Answering the biggest questions about Lamar Jackson’s contract status – Baltimore Ravens Blog
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens have long treated the biggest scenario looming over the franchise — whether quarterback Lamar Jackson will get a contract extension — as a formality. Team officials confidently framed it as a matter of when, not if, a new deal will be reached with Jackson.
But for a second consecutive offseason, there is no indication that a long-term commitment to Jackson is imminent.
So what’s the delay?
During Friday’s season-ending press conference, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said it was “an unusual deal” because he’s dealing directly with Jackson, who is among the few players of the NFL without a traditional sports agent. DeCosta estimated he had spoken to Jackson five or six times about his contract in the past year.
“At this point, I would say we’re working at Lamar’s pace,” DeCosta said. “He’s comfortable where we are right now.”
History suggests that Jackson will get a deal done before September. From 2011 to 2017 (the year before Jackson was drafted), eight of the 20 quarterbacks drafted in the first round signed contract extensions, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Five QBs signed extensions before the start of their fourth season (Ryan Tannehill, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson) and three signed long-term contracts before the start of their fifth season (Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Blake Bortles).
But, for the first time since Jackson became eligible for an extension last offseason, there appears to be uncertainty about when a deal will be done.
“We will operate based on his urgency,” DeCosta said.
Here is an overview of the situation with Jackson and where his contract situation stands:
Should the Ravens and Jackson make a deal this offseason?
Not at all. Jackson is under contract through the 2022 season. He is entering his fifth-year option. That’s why Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Baltimore was in no rush to get a deal done last offseason. The biggest difference this year is that Jackson is no longer the NFL’s best bargain. Jackson’s base salary is skyrocketing from $1.771 million last season to $23.016 million this season.
This is the most disappointing part of Jackson’s first four seasons. Baltimore was only able to produce one playoff win when Jackson was on his rookie contract and was $3 million or less over the salary cap. The Ravens wouldn’t have the same advantage going forward with Jackson. A new deal is going to take a bigger chunk of the salary cap, which means there will be less money to build a team around.
What makes the Ravens go for a new deal now?
The biggest upside is obvious: the Ravens are securing a top-five quarterback for the foreseeable future. Baltimore has proven to be a perennial playoff team with Jackson in the roster. Over the past four seasons, the Ravens are 37-12 (.755) starting Jackson and 6-10 (.375) when he’s waived. An extension also removes Jackson’s contract status from being a distraction. The more no deal there is, the more Jackson and Ravens officials will be questioned about it.
The best immediate benefit for Baltimore is more ceiling space. Currently, Jackson represents 11% of the Ravens’ cap in 2022. A contract extension could cut Jackson’s cap in half this season, as a new deal would prorate the signing bonus over the length of the deal. and would include a low first year base salary. In other words, a long-term deal with Jackson would result in a major short-term advantage for Baltimore, which currently has $12.7 million in cap space (putting the Ravens in the middle of the NFL). .
But DeCosta said the Ravens were comfortable raising Jackson’s $23 million cap if an extension couldn’t be reached before the season. Jackson’s cap number would only rank 12th in the NFL, and Baltimore can make other moves (like cutting offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva) to free up more cap space. “Based on who Lamar is and what he has to offer, it’s not a huge ticket for a quarterback of this ability and personality and what he brings to the table for the game. team,” DeCosta said.
What happens if Jackson isn’t signed next offseason?
Jackson would become an unrestricted free agent if not signed in 13 months. But Jackson has a better chance of winning the lottery than he does on the open market. If the Ravens can’t reach a deal, they’ll dust off the franchise tag, which they’ve only used twice in the past decade (kicker Justin Tucker in 2016 and linebacker Matthew Judon in 2020) . In theory, Baltimore can place the tag on Jackson for two years. That means the Ravens can keep Jackson through the 2024 season without overtime, even though it could cost them more than $40 million this final season.
Few teams have used the franchise tag on quarterbacks. In the previous 10 offseasons, only three QBs have been tagged: Drew Brees (2012), Kirk Cousins (2016 and 2017) and Dak Prescott (2020 and 2021), according to ESPN Stats & Information. It goes to show that most teams don’t allow talks to get to the point of the franchise tag because the cost becomes so prohibitive. But, unless Jackson becomes more motivated for the contract talks, it becomes more of a possibility with each passing month.
What’s the risk of delaying Jackson’s signing this year?
It’s all in the relationship. Trade-wise, it’s safe to say it’s safer for the Ravens not to sign Jackson to a multi-year contract. He’s taken 64 more hits than any other quarterback since 2018, and he missed the final four games of last season with a bruised ankle bone. Moving from year to year contractually might be smarter with a quarterback who has a higher risk of injury.
Which is why it’s odd that Jackson wasn’t more proactive. It would make sense for Jackson to push for an extension because it provides long-term security for someone who puts his body on the line more than other quarterbacks with his style of play.
The Ravens have been very keen to maintain a strong bond with Jackson. DeCosta once said that Jackson was the kind of person “you would be very proud to have as a son.” Jackson feels so comfortable with DeCosta that he used the general manager’s initials to nickname him “Every Dollar Counts.” The Ravens want to avoid any animosity over dragging negotiations, especially when Jackson doesn’t have an agent.
Does Jackson’s lack of an agent complicate matters?
That certainly doesn’t help matters. Agents often act as buffers, so negotiations don’t get personal and criticism doesn’t get misinterpreted. And, given DeCosta’s comments on Friday, the absence of an agent may slow down negotiations. Some players have negotiated their own contracts, but that’s rare for a deal the size of Jackson’s. As of last year, Jackson was one of 17 NFL players not represented by a traditional sports agent.
When it comes to contract negotiations, DeCosta only speaks with Jackson and not his mother or other advisers.
“I always spoke with Lamar, DeCosta said. “It was made clear to me early in the process that Lamar and I would work together. It has been.”
DeCosta has made it clear the Ravens are open to talking about an extension.
“I know Lamar knows he can come see me at any time,” he said. “He can call me anytime. He can text me anytime.”
When is a deal closed and how much will it ultimately be worth?
Who knows. You feel like the Ravens don’t even have a gauge on when a deal can happen because it’s really uncharted territory with the size of the deal and the lack of an agent. Baltimore likely wants to get that deal done before free agency begins (March 16) in order to take advantage of cap relief (the potential for $10 million in additional cap space) provided by an extension with Jackson and sign more players.
League circles expect Jackson’s payout to exceed $40 million per season, which would put him in the top three-earning quarterbacks. It will be interesting to see if Jackson can pass Josh Allen ($43 million per season) to finish second behind Mahomes ($45 million per season). The other question is whether Jackson’s deal will be a short-term extension like Prescott (four years) or longer like Allen (six years).
Jackson is coming off a season that is not ideal for a player awaiting an extension. He struggled with blitzing and decision-making (a career-high 13 interceptions). He was also ruled out for the first time due to injury.
But DeCosta said none of that changed the Ravens’ confidence in Jackson as a franchise quarterback.
“There’s a lot of upside in our offense. Lamar is a big part of that,” DeCosta said. “He’s the right person to do it. He’s a leader. He’s loved. He’s a phenomenally talented player. He makes us better.