The last thing Ravens fans should be thinking about two days ahead of their season opener is whether this is the last they’ll see of Lamar Jackson in purple, but here we are. On Friday the organization and Jackson failed to reach an agreement on a long-term contract extension, pausing negotiations as sides missed a deadline Jackson set for a deal to be finalized.
As it stands right now Jackson will play out 2022, and is set to become a free agent. Obviously nobody expects the quarterback will ever hit free agency, with the most likely scenarios either being reaching a deal with Baltimore, or potentially being traded in the offseason. The possibility also remains that the team will use its franchise tag on Jackson in 2023, similar to how Dak Prescott was tagged by the Cowboys in 2020 and 2021, prior to inking an extension.
It’s unclear what the sticking point is between the sides right now, though it’s believed the hold up could be over guaranteed money. The concept of putting big guaranteed money in NFL contracts is a fairly recent phenomenon, and negotiating quarterback contracts are exacerbated by deals like Deshaun Watson’s and Russell Wilson’s, which will give the player $230M and $124M guaranteed, respectively.
Regardless of feelings on guaranteed money, the genie isn’t going back in the lamp. This is the new normal of NFL contracts, and dragging feet on Baltimore’s end will only hurt the Ravens in the future.
3 reasons delaying Jackson’s extension is bad business
No. 1: Contracts aren’t getting cheaper
Remember when Josh Allen signed his extension with the Bills in 2021 and it was met with surprise, even questions whether he was worth it? A year later it seems like a steal. Allen signed a 6 year, $258M extension with $100M fully guaranteed. Allen was 25 at the time of signing, and the deal only took him into his early 30s — far from any concern he’d slow down.
Fast forward to 2022 and look at the deals older quarterbacks earned:
- Aaron Rodgers: 3 years, $150M with $101M fully guaranteed at age 39
- Russell Wilson: 4 years, $245M with $124M fully guaranteed at age 34
- Deshaun Watson: 5 years, $230M with $230M fully guaranteed at age 27
Next season contracts will be ever more expensive. The longer a team delays before signing a franchise QB, the worse it gets for them. Whatever gap there is between the Ravens’ offer and Jackson’s magic number will be eclipsed by waiting another season — so it’s just smart to get it done now.
No. 2: The end game makes no sense
The only way this possibly works for the Ravens is if they don’t believe in Jackson (which is inherently stupid) and plan to try and trade him in the offseason. Yes, there is some salience to the idea that quarterback contracts and youth success could lead to a passer churn in the future. Essentially that it’s best to keep drafting quarterbacks and have them play on a rookie deal, opening up the rest of your salary cap.
This makes sense if you have a middling player, not with a former MVP who can take over a game by himself, and who has never scratched the top of his potential due to an absence in receiving weapons.
Believing you can simply find another Jackson is a fool’s errand. Keeping any doubt that he’ll be back in 2023 damages the fanbase, morale, and the entire organization. Again, that’s worth whatever money the sides are apart on right now.
No. 3: It damages your future cap plans
Everything in the NFL when it comes to the salary cap has to revolve around the QB position, and work down from there. Not knowing what Jackson will cost harms the ability to extend other positions and look ahead at cap space, because the top of the cap is unknown.
Basically everything financially is in a holding pattern until the QB position is secure, and that isn’t a smart way to operate. Every NFL contract is getting more expensive, so delaying costs you more at other positions as a result.
What should the Ravens do?
GIVE JACKSON WHAT HE WANTS! This isn’t that difficult. We don’t know for sure what he’s looking for, but it’s said to be in the realm of what Watson got from the Browns. This is absolutely fair, because last I checked:
- Jackson has won an MVP, Watson hasn’t
- Jackson has been an All Pro, Watson hasn’t
- Jackson has led a team to the playoffs three times in four years, Watson led a team to the playoffs twice in four years
- Jackson is younger
Just do the deal and stop being dumb, Baltimore.