Besides their stacked draft class, the most interesting thing coming out of the Baltimore Ravens’ camp this offseason is their contract negotiations—or, more accurately, lack thereof—with star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson, who has long forgone having an agent in favor of representing himself, is set to become a free agent after playing on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract in 2022.
With the start of the Ravens’ mandatory minicamp a week away, Baltimore still hasn’t reached an agreement on an extension with their quarterback. Some reports have stated Jackson is waiting until the end of the 2022 season to engage in contract talks with his current focus set on having his best year yet. That would be a big mistake.
It’s practically a guarantee that Jackson’s value won’t get any higher—or at least significantly higher—during the 2022 season. That’s not because the Ravens will have a bad season come the fall or the quarterback’s performance will decline. It’s because Jackson’s value is already so high right now.
The Louisville product is just 25 years old and just three years removed from a season in which he won a unanimous MVP award. Jackson has already established himself as one of the most uniquely talented quarterbacks of his generation… and of all time.
He holds NFL records for most single-season rushing yards by a quarterback, most 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a quarterback and is even tied with Ben Roethlisberger for most games with a perfect passer rating in the same season. There isn’t another quarterback in today’s NFL who can move the way Jackson moves and play the way he plays.
The only problem is the way Jackson plays can leave him more susceptible to injuries. We saw it happen as recently as last season, when an ankle injury he suffered in Week 14 against the Browns knocked him out for the rest of the season. The Ravens then went on to lose those last four games.
Jackson doesn’t have a long history of injuries, but the likelihood of getting injured certainly doesn’t diminish for players as they get older. In addition, it only takes one serious lower-body injury to potentially derail his career as a super-mobile quarterback. Just look at what happened to Robert Griffin III after his knee injury in 2013.
By playing another full season without a contract lined up for the future, Jackson risks leaving a lot of money on the table. Even without a long injury history, one injury could hurt not only his value but his career in general.
Another important factor here is not how good of a fit Jackson has been for the Ravens but rather how good the Ravens have been as a fit for Jackson.
Since drafting Jackson in 2018, the Ravens have done everything they can to set their quarterback up for success. They’ve given him a strong offensive line up front, bullies at tight end who can act as extra blockers or catch passes over the middle as well as a crew of elite running backs. All of these factors combined have perfectly complemented Jackson’s run-heavy playstyle.
After he and his team struggled with a more pass-heavy offense in 2021, it appears Baltimore is moving back toward the systems they implemented in 2019, Jackson’s MVP season. They drafted a couple of extra tight ends to a group that already includes Mark Andrews, one of the NFL’s best and most underrated tight ends. They gave Jackson an elite center by drafting Tyler Linderbaum in the first round. Both starting running backs will be healthy.
Baltimore has made it very clear they will do whatever they can to make sure Jackson is in the best position to succeed. When a new offensive system didn’t work, they made moves to revert back to the old one that will lean more on Jackson’s legs than his arm.
That’s just made Jackson’s refusal to enter negotiations before the final season he’s under contract even more confusing. It’s very unlikely he would’ve had this level of success elsewhere. Baltimore’s done everything they can do to convince Jackson to stick around. An unlucky injury could leave Jackson’s value and career in a free fall.
Still, he’s (presumably) hoping to further boost his value with a better season. In all, Jackson might be able to raise the average annual value of his contract by a couple million dollars.
He’s definitely worth a contract that would make him one of the league’s top 10 highest-paid quarterbacks—around $40 million per year. But no matter what happens, he’s probably not going to be able to raise that value up to $45 million, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers’ territory. Leaving a deal that would pay him around $40 million per year on the table in the hopes to raise its value slightly isn’t worth risking an injury that could lose him substantially more this season.
Jackson shouldn’t take his chances and should try to negotiate a contract extension before the 2022 season begins.
- Jun 23, 2022
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