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Compromise Key for Lamar Jackson, Ravens to Get Deal Done

Lamar Jackson

To the people who are starting to ask if Lamar Jackson made a mistake by not getting his contract extension done during the offseason, the answer is a resounding no.

First of all, Jackson is a difference-making quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. You can criticize his inconsistency as a passer, but there is no doubt the Ravens are a massively better team when he is playing. I don't think there's any question Baltimore realizes that.

It’s no secret Jackson’s mobility and style of play have caused him to miss time each of the past two seasons with lower-body injuries. In 2021, an ankle sprain suffered in Week 14 forced him to miss the rest of the season, and in Week 13 this year, he suffered a PCL sprain and has missed the last three games.

For years, teams were afraid to pay mobile quarterbacks because taking that many hits created fear they'd get injured. It’s certainly been a team negotiating point for a very long time. I'm sure I'd be saying the same things the Ravens are right now if I was in general manager Eric DeCosta’s shoes.

On the other hand, players should not be doing deals out of fear they're going to lose value. Medical advancements in the past 10 years or so have made it so that players who are injured during their contract year are rarely missing out on getting paid their full value. Still, the chance is not zero that Jackson could suffer a career-altering injury that would affect his market value. At some point, he has to say to himself, “This is good enough,” and take a deal that is likely to be record-setting, even if he doesn’t get it 100 percent fully guaranteed.

The reality is, players like him are just so hard to find. Teams that have successfully modeled their entire offense around quarterbacks like Jackson are not going to risk losing their most valuable asset. For this reason, I believe Jackson's situation is unaffected by his injuries the past two seasons.

There’s a thought out there that Jackson hasn’t gotten a deal done yet because he’s representing himself. I don’t think that’s true. Although he does not have an agent, he has been smart enough to surround himself with some very experienced advisers in this field. So, in fact, Jackson has handled this extremely well.

There were people who were calling for Jackson to get a deal done after his third year in the league. Lo and behold, the QB market jumped prior to the 2021 offseason thanks to extensions signed by Josh Allen and Dak Prescott. Again, after Year 4, he didn't do a deal and the market exploded once more with Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers all getting extensions. That same offseason, Deshaun Watson got traded and was signed to a fully guaranteed megadeal. 

Now we’re entering an offseason where three of the top five or six quarterbacks in the league (Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Jackson) are each likely to receive record-setting extensions. It's going to be fascinating to watch how it all unfolds. 

The hang-up in Jackson’s current negotiations is reportedly the guaranteed money. Most of the recent extensions were structured as old-fashioned contracts with a large portion of the deal guaranteed, but not all of it. Watson’s fully guaranteed $230 million deal has opened up a can of worms for teams with quarterbacks at the very top of the market, like the Ravens. Jackson, a former league MVP, is likely eyeing the same guaranteed structure Watson received.

I think we're going to see Jackson and the Ravens find a way to work this out. Both sides seem fairly relaxed about the fact that there’s no deal in place yet. I know the Ravens want him to be in Baltimore, and it sounds like the feeling is mutual with Jackson. I think he’s going to be a Raven for the foreseeable future, and they'll find a way to compromise on the guaranteed money if, in fact, that's the problem. My guess is the deal will be for three or four years with most of the money – but not all – guaranteed at signing.

Jackson has handled this better than he's getting credit for. In the end, people are going to compare the contract that he gets this offseason to what it would have been if he did a deal a year or two ago, and they're going to be impressed by how this guy handled the situation in a really smart and calculated way.

WATCH: Ravens Have No Choice but to Pay Lamar