Lamar Jackson is requesting a trade from the Ravens

Poor John Harbaugh. All the man wants is the starting quarterback he was promised when he was Baltimore Ravens moved up to Lamar Jackson in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Instead, five years later, he spoke to the media Monday at the NFL meetings moments after his starting quarterback publicly announced he no longer wanted to play for the Ravens.

On March 7, the Ravens decided put the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson after the two sides could not agree on a long-term contract. Had he played under that contract this season, Jackson would have been guaranteed just over $32 million — far below what quarterbacks of his caliber are paid annually. For any team that wants to acquire Jackson and is willing to sacrifice two first-round draft picks, it can make an offer that the Ravens have the right to match.

Harbaugh certainly knew that the media would have a ton of questions for him about the negotiations between the Ravens and Jackson. He’s worn them adeptly since 2021, when Jackson’s fellow draft pick Josh Allen signed a contract that included the most guaranteed money of any player in NFL history — $150 million.

The Buffalo Bills did what most NFL teams do with star quarterbacks. They agreed to a contract extension before the start of the quarterback’s fourth season. Jackson and the Ravens they did not reach an agreement on the extension of the contract in 2021 — one season removed from the 2019 MVP spot — but Harbaugh was publicly confident at the time that the new contract was simply an administrative task that would be completed in due course.

In the days following the Ravens’ tough playoff loss to Cincinnati Bengals Jackson missed with a knee injury, Harbaugh told the media that he is still “100 percent, 200 percent,” on who the Ravens’ starting quarterback is. He said this to the media at this year’s scouting meeting all conversations with potential offensive coordinators they were focused on the candidate’s plans to best use Jackson’s skills — they hired Todd Monken. Even when Harbaugh was hit with the news that Jackson had made a public trade request, his response was, “We build our offense around [the] idea,” that the Ravens won’t be making a change at starting quarterback.

Harbaugh even managed to plaster a half-smile on his face as he internally reacted in real time to the further deterioration of relations between the Ravens and Jackson. As much uncertainty as there is between the two sides, one thing I am sure of is that Harbaugh is as good as this country has to offer in middle management.

He’s publicly optimistic and almost happy as hell to be the last person other than Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes to win the NFL MVP, entering his sixth NFL season still without a long-term contract. It’s the kind of relentless positivity that can find good in uncrispy bacon or sugar-free Kool-Aid.

Maybe he can keep that tiny smile on his face while the rest of the team’s owners boo Steve Bisciotti applause at a big league meeting celebration that he would “forget” to inform Jimmy Haslem of her address. The kings of professional sports can continue to stuff cash into their pockets like a slot machine without a time limit. Sure, the Ravens may be knee-jerk on their team for the next decade, but for now, the guard market is stabilized.

And Harbaugh better hope his sunny disposition keeps the Ravens competitive enough to he should stay employed.

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