Lamar Jackson doesn’t necessarily want a fully guaranteed deal, per ESPN’s Dan Graziano. Graziano and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported together from the NFL owners meetings what the latest news is on the Baltimore Ravens quarterback, a player who Fowler said would not sign the franchise tag “out of principle.”
In his reporting, Graziano indicated that Jackson’s goal is not to make sure that a particular percentage of his deal is guaranteed, just that he earns more fully guaranteed money than Deshaun Watson, who struck a $230 million fully guaranteed deal with the Browns.
Lamar Jackson Contract Negotiations Are at an Impasse
That puts Jackson’s previous comments into a more interesting light. He had previously mentioned that the Ravens offered him a deal worth $133 million with three years fully guaranteed, meaning he was set to earn $44 million annually on the deal they offered.
It’s a tough situation to navigate given Jackson’s availability concerns, but it’s worth noting that for the first two years, Daniel Jones has a comparable deal in terms of guaranteed money, with just another year tacked on for Jackson — despite Jackson’s stronger history of play even when removing his 2019 MVP campaign.
There has been no reporting on how Jackson would interpret functionally guaranteed money, like rolling guarantees that kick in several years into the deal — ones that are not technically guaranteed at signing but would essentially obligate the Ravens to respect or risk taking on tens of millions in dead cap space to avoid.
As an example, Patrick Mahomes’ contract with the Chiefs “only” guarantees $63 million at signing. But he has an additional $477 million that can become guaranteed as he remains on Kansas City’s roster. Mahomes’ 2020, 2021, and 2022 salaries were fully guaranteed at signing, but as the 2021 league year began, his 2023 salary became fully guaranteed.
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For the Chiefs to avoid guaranteeing Mahomes’ 2023 salary, they would have had to cut him before 2021, incurring a $40 million cap hit. The same thing occurred before the 2022 season, where his continued employment meant guaranteeing the 2024 season. In order to avoid that, they would have had to cut him prior to 2022, incurring a cap hit of $62 million or so.
The benefit to the Chiefs — and any other team that pursues a rolling guarantee structure like this — is that they don’t have to reserve all of the functionally guaranteed money in escrow as CBA rules require, just the fully guaranteed money. That’s good because even a cash-rich organization like the Chiefs cannot put $540 million into the bank on Day 1.
That would mean that one of the obstacles commonly pointed out to defend ownership or front offices from having to offer guaranteed money — cash flow issues that impact how some teams can offer contracts — don’t really apply. But it does require that those teams put a lot of faith into a quarterback’s reliability and continued satisfaction with the organization.
Jackson’s Relationship With the Baltimore Ravens May Have Soured
That may not be a guarantee for Jackson and the Ravens. Graziano reported that Jackson has become perturbed by the Ravens’ negotiating tactics and the language they put in some of their offers. As Graziano put it, “It’s entirely possible there’s a deal out there that he would accept from another team that he wouldn’t accept if the Ravens offered it right now.”
That tracks with Jackson’s tweet from March 27, where he stated, “As of March 2nd I requested a trade from the Ravens organization for which the Ravens has not been interested in meeting my value, any and everyone that’s has met me or been around me know I love the game of football and my dream is to help a team win the super bowl. You all are great but I had to make a business decision that was best for my family and I.”
That souring relationship would make another team a more appealing option, which might explain why rapper Meek Mill informed Patriots owner Robert Kraft that Jackson would like to play for New England.
Teams Have Not Put in Offers for Lamar Jackson
Teams have been wary of putting in offers for Jackson with the knowledge that Baltimore could simply match it. But if they did want to acquire his services, Jackson has made his demands clear, and the Ravens don’t seem particularly close to them. A deal worth $250 million guaranteed over five years is clearly well above what Baltimore wants to offer.
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Nevertheless, Fowler reports that both the offer market and the trade market for Jackson are pretty dry. That could change as quarterbacks fly off the board during the NFL draft, but it would be tough for the Ravens to get same-year draft compensation unless a deal was worked out in principle before the draft begins. Baltimore’s desire to keep Jackson remains strong, so it’s been difficult to gin up the kind of market necessary to really create some shockwaves.