OWINGS MILLS, Md. — At his introductory news conference Tuesday, new Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken praised quarterback Lamar Jackson for an “elite skillset” and believes he’s underrated as a passer.
It’s just unknown when Monken can tell that to Jackson face-to-face.
There is a possibility that Jackson will skip all of the offseason spring workouts and training camp if he receives the franchise tag. The Ravens are expected to place the tag on Jackson to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent if the sides are unable to agree on a new contract in two weeks. The window to use the tag started Tuesday and ends on March 7.
Monken didn’t sound worried that Jackson could wait until the week before the regular-season opener to report, which would give him little time to learn the new offensive system.
“Sure, he’ll be behind, but it’s still just football,” Monken said. “Sometimes we make this out to be way too much. We’ll cater to what he knows and play.”
The biggest challenge to an extended holdout by Jackson is developing a rapport with him, Monken added.
“I mean it’s like any player, the more time you spend with them, the more comfortable they get with any system. That’s more relationship and that’s part of it. And there’s a big part of that relationship from a quarterback, coordinator, playcaller, position coach where they’re comfortable and there’s a trust. And that’s built over time.”
It’s been over two years since Jackson has been eligible for a contract extension. A new deal will likely only occur if one of the sides backs their stance regarding guaranteed contracts. Jackson wants a fully guaranteed contract like the one that was given to Deshaun Watson last year, and Baltimore considers the Watson deal an outlier instead of a precedent, according to sources.
Monken was asked how Jackson’s long-term availability played in his decision to leave Georgia, where he won back-to-back national championships, and come to Baltimore.
“Sure, any player that’s part of a roster where you’re going into, you have an interest in what the roster’s gonna look like,” Monken said. “But ultimately I want to be someplace where [there’s] structure, organization, great on defense from top to bottom. And everybody I talked to, said you want to be a Baltimore Raven, you wanna be a part of that organization moving forward.”
Monken replaces Greg Roman, who parted ways with the Ravens on Jan. 19 after the offense continued to struggle, especially in the passing game. In Roman’s four seasons as Baltimore’s playcaller, the Ravens’ rankings in the passing game were: 27th, 32nd, 13th and 28th.
Over the last two seasons, Jackson has failed to develop as a passer, totaling 33 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. Monken said he has never worked with a quarterback like Jackson.
“He’s got an elite skillset,” Monken said. “I think he’s underrated as a passer in terms of his ability to make plays and throw it down the field. I’m no different than you. I’ve watched what you guys watch, and it’s pretty amazing.”
Still, it’s unknown when Monken will start working with Jackson. If Jackson doesn’t sign his franchise tag tender, he’s not under contract and can’t be fined if he is absent from all of the workouts and practices for the next six months.
Monken, who was hired a week ago, said he hasn’t had time to speak to Jackson or any players yet.
“I’m just trying to figure out where I’m headed when I drive to the facility,” Monken said.