That Friday night announcement from the Ravens seemed to secure the future of coach John Harbaugh in Baltimore, but he’ll remain under contract beyond 2019 only if the two sides work out a new contract. And maybe they won’t.
Peter King writes in his latest Football Morning in America column that a “real chance” exists Harbaugh won’t sign an extension, opting instead to finish his current deal and leave in 2020.
Coaches rarely do that, opting instead for the bird in the hand that comes from both getting paid and, perhaps more importantly, remaining an NFL head coach without taking the risk of finding himself without a place to sit when the annual calliope quits playing. But maybe Harbaugh, who emerged as the hottest name on this year’s market weeks before the market even opened, realizes that he’ll have options in 2020, possibly for much more money and more power than Baltimore will provide.
Whether Harbaugh would walk or not, the notion that he could provides a strong counterweight to the message that was received by the league at large from the team’s out-of-the-blue proclamation/admonition that he’s under contract through 2019. If/when (when) teams like the Dolphins or maybe the Broncos call the Ravens inquiring about Harbaugh and when the Ravens want way too much compensation for him as an opener, the fact that the Ravens have him under contract for only one year and he’ll leave as a free agent with no compensation at all could get them to take what they can get before the distractions of a lame-duck season that results in them getting nothing.
The Ravens are regraded as a “very smart group,” likely smart enough to not overplay their hand. Smart enough to know that Harbaugh a year from now will have the kind of demand for his services that would make him happily coach out his contract and then do what no coach ever does: Become a true free agent.