Lamar Jackson doesn’t need to think too long about the template for his next long-term contract with the Baltimore Ravens. All he needs to do is look to Deshaun Watson for some help.
Watson was traded from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns this offseason. The deal netted Watson the largest guaranteed money ever put into a contract in NFL history.
One league reporter believes Jackson should ask for more than Watson received when it comes time for the Ravens to pay up. The same reporter also thinks Jackson should make extending his contract a priority above rolling the dice on possibly playing under the franchise tag.
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Watson’s Deal Just the Starting Point for Jackson
Speaking during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson said “If I’m Lamar, I just put Deshaun Watson’s contract on the table and say do about $10 million more than this, $5 million than this and we’re good.”
Anderson’s assessment of what she would do in Jackson’s position would put the Ravens on the hook for as much as $240 million in guaranteed money. That’s how Watson’s deal was structured once the Browns gave up three first-round picks, two fourths and a third-rounder to acquire the quarterback back in March.
The Browns gave Watson a five-year contract with $230 million guaranteed, per Spotrac.com. He’ll earn earn $46 million in base salary for every year of the deal from 2023, according to the same source.
Only Green Bay Packers starter Aaron Rodgers will earn more annually, with Over The Cap putting the figure at $50,271,667. It’s a risky deal for the Browns, given Watson’s ongoing legal issues, stemming from multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.
Watson wasn’t indicted by a criminal grand jury in Texas, but he still faced 24 civil lawsuits. ESPN’s Jake Trotter reported Watson has since settled 20 of those lawsuits, according to attorney Tony Buzbee. The NFL’s passing leader in 2020 could face a one-year, league-imposed suspension, according to Mark Maske of The Washington Post.
The Ravens’ risk with Jackson’s next deal is purely a footballing one. Namely, the risk of not securing the long-term future of a legitimate franchise quarterback.
An alternative would be to let Jackson bet on himself with at least one franchise tag. It’s not a course Anderson believes the 2019 league MVP should pursue.
Jackson Advised Not to Take Same Path as Kirk Cousins
Playing on the tag can be lucrative. Just ask Kirk Cousins. He took the tag two years running while he was in Washington before parlaying those seasons into a bumper free-agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.
Jackson is about to play on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, so he’ll be eligible to enter the open market next year. The Ravens will have to use the tag if new terms aren’t agreed before then.
It’s possible Jackson follows Cousins’ strategy, but Anderson believes he should think twice about treading that same path: “I do think it makes sense for him to secure the multi-year contract extension and not play around with any injury or what have you. It worked out for Kirk because he didn’t get no major injury, but you can’t assure that that will happen for you, Lamar.”
Anderson’s advice is sound, particularly given the way Jackson plays. He’s a genuine dual-threat quarterback whose rushing skills are a big part of what the Ravens do on offense.
Jackson proved his value as a runner even during an injury-hit season in 2021:
He missed five games with an ankle injury but still finished as the Ravens’ leading rusher with 767 yards. Jackson was 191 yards ahead of the team’s next most-productive runner.
It would be foolish for the Ravens to limit a prolific part of Jackson’s game, but it’s only natural his risk of injury increases the more hits he takes. The fact Jackson has never completed a full season lends weight to those risks.
History like this means Jackson should heed Anderson’s advice and put his name on a new contract rather than risk his ability to stay healthy long enough to cash in elsewhere. He still has leverage because this Ravens team needs No. 8 if it’s going to deliver a championship anytime soon.
Paying upwards of $50 million annually to a 25-year-old who is arguably the most dynamic player in the game at football’s most important position is a going rate the Ravens should live with.