MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

First of all, I am a big Lamar Jackson fan. I really hope he and the Baltimore Ravens can come to an agreement. But with that said, to paraphrase Ashley Wilkes, “Well, gentlemen, if Baltimore fights, I go with her.”

This all could have been avoided so easily, well before the first day of #NFLTheTVShow free agency, which is today, beginning at 4 p.m. That it hasn’t been avoided and has only just begun to muck, the biggest part of the blame of it all falls on the Baltimore Ravens themselves; and the other biggest part of the blame of it all falls on Lamar Jackson himself.

By the time you even read this, something could have already happened, which is one of many reasons I don’t care to get into specifics. Bottom line: If another NFL team exceeds the $32.4 million nonexclusive offer the Ravens made Jackson last week, the Ravens will have five days to match it or tip their hat to said team and then try to work out a trade.

As of Tuesday night, the teams said to have been the hottest for Lamar Jackson’s services were the Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Commanders (Dan Snyder’s fully-guaranteed parting shot to his soon-to-be former fellow owners?); not to mention the Atlanta Falcons, the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers … and we can go on and on.

First of all, unless the decision-makers in the Castle have lost their minds (?), they will not trade Jackson to Indianapolis or to Landover for the very clear reasons to anybody who hasn’t lost his or her mind.

The Ravens deserve their share of the blame in this for having never put anybody around Lamar Jackson on the field when they could have afforded to do so, which, of course, they have precedent in doing — see cutting loose Anquan Boldin when they didn’t have to (John Harbaugh’s words); but, of course, blame Joe Flacco for that.

The sky could have been the limit for the Ravens with Lamar Jackson because this guy is a once-in-a-generation football player. But now it looks to be a matter of would-have, could-have, should have been in Baltimore since they have begun to slash so they can fit their nonexclusive $32.4 million for Lamar under the salary cap. And, sure, go ahead and blame Joe Flacco for that, too. Nitwits.

The Ravens, though, have either been too cheap, which I don’t believe has been the case, or too hard-headed — “Who has it better than we do? Nobody!!!” ACK!!!! – which my hunches tell me to believe no matter how much somebody professes his love for Lamar since the high-school travel team offense the guy allowed to be put into place helped lead to the star quarterback missing 10 games in the past two seasons.

As for Lamar, he deserves his fair share of the blame, just as he deserves every cent of guaranteed money he can get his hands on.

Lamar Jackson is everything you want the face of your franchise to be. He’s a great, great football player; he’s humble, polite; a model citizen, community minded; and has been universally loved by every teammate he’s ever played with, such as veteran defensive end and Ravens team leader Calais Campbell, who said last week, “You can’t let a guy like him go. I know it’s football and there’s always some new exciting toy, a new exciting kid that has potential to go out there and be great, but this is a for-sure, a known. You know Lamar Jackson is an incredible player. I think it’s in the best interest of the Ravens organization to give him a long-term contract and make him our guy.”

Well, the Ravens cut Calais Campbell on Tuesday to create $9 million of cap space.

Where Lamar Jackson receives his share of the blame comes in his not hiring an agent to handle these negotiations. Had Lamar had an agent, rather than represent himself, this matter would have likely been settled by now, one way or another.

Agents, you see, know how to play the game. They know how to work with the owners. They know how to meet them where the meeting needs to be held in order for a deal to be closed. The agents know how to appease the owners and to keep them happy in creating the perception (wink-wink) that everybody is happy, particularly once they get their cut.

If Lamar Jackson had an agent; if Lamar Jackson weren’t representing himself, this all would have been settled by now. Agents know how to play the game.

Good for Lamar Jackson. May he carry on. Good luck to him.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT