Lamar Jackson is being short-sighted in his pursuit of a new contract with fully guaranteed money from the Baltimore Ravens. That’s according to Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Martz, who believes the Ravens still offer the “best situation” for the 2019 NFL MVP to “continue to be successful.”
Martz, who helped the then-St. Louis Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV as the brains behind the “Greatest Show on Turf” offense, made his feelings about Jackson’s motives clear during an interview for The 33rd Team: “He was in a perfect place. Not every team is going to embrace him and his unique talents like Baltimore did, and right now, it appears he’s just looking out for dollars without seeing the bigger picture.”
Those are strong words, but Martz doesn’t believe Jackson will find another team as accommodating to his “unique” skill-set as the Ravens. Nor does Martz think Jackson would thrive in a different style of offense to the one the Ravens have operated since he became QB1 in 2019.
While Martz states a compelling case, his argument still raises questions about why the Ravens won’t pay Jackson what he wants, instead remaining content to let him play on the non-exclusive franchise tag in 2023.
Offensive Guru Questions Lamar Jackson’s Motives and Scheme Fit
Aside from accusing Jackson of letting his view become “distorted and lost in his pursuit of this guaranteed money,” Martz also questioned the 26-year-old’s scheme fit outside of Baltimore.
Specifically, Martz outlined how Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh has willingly tailored his offenses exclusively to what Jackson can and can’t do. Martz isn’t so sure any of the NFL’s other 31 teams would make the same concession for Jackson: “This isn’t plug and play.”
It’s an interesting debate because Jackson’s dual-threat style is well-known throughout the game. He’s a dynamic runner who can also beat defenses with his arm, although his mobility continues to be his best weapon, as numbers from Football Outsiders prove:
Martz thinks most offensive coordinators around the league would find it easy to fit Jackson into their rushing schemes. Things become difficult once a passing game has to be adapted to No. 8: “Jackson isn’t like Aaron Rodgers or some of the great ones in the past where you could put them on any team and they’d still be great players. You have to be careful about signing a player like Jackson. You have to have a great offensive line, great personnel and a great plan to help him. And the Ravens have all of that in place. That’s a unique situation in Baltimore. Most teams aren’t prepared to take that on.”
This argument will be put to the test if new coordinator Todd Monken completely shuns the run-heavy blueprint predecessor Greg Roman used for Jackson. Alternatively, Monken’s vision could be restricted by Jackson’s particular set of skills.
While Jackson is used to being pigeon-holed into a specific place among the game’s starting quarterbacks, Martz is qualified to make these claims. He called plays for an explosive Rams attack built around Kurt Warner’s rhythm passing and Marshall Faulk’s rushing and receiving versatility in 1999.
The offense took the league by storm, but the unit was arguably better when Martz was head coach two years later. Unfortunately for Martz, his Rams lost 20-17 to the New England Patriots and a young Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVI.
It’s easy for Martz to urge Jackson to shelve his pride, forget about a fully guaranteed deal and sign a new contract with the Ravens. Yet, it’s just as easy to ask why, if they’re as tethered to Jackson as Martz claims, don’t the Ravens simply pay up?
Lamar Jackson Reliance Gives Ravens Little Choice
Following Martz’s logic, the Ravens have built a team to help Jackson succeed, both via personnel and scheme. So why risk putting this expensive Jackson support network on the field without the man himself in 2023?
Surely it would be easier to at least get closer to what Jackson expects to be paid? His benchmark is already well known as something on a par or above the historic $230 million the Cleveland Browns fully guaranteed for Deshaun Watson last offseason.
The Watson deal set a precedent many general managers and owners would rather forget or simply ignore, but Spotrac’s Michael Ginnitti believes what the Browns did shouldn’t impact Jackson’s next contract:
An uncomfortable standoff is brewing between Jackson and Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta. It’s an unnecessary risk for both parties to take when they are so dependant on each other.
The Super Bowl window for this Ravens team stays open only if Jackson remains happy and healthy. As Martz pointed out, he’s unlikely to be as happy anywhere else other than Baltimore.