No deal in sight for Lamar

No deal in sight for Lamar
March 28
12:32 2023

At the start of last season, Lamar Jackson was regarded as the prize free agent of this offseason. Fast forward six months and Jackson still doesn’t have a new long-term deal from the Ravens and there are serious questions as to whether both sides can reach an agreement on a deal.

The Ravens tagged Jackson with the non-exclusive franchise tag, which means he will earn $32.4 million this season, but there is still time for both sides to work out a long-term deal. The problem is Jackson, who does not have an agent, wants more guaranteed money than the Ravens are willing to give.

From reports that I have read, Jackson is looking for a contract that tops that of Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Deshaun Watson in terms of guaranteed money. Watson signed a five-year $230 million contract last offseason that is fully guaranteed.  

Jackson feels he deserves more because he has won an MVP award and also led the league in passing touchdowns.  The major reason for the hesitation from Baltimore is the fact that Jackson has suffered season ending injuries the last two seasons. With the way he scrambles around in and out of the pocket, injuries will always be a concern and Baltimore wants to protect themselves long term.

Because the Ravens signed Jackson to the non-exclusive tag, he is able to negotiate with any other team in the league. If Jackson does come to terms with another team on a contract, the Ravens have the option of either matching the deal to retain Jackson or allowing him to leave and Baltimore will receive two first round draft picks as compensation.  

A major issue that seems to be complicating matters is the fact that Jackson doesn’t have an agent and that he does the negotiating himself, with his team of inner circle family and trusted advisors. Due to his lack of representation, it seems that may have hurt him when it comes to obtaining offers from other teams.

“To be clear, potential suitors for Lamar Jackson couldn’t speak with the quarterback until the start of the new league year because he lacks representation from an agent,” said Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report. “Technically, he was a player still under contract with the Baltimore Ravens until 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday … We’ll never know whether Jackson would have received an offer during the tampering period. More concisely, it doesn’t matter … What matters is what occurred at the game’s most important position as Jackson waited for his chance to be courted … Essentially, the Ravens weaponized the no-exclusive franchise tag.”

That all makes sense now that I have had some time to sit back and think why the Ravens would choose the non-exclusive tag for Jackson. The Ravens basically dared Jackson to find another team who is willing to not only pay him more than what they offered him before the season, but to also offer more guaranteed money.

I think their gamble will pay off in the long run because guaranteed contracts are not something the NFL owners would like to become the norm. The Browns seem to have seriously overpaid for Watson and now every other star quarterback is going to look to eclipse that deal because that’s what the market calls for. The problem is, the owners don’t want Watson’s deal to be the new standard.

“The organization knew: A) only a handful of teams could even afford Jackson based on his request of a fully guaranteed deal somewhere in the ran of Deshaun Watson’s contract; B) that contingent grew even smaller since interested parties needed to have first-round draft picks to surrender in this year and next year if the Ravens didn’t match an offer; and C) most organizations wouldn’t want to sit back and wait the five-day period to see if Baltimore planned to match an offer sheet … Because of these factors, the quarterback carousel ensued without Jackson … The pool of potential suitors for Jackson’s services is shallow, if not nonexistent beyond the Ravens. By not doing anything, the 2016 league MVP lost because any leverage he had quickly disappeared,” said Sobleski.

If what Sobleski wrote is true, Jackson could be left with little to no options beyond Baltimore. It was reported by Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen that Jackson turned down an offer from the Ravens that included $133 million guaranteed at signing, $175 million guaranteed for injury and $200 million in total guarantees if Jackson is on the roster on the fifth day of the 2026 league year.

That deal would rank Jackson second behind Watson in total guarantees and would surpass deals signed by Kyler Murray ($103.3 million guaranteed at signing) and Russell Wilson ($124 million guaranteed at signing). The question now is, if the Ravens did offer Jackson this deal back in September of last year, are they still willing to offer that same deal now?

Most of the bargaining power that Jackson had has seemingly gone out the window. With such a steep price tag just to acquire Jackson and his demand for a guaranteed contract, I doubt anyone is going to pull the trigger and offer Jackson a contract. Plus, the Ravens have the opportunity to match any offer sheet tendered to Jackson.

It seems the Ravens will let the other teams in the league do the negotiating for them. I truly feel they would like to keep Jackson as their starting quarterback, they just don’t want to make the same mistake as Cleveland and bid against themselves in the process.

“Our ultimate goal is to build a championship team with Lamar Jackson leading the way for many years to come,” said Baltimore general manager Eric DeCosta.

The Ravens have literally tailored their offensive system toward Jackson over the past few years, so they are just as eager to get a deal done as Jackson is. In the end, I think both sides will eventually come to an agreement as to what could be mutually beneficial to both sides. I don’t think Jackson will eclipse what Watson received, but I think he will get close.  

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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