After missing three weeks of voluntary team activities, Lamar Jackson is back in the Baltimore Ravens‘ facility ahead of the team’s mandatory minicamp. However, Jackson’s contract status is still up in the air, as he’s set to play the 2022 campaign on his fifth-year option. Will Jackson and the Ravens agree to a new deal before the season gets underway? Here’s what the star quarterback’s next pact could look like.
Projecting Lamar Jackson’s contract extension with the Ravens
Jackson will collect $23 million in 2022 under the final year of his contract. But with the top of the QB market exploding over the $50 million threshold, the 2019 MVP surely has his sights set on a massive new deal.
Aaron Rodgers is currently the league’s highest-paid QB at $50.3 million annually, and six more signal-callers earn between $40 and $46 million. Four of the top seven highest-paid quarterbacks inked new accords within the past 12 months, and Jackson should be the next in line — if he wants a long-term deal, that is.
The Ravens seem willing to engage in negotiations, but it’s unclear where Jackson sits in terms of wanting to work out an extension. He’s one of the few NFL players that doesn’t have an agent, so talks between him and the team are more complicated than most.
“I hope so, at some point we will,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said in March when asked about his hope to strike a deal with Jackson this offseason. “I think we’ve discussed this at length. I said this before, we will work at Lamar’s urgency. He and I have had ongoing discussions, we’ve talked very recently as well.”
Spotrac pegs Jackson’s market value at $44 million per season, which would rank fourth among quarterbacks behind Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes. Over a five-year term, the total value would come to $220 million.
Does Jackson want a fully guaranteed contract?
Of course, as with any negotiation, the devil would be in the details. Rodgers, Mahomes, and Josh Allen all received long-term deals with hefty signing bonuses and significant cash up front over the first three years. But Watson — despite the 20+ sexual misconduct allegations against him — joined Kirk Cousins as the only quarterback to sign a fully guaranteed contract.
Watson’s agreement with the Browns was a game-changer around the NFL. Front offices and ownership groups from coast to coast are likely furious over the contract terms, but Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was one of the few to vocalize his displeasure.
“Acknowledging that it could have an impact is different than me worrying about it because my competitors have always done things differently than us, you know what I mean?” Bisciotti said in April. “So, I’m trying to answer that when I had a reaction to it. And it’s like, ‘Damn, I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract.’
“I don’t know that he should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to play that game, you know? We shall see.”
Jackson’s passing statistics don’t match up with Watson’s, but the Ravens quarterback has added a lot of surplus value via the ground game. Jackson also has an MVP award under his belt, has experienced more team success, and doesn’t come with Watson’s off-field baggage. Given that he’s acting as his own agent, it’s fair to assume Jackson wants to match Watson’s contract.
Can Jackson play the franchise tag game?
Cousins has managed the business aspect of his career better than any quarterback in NFL history. He refused below-market offers from Washington and forced them to franchise tag him in consecutive seasons before signing a fully guaranteed deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Cousins earned far more money over the past six seasons than he would have had he accepted a long-term pact on Washington’s terms.
Jackson has the leverage to execute the same strategy. Two consecutive non-exclusive franchise tags in 2023 and 2024 would likely cost the Ravens $75 million or so. Yet, the non-exclusive tag would give other teams the option to sign Jackson to an offer sheet. Other clubs would have to sacrifice two first-round picks to acquire Jackson, but based on the price tags for other QB trades, that wouldn’t be much of an obstacle.
More likely, Baltimore would be forced to deploy the exclusive franchise tag, increasing the two-year cost to around $100 million. Jackson might worry about a catastrophic injury tanking his value and prefer to lock in guaranteed money. However, Dak Prescott landed a massive deal last year while still recovering from a gruesome leg injury.
Are the Ravens reticent to extend Jackson?
The Ravens, at least publicly, appear to be simply waiting on Jackson to come to the negotiating table. But could they be wary of a long-term deal for their star quarterback?
The most obvious concern is Jackson’s health. He runs more than any QB in the league, and while he’s excellent at avoiding devastating hits, he’s going to take more wear and tear than the average signal-caller.
Jackson was pretty durable over his first two seasons as Baltimore’s starter, but he missed the final quarter of the 2021 campaign after suffering an ankle injury. If the Ravens believe Jackson is an injury risk, they could be cautious as they discuss a new contract.