Arguably the most significant, and perhaps also the most interesting storyline of the offseason is the near future of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. While it’s inevitable that the organization will at least place the franchise tag on him, it feels increasingly uncertain where he will be playing in 2023.
According to reports from ESPN, Jackson, who serves as his own agent, has met all of the Ravens’ contract offers with counteroffers that exceeded, both in total value and guaranteed money, the five-year, $230 million fully-guaranteed contract the Cleveland Browns gave Deshaun Watson a year ago.
And the offers he was countering reportedly never exceeded $133 million in fully guaranteed salary. While that amount would have exceeded that given to Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray last year, it’s about half of what Jackson is believed to be seeking.
Likely none of this surprises anybody, of course. If there was going to be significant budging, it quite likely would have already happened at some point last year. One suspects that Jackson will have to budge more than the Ravens will, if a happy medium exists at all. And that also appears to be the sense around the league.
“Just because the Browns were desperate doesn’t mean that the Ravens are”, a high-ranking NFL executive was quoted as saying in the ESPN article in question. “They are a stable franchise. They aren’t about to jump at something just because Cleveland did it”.
A year ago, Watson was essentially able to write his own ticket. The Houston Texans were committed to trading him and had veto power over any offer. It was reported that he initially eliminated the Browns’ offer until they returned in the last hour with an unprecedented fully-guaranteed contract.
While a few individuals around the NFL did comment on that publicly, there were many anonymous sources such as the one above who were quoted as deriding the Browns for making this deal and indicating that the other 31 teams would make a concerted effort to make sure it doesn’t become a precedent.
But few talents the likes of Jackson ever become available in such a fashion. While the Ravens may ultimately refuse to give Jackson a fully-guaranteed contract, it’s very possible that another team would, following in the Browns’ footsteps.
It’s hard to put a ceiling on the worth of a franchise quarterback, to put it in simple terms. If you don’t have one, you virtually can’t compete. If you do, you will almost always be competitive. And I’m sure most around the league concur that Jackson is a franchise quarterback, and that his one postseason victory up to this point is not indicative of his talents.