The No.1 priority for the Baltimore Ravens this offseason is getting their franchise quarterback and former unanimous league MVP winner, Lamar Jackson, to a long-term.
Their ongoing negotiations that were tabled during the 2022 regular season and resumed once it ended have been and will continue to be one of the most popular storylines that local and national media will be following closely.
Until it is resolved one way or another whether it’s with a new deal for the two-time Pro Bowler to stay with the team or a blockbuster trade that results in him playing for another team in 2023 or 2024, it will continue to be talked about, criticized, and fiercely debated.
The Cleveland Browns shocked the NFL world with the blockbuster trade for and record-setting fully guaranteed contract given to Deshaun Watson last offseason worth $230 million even though he voluntarily sat out the 2021 season and had multiple civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct pending against him.
That unprecedented contract has proven to be an outlier since other prominent quarterbacks signed for less than fully guaranteed contract extensions. Russell Wilson received just over $161 million in total guarantees from the Denver Broncos after getting traded from the Seattle Seahawks and former No.1 overall pick Kyler Murray received nearly $190 million in total guarantees from the Arizona Cardinals.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, all three of those with arguably the exception of arguably Wilson who has been to a pair and won a Super Bowl are less accomplished and are not as talented as Jackson.
ESPN Insider Jeremy Fowler and Ravens beat reporter Jamison Hensley recently reported that the 26-year-old superstar continues to desire not just a fully guaranteed deal but a deal that eclipses Watson’s.
“According to a source with knowledge of Jackson’s contract negotiations, all of his counteroffers to the Ravens last year were for fully guaranteed contracts that exceeded that of Watson,” Hensley and Fowler reported.
They also reported per sources that the Ravens offered Jackson and turned down a five-year deal worth $133 million in guarantees last offseason which if true is well below market value.
“If there is no compromise, the possibility of the Ravens trading Jackson, who in 2019 joined Tom Brady as the only unanimous MVPs in NFL history, has never been more likely,” Hensley and Fowler wrote.
Even though his durability over the past two seasons in which he has missed the final stretch of games in back-to-back years including the first playoff game of his career is somewhat concerning, Jackson’s talent is elite and his impact on the Ravens’ ability to win on any given Sunday is almost invaluable.
Jackson’s Camp Refutes ‘Fully Guaranteed’ Contract Demands
While his ESPN colleagues thoroughly reported how the most electrifying dual-threat quarterback in NFL history wants to be signed to a record-setting fully guaranteed deal not of Watson’s, on his show ‘First Take’ Stephen A. Smith said that member of “Jackson’s camp” contacted him to “absolutely emphatically assured” him that those reports were false.
“Lamar Jackson has never asked for a fully guaranteed deal,” Smith said. “I’m not questioning anybody’s reporting or anything like that. I would never do that to my colleagues and contemporaries.
“Im echoing what Lamar Jackson’s camp said because they reached out to me personally yesterday.”
He went on to say that the Ravens have remained resolute on their offer of $133 million in guarantees despite the vastly larger figures that were given to Wilson and Murray after the Watson deal.
“That is an insult if true,” Smith exclaimed. “There’s no excuse to lowball. That is a lowball offer in today’s market, everybody and their grandma knows it.”
He acknowledged that the Watson contract is an outlier and that the “Ravens are in no obligation to meet that crazy deal that the Cleveland Browns gave Deshaun Watson.”
“But don’t tell me that what Kyler Murray got, Lamar Jackson doesn’t deserve,” Smith said. “Lamar Jackson deserves $200 million guaranteed.”
He was also told that contrary to reports and what head coach John Harbaugh himself told the media, Jackson’s input was not included in the hiring of the team’s new offensive coordinator Todd Monken who will be replacing Greg Roman.
“Lamar Jackson was never consulted or talked to or asked his opinions,” Smith said. “He was informed ‘this is your new boss at the offensive coordinator spot who will be calling plays for you’.”
A Deal Needs to be Done Before Anyone Else Gets Paid
Jackson isn’t the only young signal caller that is eligible to receive a contract extension this offseason. It would behoove General manager Eric DeCosta to try to get his guy locked up before some of his contemporaries around the league cash in.
Fresh off a run to the Superbowl and finishing runner-up in MVP voting this past season, Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles is expected to garner a deal around or north of $50 million in average annual salary per reports which “could set Ravens and Lamar Jackson’s negotiations backward” according to Baltimore Beatdown’s Kyler Barber.
Jackson’s AFC North rival Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals who has taken his team to the past two AFC title games, a place the Ravens haven’t been since their last title run in 2012, is also eligible as is Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers who is the least accomplished of the bunch but is regarded in the same pedigree as the league’s elite quarterbacks.
The multi-year extensions that the Kansas City Chiefs gave Patrick Mahomes and the Buffalo Bills gave Josh Allen in the 2020 and 2021 offseasons look like bargains compared to what the next crop of young quarterbacks are slated to get starting with Jackson.
The sooner the front office can get it done, the sooner it will look like a bargain shortly thereafter but if they continue to wait and drag negotiations out, the market rate will only climb higher.