The Baltimore Ravens’ biggest long-term concern right now is getting quarterback Lamar Jackson under contract for many years to come. It’s clear that they have already long determined that he is their starter for the future. Increasingly, they are speaking of his contract status in terms of it being merely a matter of time.
“Look what he’s done; he’s going to get paid. He knows that”, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters yesterday when asked if it could potentially affect Jackson in the season if he doesn’t get a new deal by then. “The question becomes, what’s he going to do? What’s his legacy going to be as a quarterback? That’s what he’s focused on. That’s what’s so great about it. The other thing is a done deal, OK?”.
Jackson was the 32nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and began starting about midway through his rookie season after starter Joe Flacco suffered a hip injury that caused him to miss time. Since entering the starting lineup, he has led the team to a 30-7 record, though he is still 1-3 in the postseason.
Jackson won the league MVP award during the 2019 season at the age of 23, the youngest player to win it in NFL history and just the second voted MVP unanimously. That year, he led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes while also rushing for more than 1,200 yards, a record for the quarterback position, as the Ravens went 14-2.
It wasn’t as smooth sailing this past year, Baltimore finishing 11-5 (11-4 in his starts). He threw for under 3,000 yards with 26 touchdown passes to nine interceptions, though his still rushed for over 1,000 yards with another seven scores, once again averaging more than six yards per rush.
His new deal is inevitable. I don’t imagine he would top Patrick Mahomes for the largest contract in NFL history, but he certainly figures to be among the highest-paid of all time. Of course, once that happens, that opens the Ravens to a new chapter in their salary cap hierarchy, as they’ll have to contend with a franchise quarterback salary for the remainder of his career.
That makes it all the more important for them to maximize their window now. So far, they haven’t been able to make it past the Divisional Round in three playoff appearances with Jackson. This is presumably the last year they’ll have without his contract limiting what they can do in terms of roster assembly. It has to be an all-in effort.
“I’m sure that that matters at some point in time, but does that really matter in the big picture?”, Harbaugh said about salary versus legacy. “It’s going to be great. The question is what’s his legacy going to be as a quarterback?”.
“And that’s the great thing about Lamar and why you have so much confidence in him”, he went on, “is that’s what he focuses on. You focus on that, all the other things tend to fall [in place]. Be great at what you do, [and] someone is probably going to want to hire you to do it”.