PALM BEACH, Fla. — One of the more unique contractual situations in the NFL keeps brewing between the Baltimore Ravens and star quarterback Lamar Jackson. This unresolved impasse has spawned more than a few conspiracy theories.
Lamar Jackson and his contract situation
Jackson has established himself as one of the top young quarterbacks in the game as a dynamic dual-threat who can beat teams with his arm and his legs.
And the Ravens very much want to reward him and lock him up for the future with one of the richest contracts in NFL history. So, where’s the disconnect? Why can’t they agree to terms? Well, it’s complicated.
Jackson doesn’t have an agent and leans heavily on the advice of his mother, Felicia Jones, who raised him and his siblings after his father died from a heart attack. He also has other advisors.
Jackson is playing under a rookie contract and is due a $23.016 million, fully guaranteed fifth-year club option this year.
The Ravens are ready to engage in contract talks whenever Jackson is ready to do so. The hesitation is on his end, which has raised speculation about whether he wants to stay in Baltimore.
Hearing the chorus of concern, Jackson addressed the rumors on social media.
“I love my Ravens, Jackson wrote. “I don’t know who the hell putting that false narrative out that I’m having thoughts about leaving stop tryna read my mind.”
Fair enough. Jackson has basically addressed the situation, but that doesn’t really delve into his deeper thoughts on this topic of conversation.
Jackson does have a good relationship with Ravens coach John Harbaugh, owner Steve Bisciotti, and general manager Eric DeCosta. DeCosta expressed optimism during the NFL Combine that something would materialize at some point.
Ravens want to negotiate
Perhaps Jackson will command the kind of huge payday that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes ($45 million annually) and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen ($43 million annually) have already earned.
“I hope so, at some point we will,” DeCosta said 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.
“He knows how to find me. I know how to find him. I was very happy to see him working out on the West Coast recently with our guys. That’s exciting.”
Owner Steve Bisciotti weighs in
The former NFL MVP isn’t going anywhere. The Ravens can go year to year with him with franchise tags to prevent him from reaching free agency.
Bisciotti told Baltimore reporters on Tuesday at the NFL annual league meeting that he doesn’t think Jackson will sign a new deal with the Ravens before the season, barring a “change of heart.”
Bisciotti called the approach of patience (some might call it reluctance) on Jackson’s part as “unique as hell” and added, “We’ll pay him when he’s ready.”
The Washington franchise had Kirk Cousins on three consecutive franchise tenders before joining the Minnesota Vikings, which has made him a very rich man.
Perhaps that will unfold with the Ravens and Jackson.
“And that gives me three years to win the Super Bowl so you can make me a $60 million quarterback because that’s where it will be four years from now,” Bisciotti said. “That might be the case, but I don’t talk to Lamar. It’s not my role. I don’t know the answer. Lamar is a unique cat, and what are you going to do with a guy who wants to be unique? You don’t browbeat him into being a conformist.
“We’re taking him as we take him. We appreciate him. All I know is that his teammates freaking love him, and the front office loves him. It’s like, ‘You just keep doing you Lamar, and we’ll make it work somehow.'”
Deshaun Watson deal creates wrinkle
Comparisons for a deal for Jackson, if one ever happens, are Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s record-breaking $230 million fully guaranteed contract, which raised eyebrows around the NFL, including with the Ravens.
Or Jackson’s deal could mirror Josh Allen’s six-year, $258 million extension that averages $43 million annually with $100 million guaranteed.
The Watson deal definitely has a ripple effect, a wrinkle in the marketplace that Bisciotti addressed.
“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. “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.”
Why doesn’t Jackson want a deal?
Bisciotti offered an interesting theory on why Jackson won’t engage in contract talks when the Florida native knows he’ll become a very rich man simply by saying ‘Yes’ to a deal in the near future.
“It’s unique as hell because everybody expects you to say, ‘I’ve got to get mine now,'” Bisciotti said. “The kid is so obsessed with winning a Super Bowl that I think, deep down, he doesn’t think he’s worthy. I think he wants that [title] to say, ‘Now I deserve to be on top.’ People can speculate any way they want. I don’t think he is turned on by money that much, and he knows it’s coming one way or the other.
“I don’t really look at Lamar becoming more expensive because of the route that he’s chosen to go, though the numbers don’t bear out my theory. I just don’t view that as a negative. I think without a QB that you believe in, life sucks as an NFL owner and a fan base.”
Bisciotti is absolutely right. This amounts to a good problem to have, even if it is somewhat puzzling why this continues to drag out. Patience is on the Ravens’ side, and for Jackson, too.
With the salary cap continuing to increase and quarterback salaries skyrocketing, Jackson’s day is coming. It’s just a matter of when he says to the Ravens, let’s sit down and hammer out a deal.