Lamar Jackson’s availability for Sunday’s playoff game is in flux after the Ravens quarterback missed yet another practice Wednesday. With Jackson in the middle of a spiraling contract year, it also puts in question whether he will ever play for Baltimore again.
Jackson, 26, hasn’t played since a Dec. 4 game against the Broncos. The Ravens have gone 2-3 without him, relying on Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown. But if Jackson doesn’t play against the Bengals in their AFC Wild Card matchup and the Ravens lose, Jackson career in Baltimore may be over after five seasons.
“He doesn’t feel right,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Thursday morning. “There’s been some swelling, and he doesn’t feel right.”
The ongoing situation with Jackson’s expiring contract has continued throughout the 2022 season — and started before the year even began. The two sides couldn’t agree to a deal before the season started, which Jackson set as his deadline. Baltimore reportedly offered a five-year extension worth more than $250 million, with $133 million fully guaranteed, according to ESPN.
So Jackson’s contract year, and bet on himself, began. And it began with 2,242 passing yards, 17 passing touchdowns, 764 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns through 12 games. Then he was tackled from behind against the Broncos and the quarterback sprained his PCL. It forced the Ravens to adapt at quarterback for the second consecutive season.
Baltimore has struggled without Jackson under center, enduring a month of navigating their schedule behind Huntley and Brown — the latter an undrafted rookie. Huntley was inactive on Sunday, and Brown managed to compile a 19-for-44 line for 286 yards and two interceptions in the season-finale against Cincinnati.
Once the offseason begins, which could be as soon as Monday morning, the Ravens will have options when approaching Jackson’s contract situation. They could use the franchise tag to prevent him from becoming a free agent. It’d buy them more time — in addition to what they’ve already had — to work out a long-term deal to keep the former MVP as their offensive catalyst.
“It’s hard for any of us to go out and say, ‘Well, obviously he’s not playing because of contract,’” Rapoport continued on his television segment. “He is one of the best athletes we’ve seen playing in the NFL in a very long time. He is one the best quarterbacks we have seen playing in the NFL in a very long time when he is 100 percent.
“He does not feel like himself, so it’s hard for any of us to say, ‘Well, he should be playing’ when he’s just not ready.”
Jackson’s availability for the wild-card round will hinge on his practice availability the next two days. The Ravens face the Bengals on Sunday night.