Ed Reed Reveals What Lamar Jackson Must Prove Amid Contract Uncertainty

Lamar Jackson

Getty A Ravens' Hall of Famer reveals what Lamar Jackson must prove before he gets a new deal.

Lamar Jackson still doesn’t have a new contract. Many are baffled the Baltimore Ravens have allowed the future of their franchise quarterback to hang in the balance.

The uncertainty isn’t impacting Jackson’s on-field performances, though, and Ravens Hall of Famer Ed Reed thinks No. 8 is dealing with his situation “like a professional.” Reed also believes Jackson doesn’t have “to do anything to prove” he merits a lucrative new deal.

Yet, the former All-Pro free safety questions whether the Ravens, a franchise not “known for paying guys like that” will eventually cough up the cash required to sign Jackson for the long haul.

Lamar Jackson ‘Controlling’ Things vs. Ravens’ Business Model

Speaking to The 33rd Team, Reed said Jackson “has chose to play that hand and he’s played it well.” The “hand” Reed referred to is Jackson’s decision to reject a six-year, $274 million offer that included $133 million in guaranteed cash, per Vic Tafur of The Athletic.

Jackson has essentially bet on himself, knowing either free agency of the franchise tag likely beckons once the 2022 NFL season has been consigned to history. Tafur is surprised the situation has been allowed to get this far, despite Jackson acting as his own agent, but Reed has a different take.

The nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion said it’s important to “understand the franchise you’re dealing with.” Reed referenced ex-teammates like quarterback Joe Flacco and edge-rusher Terrell Suggs as “guys who got some nickels” from a “business-operated organization” that “understand who they are and where they are in the market of football in the NFL. Their market’s not big.”

Reed’s assessment of the Ravens’ fiscal habits might worry fans concerned about the next offer Jackson is likely to receive. It doesn’t sound like general manager Eric DeCosta would go too far above the terms Jackson turned down back in September.

The only way the front office’s stance would change is if Jackson plays well enough to force the Ravens to loosen the purse strings. It won’t be an easy decision, based on the other calls DeCosta will have to make.

Lamar Jackson No Longer a Lock for the Franchise Tag

Putting the tag on Jackson, even if only for one season, seems like the obvious compromise for all parties, but it’s no longer so simple. Not after Roquan Smith’s arrival.

The Ravens traded second and fifth-round 2023 draft picks and veteran linebacker A.J. Klein to the Chicago Bears to acquire Smith. It was a move that gained the Ravens a true three-down linebacker but also created a looming dilemma for DeCosta.

Smith is a pending free agent, like Jackson, and it won’t be easy to pay both commensurate with their talents when DeCosta is tipped by Spotrac.com to have $39,605,536 worth of room under next year’s salary cap. It would be out of character for the Ravens to have dealt away two draft picks just to rent Smith for half a season.

Instead, Smith was acquired to bring the defense closer to Jackson’s level. Star power on both sides of the ball can only help the Ravens win a third Super Bowl.

Jackson lifting the Lombardi Trophy is surely the only thing that would make the Ravens pay up before using the tag. Ironically, Smith told ESPN Radio’s Keyshawn, JWill & Max show (h/t Ravens Vault co-host Sarah Ellison) believes Jackson can do just that:

Smith’s claim isn’t so bold considering Jackson has thrown 16 touchdown passes and rushed for 635 yards through nine games. He’s playing like the MVP of 2019, and these Ravens won’t go to the show without Jackson.

It doesn’t mean it’s going to be Super Bowl or bust for Jackson’s next contract, but Reed’s note of caution about how the Ravens do business means DeCosta using the tag is still a favorite.