Cementing himself as the leader in the MVP race is nothing new for Lamar Jackson, and neither is being in a stalemate with the Baltimore Ravens over a contract extension. Needing to be offered a deal that uniquely establishes himself as one of the highest-paid players ever, Jackson could have already been given a new deal this past offseason.
But the front office for the Ravens decided that with the market-resetting contracts of Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, there was enough parity to come up short in their negotiations with Jackson in hopes he would settle for a lower deal just to put pen to paper.
They could not have been more wrong.
Why Jackson is worth it
Taking a unique approach to negotiations, Jackson is currently representing himself, even though he has conferred with at least one potential agent. Jackson’s self-confidence has never seemed to waver, dating back to his time spent in the green room while he waited for his name to be called during the 2018 NFL Draft.
Everything that Jackson has achieved across his NFL career has been because he is just that capable – and now the front office for the Ravens has to seriously think about just how much paying Jackson is going to cost even before hitting free agency.
The cost is more than just dollars and cents though – if, for some reason, they decide to let one of the best QBs currently in the league walk for nothing, then their cost ends up resulting in years of rebuilding a team that was already set up to compete. This decision impacts not only their on-field product but also the franchise monetarily, as they would ultimately be less marketable, thus receiving worse game time slots and would become less marketable.
Any sort of move away from Jackson as their future could also signal the end of head coach John Harbaugh, who could potentially not want to sit through a rebuild and make a jump to a team that is much farther along on the path to competing. Rumors consistently float for John’s brother Jim about the potential of him making the jump back to the NFL, so it is a fair assumption that John would be willing to test the waters for his own sake if the team decided to let Jackson become a free agent.
The fact that Jackson was not offered a deal that he deemed to be on par with the level of play he has produced in his short career speaks more about his abilities than the shortcomings of the team at the offering table. Having been one of the current-day leaders of the dual-threat QB, Jackson deserves all the money that he thinks he has earned – and more.
Even though Ozzie Newsome is not Baltimore’s general manager anymore, this team has his fingerprints all over it, and Jackson is a perfect example of Newsome’s thought process when it comes to building a competitive roster. Having sat until the final selection of the ‘18 draft, Jackson embodies the type of work ethic that Newsome was a huge fan of when he ran this team, and Newsome’s investment in the signal-caller has paid off ten-fold.
So far in the 2022 season, Jackson has produced 12 touchdowns (10 passing, 2 rushing) through the first three games, a miraculous feat, considering opposing defenses know who the offense for Baltimore funnels through and they still cannot stop it. A 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio is extremely impressive too, especially for a guy that some considered to be a running back at heart.
Reports of talks breaking down during the offseason culminated with an early-season report from Adam Schefter about the monetary figures of a potential Jackson deal. A reported deal of five years, $250 million total, and $133 million guaranteed at signing was on the right track for an accurate valuation of Jackson, but still fell short.
This deal would have eclipsed certain benchmarks in the offseason deals signed by both Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson, two very comparable contracts that Jackson expectedly referenced during negotiations. The caveat in the QB market is the five-year deal that the Cleveland Browns handed Deshaun Watson, a $230 million, fully-guaranteed deal that likely has played a major role in the type of deal that Jackson is looking for.
As a QB that puts his body on the line very often with designed runs, Jackson should ask for (and likely is asking for) a ton of guaranteed money up front, to protect against injury. While Baltimore can be suspect about wanting to hand out that kind of dough to a QB that very well could face many injuries during the extension, the impact that he has speaks volumes about why the front office should essentially give him however much money he wants.
Is it common knowledge that Jackson is better than all three of the recently-extended QBs? It should be, especially with each of those three QBs having discernible hurdles that impede their play styles more than that of Jackson. He can easily be put into the top-5 QBs currently in the league, and he deserves to be paid like one too.
If the Ravens want to ensure that their competitive window remains open for the next five-plus years, then they need to hand over as many Brinks trucks full of dollar bills that Jackson requests, it is as simple as that. Time and time again, Jackson has proven that he is the gold standard when it comes to being a dual-threat QB in the National Football League, and the Ravens have been the beneficiaries of just how hard he plays for far too long to want to move on.
A divorce seems unlikely, but we have seen weirder things happen in the NFL. Jackson deserves as money he is asking for – and more – and the ball is in Baltimore’s court.