OPINION: Stern: Ravens distancing from Lamar Jackson must lead to reconciliation

Lamar Jackson
Photo credit Rob Carr / Staff / Getty Images

Couples that experience relationship difficulties often need distance from one another. And the ability to separate for brief or long stretches of time can also make both sides realize how badly they need each another. For the Baltimore Ravens and star quarterback Lamar Jackson, the hostility between the player and team must end with reconciliation, in order to reach their true potential.

The discontent between Jackson and the Ravens has been well documented over the past few years. And the main issue between the two parties involves Jackson requesting guaranteed money in a new contract extension. Given the wear-and-tear his body has endured over five NFL seasons, plus the fact that he's a scrambler who takes a lot of hits, it's difficult to justify giving Jackson a mammoth payday without including potential outs. Both sides have reached a stalemate. And earlier this week, a disgruntled Jackson announced on Twitter that he requested a trade back in early March.

Perhaps there's some truth to the rumblings that've taken place for the better part of a year-plus. But, ultimately, Jackson and the Ravens need one another. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has done an exceptional job catering their offense to Jackson's style, and it’s difficult to envision him achieving massive success elsewhere. Since entering the NFL, Jackson has amassed 16,646 all-purpose yards and 125 touchdowns. Not too shabby for a quarterback who many NFL experts thought had a higher ceiling as a running back.

Should Jackson continue to play at his current style, there's reason to believe he won't last much longer in the league. This isn't to say he must stop running altogether. But sliding and getting out of bounds must be emphasized in their game-planning, as much as analyzing various defensive schemes and getting playmakers involved. In the NFL, where longevity at the quarterback position has become the norm, it's critical to find a way to stay healthy and available.

The list of teams that could -- or should -- be interested in Jackson's services is long. The Atlanta Falcons and Washington Commanders represent attractive destinations, where Jackson wouldn't face stark competition in the division or conference. With Tua Tagovailoa's injury history, the Miami Dolphins remain on the table as well. But, ultimately, Jackson's best option is staying in Baltimore.

The Falcons are on unsteady ground as a franchise, and the same can be said for the Commanders. Washington could ultimately fire head coach Ron Rivera if things don't go well next season, making D.C. a risky destination. As for the Ravens, they've reached the playoffs four times in the past five seasons, and have a really talented infrastructure built around Jackson. Although the AFC is a gauntlet with the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, and Buffalo Bills, there's no reason why the Ravens can't remain competitive.

Good organizational support is the most important thing for a player to thrive. And although the Ravens front office evidently isn't all-in on Jackson, they've provided a stable base, both culturally and in terms of resources. It isn't hard to envision a situation where Jackson regrettably learns the grass isn't always greener elsewhere, and his career quickly fizzles out.

The behind-the-scenes disagreements in contract negotiations are the main inhibiting factor now. With Jackson opting not to have an agent to represent him in extension talks, he's received a raw dose of what tough conversations look like. Obviously, he feels disrespected and devalued by Baltimore, as the franchise is unwilling to make a long-term commitment to a quarterback who hasn't played a full NFL campaign. While the red flags are piling up, his 45-16 career record and upside can't be ignored. And neither can the $230 million guaranteed contract Deshaun Watson received from the Cleveland Browns.

NFL teams will settle for lesser talent to avoid the headaches of dealing with someone who's increasingly difficult to see eye-to-eye with. Still, one could only cut so much fat off the bone before juicy meat gets trimmed along with it. And only time will tell if the Ravens have the right man for the job lining up under center by training camp.

Jack Stern is a columnist, anchor, and associate producer for CBS Sports Radio. You can follow him on Twitter @J_Stern97.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Rob Carr / Staff / Getty Images