The Baltimore Ravens and their star quarterback Lamar Jackson is at crossroads. And the situation could get very ugly during the upcoming offseason period.
Lamar was the last pick in the 1st round pick in the 2018 Draft and has exceeded expectations quickly by winning the Most Valuable Player award in his first full season as a starter in 2019, going 13-2 as a starter and scoring 43 total TDs to only 6 INTs while rushing for over 1,200 yards on the ground.
As contracts go in the NFL, 1st round picks have 4-year deals that can extend by their teams to a 5th-year if they choose to pick up a more costly fifth-year option. In the Ravens’ case with Lamar, that is exactly what happened, and now, 5-years after getting drafted, Lamar is set to hit free agency. Now it’s time to get paid like the top-of-the-market quarterback he is.
The #Ravens will be franchise tagging QB Lamar Jackson this offseason, according to @RapSheet
Adds that his sense is that it would be the "Exclusive Franchise Tag" which prevents teams from signing him. pic.twitter.com/C2JBWrIoVw
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 31, 2023
Lamar is now 26 years old and is entering the prime of his career. With an MVP in his pocket, it should be a no-brainer for the Ravens to pay Lamar what he deserves, but the two sides are now “possibly” $100 million apart in contract talks according to ESPN, and there are several reasons for that.
Issue 1: Injuries
Since entering the league, Lamar Jackson has yet to start a full season, and he has missed 10 combined games over the past two years. That is a problem considering the Ravens want to know that the player they’re about to pay a lot of money for is actually available to play. The Ravens don’t have much of a scoring offense without Lamar Jackson, even with capable Pro-Bowl backup quarterbacks behind him such as Tyler Huntley, so Lamar availability is very important.
Issue 2: Deshaun Watson’s Fully Guaranteed Contract
Last offseason, due to complete desperation, the Cleveland Browns decided to go all-out to try to improve their quarterback situation and traded top draft picks for controversial Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Once their big trade was finalized, they also signed Watson to a 5-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract. That was the only way Watson was going to agree to come to Cleveland. Such a contract impacts the entire quarterback market because usually the “next man up” to be paid gets as good or better contract than the previous, especially a young MVP quarterback like Lamar Jackson. Lamar is seeking a similar deal to Watson but the Ravens don’t want to create a league-wide pattern of fully guaranteed contracts and don’t want to take that kind of risk, themselves.
Report: The #Ravens offered QB Lamar Jackson $113 million in guarantees initially before eventually raising it to $133 million, a source told @Realrclark25
For comparison, one of the last big money deals a QB signed is #Browns Deshaun Watson, with $230 million fully guaranteed. pic.twitter.com/dsxVSKrAu3
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 22, 2023
Issue 3: No Agent
Lamar Jackson represents himself, he’s one of the few notable NFL players without an agent. That makes contract negotiations very sensitive because as negotiations go, a team usually tries to lower a player’s market value by pointing to flaws in his game to his agent. It’s not as easy to do that when you’re speaking directly to your franchise quarterback instead of an intermediary. Dancing around certain issues in order to avoid hurt feelings definitely slows down contract discussions.