What does Lamar Jackson want?
It’s reasonable to assume that Jackson hopes for a healthier season for he and his teammates than they all had last year. Surely he wants to turn the ball over less after throwing double-digit interceptions (13) for the first time in his NFL career. Jackson would also probably rather not be playing out the final season of his rookie contract without an extension.
Of all the quarterbacks selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, Jackson has been unquestionably the most productive and accomplished. He was selected 32nd overall and became the starter halfway through that 2018 season. The Ravens ran a limited offense with him as the starter and finished with the best record in their division. He played poorly early in their playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, but was much better in the second half.
The following season he won the MVP and the Ravens had the best record in the NFL, but they would lose to the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round. He was outstanding again in 2020 and the Ravens won a rematch with the Titans in a wild-card game, on the road, but would go on to lose to the Bills and the other standout quarterback from the 2018 draft — Josh Allen.
That 2020 season was Allen’s first in which he looked like a top-tier NFL quarterback. His growth was rewarded the following August with a six-year contract extension that at the time guaranteed him more money than Patrick Mahomes and averaged out to $43 million per year. If the Ravens don’t get an extension finished by Jackson’s Week 1 deadline, he will make a guaranteed $23.02 million.
The quarterback market was completely reset this offseason, making Allen’s and Mahomes’ contracts look team-friendly. Aaron Rodgers is again the highest-paid player in the league at $50.3 million per year over the next three, and the Browns put a stick of dynamite in the quarterback market by fully guaranteeing a $250 million deal for Deshaun Watson.
Jackson has every reason to want to be the highest-paid player in the NFL, but he might also be looking for a version of that Watson deal. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer has reported that the Ravens offered him a larger deal than what Kyler Murray received from the Arizona Cardinals and Jackson turned it down. Murray’s average annual salary is $46.1 million, second only to Rodgers.
Glazer also said that he believes Jackson is looking for a fully guaranteed deal and the Ravens don’t want to do that. On Monday, someone tweeted out that the Ravens have offered Jackson $250 million guaranteed, and he replied “No they didn’t.” Jackson also liked an image on Twitter of himself in a Miami Dolphins jersey. A Ravens fan tried to explain it away by tweeting out that Jackson was probably a Dolphins fan when he was younger since he grew up in South Florida. Jackson replied that the Cowboys were his favorite team during his childhood and the Dolphins were No. 2.
One of the holdups to this deal being completed is that Jackson is his own agent. Of course attorneys can work out the finer details, but Jackson is the one directly pushing for the money and contract structure that he wants. It presents two problems. No. 1, he’s not an agent. He has to practice football and can’t spend his entire day negotiating a contract. No. 2, he is the one battling for what he feels he is worth directly against Ravens management as opposed to someone doing it on his behalf. Hardball has to be played when negotiating for this kind of money, and it might lead to some hard feelings since Jackson and the Ravens are doing this face to face.
Unless something drastic happens, expect to see Jackson as the Ravens’ quarterback Week 1. He didn’t attend OTAs but he did report to training camp on time. However, it’s starting to become a bit clearer what he is looking for in a contract. He wants a number befitting of what the best quarterback in the NFL should receive, and that Watson fully guaranteed deal appears to have his eyes wide open.
Watson has never even been in the MVP discussion, and a grand jury has never been forced to make a decision on whether or not to indict Jackson because of sexual misconduct allegations.
The Rodgers and Murray deals should make it clear to Jackson that the NFL does not want to make a habit of giving out fully guaranteed contracts. Also, the fact that he hasn’t been willing to hold out puts even less pressure on the Ravens to meet his demands. A couple of social media posts aren’t going to give him more leverage.
Jackson is looking to hit it big with his first contract outside of a rookie deal. If it goes well for him, there may be even more changes to the quarterback market.