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A year ago, when the Green Bay Packers were at a crossroads with Aaron Rodgers, the impasse was supposedly over everything but his contract.

Rodgers wanted more front office communication, more inclusion in team planning, and more respect for the veterans who built the culture. All that, plus a massive side item for the current league MVP: a reworked contract that made him Green Bay’s undisputed starter through at least the 2023 season and the distinction of being the NFL’s highest-paid player. When it was all over, the final tally was undeniable.

Any short-term promises that the Packers front office could not guarantee were happily resolved by long-term guaranteed money.

This is the formula that will resolve the stalemate between Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Write it down. Laminate it. Revisit it in weeks, months, years, however long it takes for the inevitable number to be reached. That’s what it was about last September. That’s what it’s all about now. And that’s what Jackson will finally play the 2023 season under a franchise brand about. Focus it on anything else is a shell game that revolves around the same problem.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (left) said on Thursday:

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (left) said Thursday: “One hundred percent – you know, 200 percent. There’s no question about it. Lamar Jackson is our quarterback.” (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

That should have been the conclusion of Thursday’s press conference, when Ravens coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta reiterated the same thing they’ve been saying since the start of the trade: They want Jackson as the Ravens’ long-term starting quarterback. ; they want to make a deal; and they are in no hurry to publicly detail why all this is taking so long.

Somehow, all of this was treated as breaking news, despite being the organization’s exact stance from the moment negotiations began. How right Is the team that Jackson is the future at quarterback? Well, allow Harbaugh to add some rhetoric to drive the point home again.

“One hundred percent – you know, 200 percent,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “There’s no doubt about it. Lamar Jackson is our quarterback. He’s been our quarterback. Everything we’ve done in terms of building our offense and our team, how we think of the people around him, is based on this incredible young man, his talent, his ability and his competitiveness.”

Yes, if you forgot the commonplaces about hard work, communication and optimism, there was no shortage of it on Thursday. Just as there was no shortage of facade issues, from Jackson having information about the next offensive coordinator, to the investment in the wide receiver’s depth chart, to the surrounding offensive pieces being ready to compete.

Certainly, these are all good signs when it comes to the Ravens wanting Jackson back. But then again, the franchise never said that. not wants Jackson back. What the Ravens have said – over and over again – is that this is an ongoing difficult trade. That the two sides did not reach an agreement. And that some contract negotiations are more difficult and time consuming than others.

Thursday was really a one-sentence press conference that could have ended with DeCosta’s first line about his confidence in doing Jackson’s extension: “Surely it takes two to tango.”

There. That’s it. That’s the message that it’s been in the same place since the beginning, with two sides eyeing each other and trying to figure out the exact contract number and set of guarantees that keeps Jackson in the fold for the long haul.

The ways to solve this are as simple as they were in August. Baltimore could either find Jackson with the full guaranteed money he’s looking for or Jackson could soften his stance on how close he comes to a fully guaranteed deal. If none of that happens, Baltimore could seek continued control of Jackson’s future with franchise brands and he could either take the ride or decline and force a trade.

This has always been the way forward, with several bridges to cross along the way. This week, trading continues where it left off. Next month, the window opens for the team to put the exclusive franchise tag on Jackson (potentially resulting in a salary of around $45 million) or a non-exclusive tag (projecting around $32.5 million). Exclusive branding would mean Jackson can only trade with the Ravens. The non-exclusive brand would result in Jackson being allowed to negotiate a free agent contract with other teams, allowing Baltimore to either match the deal or receive two first-round picks in compensation.

This tag window opens on February 21st and runs through March 7th. If both sides don’t have an extension done by then, Jackson will be absolutely scored. That’s a foregone conclusion.

Once tagged, the burden shifts to Jackson, who makes a decision about what the move means and how he responds. Would he immediately refuse to sign an exclusive tag and remain away from the team for the entire offseason? Probably yes. Would he negotiate a deal with another team if he was stuck with a non-exclusive franchise brand? Also, probably yes. Is this all coming to a significant crossroads? Absolutely.

One way or another, we’re going to find out just how unbridgeable the gap between Jackson and the Ravens really is. Whether it’s through the use of a specific tag or how Jackson responds to it. The key is no more of a mystery than when negotiations broke down last September.

This is going down the road from Rodgers. There will be many sideshows, resolutions and platitudes about what is important. Money remains the main attraction. Just like it always was.