We can only hope that Lamar Jackson will fight, not cave.
We aren’t talking about on the football field for the Baltimore Ravens, but at the negotiation table. The unanimous MVP-winning QB is next in line for a mega contract. It should be one to admire, not one to scratch your head about.
Nobody gives more of his body to an organization with his style of play. Most of all, it should be a fully-guaranteed contract that’s suitable for framing.
That’s right. Jackson should get every thin dime coming to him with no if, and’s, or buts.
Jackson, 25, is entering the fifth-year option of his rookie deal and will earn $23.016 million. To this point, Jackson has been mum on other he will fight for a guaranteed contract.
“Like I told you, we have a mutual conversation,” Jackson said to the media. “I’m going to keep that in-house, for sure.”
The hope is that this deal will be done before Week 1 of the upcoming NFL season.
At all costs, Jackson shouldn’t follow the lead of the last two quarterback deals that have gotten done. In April, Derek Carr got an extension. Then a few days ago, Arizona Cardinals star QB Kyler Murray got his.
The only issue with the $230.5 million deal — with a $46.1 million annual average salary — is that it’s not fully guaranteed. Only $160 million of the pact is.
Same with Carr. His three-year, $121.5 million deal isn’t all guaranteed cheese from the Las Vegas Raiders.
The bar was set — at least we thought so — when Deshaun Watson inked that $230-million deal and accepted a trade to the Cleveland Browns.
Despite not playing a single down for the Houston Texans in 2021 amidst sexual assault allegations, Watson commanded a fully-guaranteed deal. Many thought he set the market and his deal would be the model for all quarterbacks and superstar players moving forward.
While guaranteed deals are standard in MLB and the NBA, NFL owners have been pushing phony-baloney contracts forever. Oftentimes, players are cut before their deals pay the bulk of their money.
Sure, the numbers look big on the surface, but often not guaranteed.
Take Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. Two years ago, he signed a 12-year, $503 million deal. The problem was at the signing of the biggest deal in American sports history, only $63 million was guaranteed.
Mahomes — coming off an MVP season and a Super Bowl victory — had basically surrendered his whole free agency timetable to the Chiefs. Worse, he had no escape clauses from the contract and the Chiefs had plenty, including the option to cut him the 2025 season with no dead cap penalty.
Looking back, it was the worst NFL deal a player with leverage has ever signed.
One anonymous agent told The Athletic at the time, “Love the total numbers. Hate the structure. In order for the NFL player compensation to shift to MLB and NBA, it will take the players with real leverage to change the dynamic. No one has greater leverage than (Mahomes). His agents missed a big opportunity to change the game. It’s a big miss.”
And the last two quarterback deals after the Watson pact struck out, too.
Jackson can’t go this route. His résumé and place in the game command it. He should set the standard. And you can bet that the other young star QBs in the league are looking at him with high hopes that he will re-establish the market. Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and the Chargers’ Justin Herbert should be looking for similar deals when their time comes to cash in on their golden arms.
If Jackson pulls it off, it will be major when you realize that Jackson is flying solo and not using an agent to negotiate this big deal.
It’s not foolish, it’s smart. The numbers of all NFL deals are public. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where you fit it.
Jackson can figure out his salary slot and force the Ravens to do right by him.
To this point, NFL owners have dodged a bullet. They make the Watson deal look like an outlier, desperate actions by the Browns who botched their quarterback situation. Hopefully, Jackson won’t botch this opportunity to be the leader he is.