Lamar Jackson is bringing the pain.
That pain isn’t confined to opponents, but Jackson is sticking it to the Ravens just as hard. In the first half of Baltimore’s Week 2 game against the Miami Dolphins, he threw for 210 yards with three touchdown passes and just two incompletions, connecting on nearly 85 percent of his attempts.
While Baltimore’s defense melted down in the fourth quarter and the Dolphins came from behind to win 42-38, that’s not on Jackson. All he did was shine, throwing a 75-yard touchdown pass and scrambling for a 79-yard touchdown run, becoming the first player ever to do both in a single game.
Jackson is doing it his way, which happens to be through the air. He isn’t looking to take off and run on many of these plays, although he did rush for nearly 40 yards on six carries in the first 30 minutes of the game. The bottom line is that in his contract year, the young star is on a mission to show his franchise that they should’ve paid him what he wanted in the offseason.
The Ravens are reportedly not inclined to offer Jackson the fully guaranteed $200 million contract he desires. Jackson allegedly turned down an offer just before the start of the season worth $290 million because the money wasn’t fully guaranteed. In the meantime, he’s on track to earn $23 million this year — a bargain for Baltimore given his lights-out play.
And at this point, no matter how eye-popping Jackson’s request might be, the Ravens and their owner, Steve Bisciotti, would be crazy not to pay.
Baltimore could be in big trouble at the bargaining table if Jackson continues on this hot streak. In Week 1 against the Jets, Jackson threw three TDs and one interception. Then came his stellar play this week. And with every huge game, Baltimore looks sillier and sillier if they allow him to walk.
If Jackson can keep up this level of play, the Ravens will be in a tricky situation next offseason. Averaging anywhere near three passing TDs per game is MVP territory — a trophy he’s already taken once, when he became only the second player to ever win the award unanimously. (Tom Brady was the first.)
Jackson is sticking to his plan, and it’s working out so far. The fact that he’s negotiating without an agent feels far less relevant than some want you to believe. He’s not the first player to have done it and surely won’t be the last — Richard Sherman handled his own contract talks with the 49ers in 2019 (and was criticized after settling for just $3 million guaranteed). The difference is that Sherman had been seen as “past his prime,” although he did make the Pro Bowl in 2019. Also, Sherman wasn’t a quarterback, so the spotlight wasn’t as bright.
Baltimore is months away from having to make an extremely tough decision. One of the toughest in the history of the franchise. They can stick to their guns and refuse to fully guarantee Jackson’s deal, or risk him walking away at the end of the season after completing the fifth and final year on his rookie deal. The odds of Baltimore finding another once-in-a-generation franchise QB to follow Lamar are slim. It happened for the Colts and Packers that way, but it’s incredibly rare.
Whether it’s with the Ravens or a different organization, Jackson is setting himself up for a monumental payday with how he’s playing early in the season. There will be a team willing to take that chance on a former MVP and one of the 10 best QBs in the league today. Hopefully, Baltimore doesn’t let this type of talent get away.
It’s hard to find a QB that can put your team in playoff contention year after year when they’re healthy. The Ravens have that but seem willing to risk it all and potentially let Jackson stroll over to another team without any compensation. If you’re a Ravens fan, that would be the toughest pill to swallow.