Rich Eisen Feb 2, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Rich Eisen of the of the NFL Network prior to the Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Eisen knows more about the inner workings of the NFL than most of us. He also collects a paycheck from the NFL Network. So, it’s completely in bounds to question his opinions. 

Christmas evening, Eisen took to X/Twitter to comment about Lamar Jackson. He pushed back on the narrative that several teams “passed” on acquiring the Baltimore Ravens quarterback last offseason. The Ravens placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on Jackson, preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent but allowing him to negotiate with other teams.

Strangely, no one seemed interested in a 26-year-old former MVP. Jackson got a new contract, but questions remain as to why other franchises didn’t make an offer. It’s even more curious with Jackson now favored to win his second MVP after leading the Ravens to a 33-19 road victory over the San Francisco 49ers. This has led to rampant speculation.

However, Eisen posted that Jackson “was never a free agent” and that “the Ravens were never going to let him go.” Eisen punctuated his point by writing: “That is all.” Is it?

Eisen’s comments prompt a lot more questions about Jackson’s odd off-season. There has largely been a staggering lack of in-depth, on-the-record reporting on exactly what happened.

Players of Jackson’s stature and youth are virtually never available. They are signed to an extension well ‘before their contract runs out. So, why was Jackson the exception? Why did no team sign him to an offer sheet, with teams willing to make deals involving two firsts and more for unproven quarterbacks like Bryce Young? And why did so many teams go out of their way to say that they weren’t interested in Jackson?

In today’s world of NFL insiders, it’s staggering how much we don’t know about what went on here. At least half of the league is in desperate need of competent quarterbacking. And not one tried to make a run at Jackson? That makes no sense. And so far, no reporter has gotten the details behind what went down here.

Make excuses if you want. Talk about Jackson’s injury history or his contract demands. But the Ravens, who know Jackson better than anyone else, thought he was worth it. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank pursued Deshaun Watson, who was accused multiple times of sexual misconduct. But Blank didn’t try to get Jackson, who has been an exemplary representative of the NFL, due to concerns over the quarterback’s style of play.

That style of play has helped the Ravens (12-3) to the best record in the league. There needs to be tougher questions and follow-ups for every QB-needy team that didn’t go after Jackson.

Michael Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle has been one of the few media members to call out owners and coaches. In a column titled “Ravens’ Lamar Jackson could win MVP again. Why did NFL teams snub 49ers’ foe?” Silver wrote: “Looking back, it almost seems laughable. And it would be, if it weren’t such a depressing indictment of powerful people — including owners — who are purported to be good at this. Yes, Arthur Smith, Martin Mayhew, Josh McDaniels, Frank Reich, Robert Kraft and even Bill Belichick, I’m talking to you.”

There are no concrete answers. There is one simple explanation. However, it lacks proof. Was Jackson a victim of collusion? Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam won the Watson sweepstakes because of an unprecedented fully guaranteed contract for five-year, $230 million. This did not sit well with other owners, most notably Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti.

ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio has raised the possibility that the lack of interest in Jackson had more to do with collusion, not competition. If that is true, more journalism would be welcome here. Perhaps, others have tried and been stonewalled. The NFL is a powerful entity.

Maybe there will be a lawsuit someday that will provide answers. But legally, collusion cases are often difficult to prove. You need evidence—documents, emails, text messages, witnesses, etc.— and not speculation.

For now, we are all left to wonder about Jackson. If like, Eisen said, “that is all,” then that would be a shame.

[Rich Eisen on Twitter]

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.