After an extended absence, Lamar Jackson has finally arrived at the Baltimore Ravens’ off-season activities. He has yet to ink a new deal, but coming to practice is a sign that Jackson is fully committed to the Ravens in 2022. However, with the current Lamar Jackson contract set to expire at the end of the season, the Ravens still have some work ahead of them. The next big step for the Baltimore Ravens and their talented quarterback will be a new Lamar Jackson contract.
Lamar Jackson Contract: Years
Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes have set dangerous precedents with the length of their contracts. Allen inked a six-year extension with the Buffalo Bills, bringing in $43 million annually. Mahomes tacked on a 10-year extension at $45 million annually. The Mahomes deal was particularly daunting when it was made because it meant Mahomes would be under contract for 12 years (at a hefty $503 million).
The contract length is of particular concern for Jackson for two reasons. First, a shorter contract could enable Jackson to re-up for an even bigger deal. However, the short contract could expose Jackson if he slumps.
On the other hand, Jackson could opt for a deal closer in scope to Allen or Mahomes. He would have financial security for the better part of the 2020s, but it could prevent him from re-upping if he massively outplays his original value.
Eric DeCosta and Ravens’ brass are having similar conversations. A shorter deal likely means a fully-guaranteed contract. (Kirk Cousins set a precedent for this by signing with the Minnesota Vikings). However, a shorter deal would give the Ravens an out if Jackson underperforms.
Similarly, a long contract could increase cap flexibility down the line, but it would also anchor Jackson to the Baltimore Ravens for better or for worse.
Prediction: The Lamar Jackson Contract will be a Five-Year Deal
Lamar Jackson Contract: The Money
The money will make the most headlines, but any number Jackson receives will be closer to a bank vault than any random person’s salary. Even if Jackson does not reset the quarterback market, he will almost certainly crack $40 million in annual value.
As an aside, the nature of inflation means contract values increase over time. If Jackson earns more annually than a different quarterback, that does not necessarily mean he is perceived as better than that quarterback. Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, and Justin Herbert will likely make Jackson’s final dollar total look obsolete in a few seasons.
The leading number in Jackson’s annual value is almost certainly going to be a "4." One could make the argument he"s worth $50 million, but that would add more than 10% to Mahomes’ contract. If Jackson gets a raise over Mahomes’ deal, it would likely only be to $46 million or $47 million.
Despite Jackson posting his worst full season as a starter in 2021, he likely made himself several extra millions of dollars. With Jackson at the helm, the Baltimore Ravens started 8-3 and held the top record in the AFC. After a last-second loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jackson was injured the next week. Without Jackson, the Balimore Ravens slipped from 8-4 and playoff locks to 8-9 and owners of the 14th pick in the draft.
Jackson’s struggles (which were exaggerated by an uncharacteristic four-interception game) do not compare to the positives he brought to the team. When Jackson plays, the Ravens are one of the best teams in the NFL. When he does not play, the Ravens have a poor record. 2021 firmly gave Jackson the ammunition he needed to ask for $40 million per season.
Prediction: The Lamar Jackson Contract will be $42 Million AAV
Lamar Jackson Contract: Deadline
There are two factors at play here. First, Jackson acts as his agent (along with his mother). Logistically, this limits the amount of time Jackson can spend organizing contract details because he spends time practicing.
Second, Jackson, at least from what he shows the public, is overwhelming team-centric. The persona he has painted could result in Jackson waiting for a mega-deal until he wins a Super Bowl with the Ravens. Jackson could have different conversations with Ravens’ brass, but the priority list appears to have a Super Bowl ranked higher than a massive contract.
As with the final details of the contract, this is a two-way street for both Jackson and the Ravens. By betting on himself, Jackson could make extra money or lose ground based on his play. If the Ravens believe Jackson will be the next Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the franchise, they might be inclined to get a deal done before he wins it (similar to Joe Flacco in 2012-2013).
Lamar Jackson Contract: The Flacco Elephant
The Baltimore Ravens dealt with an identical situation 10 years ago with the aforementioned Flacco. Flacco entered the last year of his rookie deal without a new contract. Flacco and the Ravens let it play out, and Flacco earned a six-year, $120.6 million deal after winning the Super Bowl.
Jackson is better than Flacco ever was, but the Ravens might be skittish for Flacco 2.0 with Jackson. From 2013 to 2018, the Ravens made the playoffs as many times with Jackson as they did with Flacco (once). After paying Flacco, the roster seemed to hit a ceiling because the team was paying so much to one player. The potential Jackson contract could be even more crippling.
On the other hand, the Ravens draft shrewdly, and they have already tied up many of their key pieces including All-Pros Ronnie Stanley and Mark Andrews. For as little playoff success as the Baltimore Ravens have had in the Jackson era, making the playoffs is half the battle. With Jackson, the Ravens have one of the highest floors in the league. All it takes is one hot streak for the Ravens to reverse their recent lack of playoff success.
Look no further than Flacco. Through four postseasons, Flacco had a lower passer rating than Jackson. The script flipped in Year 5, and Flacco was sensational in the playoffs. The 2012 Baltimore Ravens are one of the mediocre ensembles in franchise history, but they got hot in January unlike some juggernaut teams including 2006, 2011, and 2019.
It may just take one more bite at the apple for Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images