Is it a coincidence that Lamar Jackson was all smiles walking into the Baltimore Ravens‘ practice facility just seven minutes after ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted the details of Kyler Murray’s contract extension with the Arizona Cardinals?
There’s no way to be sure, but Murray’s $230.5 million megadeal certainly bodes well for the 25-year-old as he negotiates his own extension that is expected to place him among the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks.
Jackson has been notoriously tight-lipped about his contract talks with the Ravens, only admitting to “having conversations” with the team regarding an extension during mandatory minicamp in June.
He’s also consistently fired back at those suggesting that he wants to leave Baltimore, tweeting “I love my Ravens” in March and telling media that he expects to stay with the team for his whole career.
But that doesn’t mean that Jackson will be giving the Ravens a team-friendly discount in an era of skyrocketing contracts for elite quarterbacks. Instead, he’s let the market play out in front of him with multiple record-setting quarterback contracts being signed this offseason.
Aaron Rodgers received $50.3 million per year, per OverTheCap, the highest average annual value in league history, while Deshaun Watson signed a fully-guaranteed $240 million deal in what appeared to be a watershed moment for quarterback contracts.
But Murray’s deal indicates that those recent contracts – Watson’s especially – are not the new norm. The Cardinals gave Murray the NFL’s second-highest average value at $46.1 million – a largely symbolic distinction, as it barely outpaces Watson’s $46 million yearly value – but only guaranteed $160 million, less than 70% of the contract’s total value of $230.5 million. That’s more guaranteed money than Rodgers but still far less than his per-year average, a reflection of Murray’s talent and also his relative lack of achievement thus far in his career.
Impact on Jackson’s Deal
So what does Murray’s new deal mean for Jackson?
With one MVP trophy to Murray’s zero and three playoff berths to Murray’s one, Jackson is undoubtedly a more accomplished quarterback. The Ravens offense is built around his skill set in a way unlike any other unit in the NFL right now and perhaps in league history. Despite an extremely-injured supporting cast, Jackson still showed improvement as a passer in 2021 and led the Ravens to multiple double-digit comeback victories. A bone bruise ended his season prematurely, but Jackson still showed his value from the sidelines as the Ravens went winless in their final five games without him under center.
As a result, Jackson should have enough leverage to get a better deal than Murray, but he and the Ravens have played their negotiations extremely close to the chest. There’s been no reporting on any specifics regarding a potential deal, including length, average value, total value or guarantees.
Jackson himself has opened up about his contract situation in recent months, saying back in June that he believes he is “worthy” of a contract extension and responding “hopefully” when asked if he would sign an extension before training camp, per USA Today’s Safid Deen. But he also insists that he remains focused on delivering on his draft-night promise to bring a Super Bowl to Baltimore. Left unsaid, of course, is that such an accomplishment would raise Jackson’s value – and asking price – even higher.
A Pre-Week 1 Contract Prediction
The possibility of another MVP-worthy season and/or deep playoff run from Jackson is enough to incentivize the Ravens to get a deal done sooner rather than later. Baltimore could use the franchise tag in 2023 – projected to be $31.5 million – to force Jackson to prove himself for another year, but that runs the risk of alienating their young star, who could demand even more money after another successful season. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has shown a willingness to pony up for his best players, and there’s no reason to think he’ll do otherwise with Jackson.
Pro Football Focus contracts and salary cap expert Brad Spielberger agrees, recently projecting a four-year, $188 million extension for Jackson, with $140 million guaranteed.
“The 2019 MVP still has room to grow but is already as dynamic a weapon as the league has to offer, and he deserves an extension that reflects that reality,” wrote Spielberger on July 19.
The length of the projected contract is consistent with recent All-Pro extensions in Baltimore, with Marlon Humphrey, Ronnie Stanley and Mark Andrews all earning four-year deals in the last two years. But after Murray’s deal, Jackson may want a raise over Spielberger’s proposed $47 million per year value with more fully-guaranteed money as well.
A four-year deal for $190 million ($47.5 million per year) or $192 million ($48 million per year) with $145 million to $160 million fully-guaranteed could do the trick. The Ravens would have their franchise quarterback locked down for the foreseeable future without breaking the bank completely, while Jackson would be firmly entrenched as the league’s second-highest paid quarterback.
Despite plenty of criticism over his passing ability and refusal to hire an agent for his contract talks, it seems that Jackson’s decision to bet on himself is going to pay off in a huge way – literally.