Whatever happens with Lamar Jackson’s contract, don’t blame it on him not having an agent, especially after Roquan Smith’s new deal.
Lamar Jackson has been a Baltimore Raven for five seasons while Roquan Smith has been one for two months. The 2019 NFL MVP had every reason to be upset with the news that broke on Tuesday, but instead, he chose to be a supportive teammate.
After it was announced that the Ravens made Smith the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in the NFL, Jackson shouted him out on Twitter. Since Smith was traded to the Ravens in early November, the Ravens’ players have nicknamed the 25-year-old “Uncle Ro.” So Jackson made sure to give “Unc” his props for getting all of the money that he wanted.
The Ravens gave Smith money that the Chicago Bears — the team that drafted him with an eighth-overall pick — were not willing to pay. The Bears have been cutting salaries since Ryan (No. 2) Poles took over as general manager from Ryan Pace. He jettisoned most of the Bears’ expensive contracts and is currently attempting to get through a hard reset as fast as possible.
In Jackson’s quest for a new contract, a criticism that has been levied against him is that he is his own agent. The Ravens even tried to put the onus of the negotiation struggles on him last spring, when General Manager Eric DeCosta said at the scouting combine, “We will work at Lamar’s urgency.”
Well, Smith represents himself, and he has never even attended a Ravens training camp, but the franchise still made him the highest-paid player at his position days before a playoff game. All the while the Ravens still have holes on their roster to fill at pass rusher and wide receiver.
The Ravens’ best offensive player — by far — in the 27-year history of the franchise wants to be paid like the top players at his position. If Jackson’s desire is to receive the $200-plus million fully guaranteed contract that the Cleveland Browns foolishly gave Deshaun Watson, the Ravens would be smart not to offer him that. Just because the Browns did something stupid, doesn’t mean that they have to follow suit.
However, since the Ravens are going to fully guarantee an inside linebacker $45 million, the reported $133 million guaranteed at signing was reported to be their best offer to Jackson is now especially weak. It was weak before Smith was on the team, and now it’s laughable. The Arizona Cardinals guaranteed Kyler Murray $160 million when they inked him to an extension before the start of this season and that franchise is a trainwreck. Jackson has made the playoffs in three of his four NFL seasons to go along with that MVP. A late-season injury has prevented him from playing late in a second-consecutive regular season, but unlike in 2021, the Ravens are in the playoffs.
The trade for Smith cost the Ravens two draft picks, but also filled a need. Per DVOA, the Ravens have been the third-best defense in the NFL since he has been on their roster. Yet still, without Jackson, not only is the Smith signing a bad investment, but the team risks becoming as bad as it was when it first moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996.
The original Cleveland Browns currently have their best starting quarterback since Otto Graham. Jackson is one of the most unique talents to ever enter the NFL, and he chose to play this season without the long-term extension that most of his peers have received.
He is playing nice, but the Ravens made a player — who has not yet participated in a playoff game in that franchise’s uniform — the highest paid at his position. As well as Jackson handled the situation yesterday, if the greatest Raven offensive player ever leaves the franchise, they only have themselves to blame for the lack of respect that they have shown.