.-Tropez party they have planned for April, and don’t do it for Jackson and other players.

Of course, this was all to be expected: The writing has long been on the wall, but if last week’s NFLPA player survey revealed anything, it’s that a significant number of these team owners don’t actually care. profit. , at least not on the field. They care about their wealth, period.

There is nothing in the collective agreement that says any contract cannot be fully guaranteed. Team owners simply refuse to do it and will apparently do everything they can to make sure it doesn’t become the norm. Nothing prevents them from ending the current rule that requires teams to put all guaranteed contract money, in cash, into an escrow account (although the structure of the Kansas City Chiefs contract with Patrick Mahomes shows that there are ways to do this). They won’t end the practice because that would open the door for more cash-poor franchise owners to make more deals like the one Watson got.

And one that Jackson deserves.

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