Although the Baltimore Ravens have applied a non-exclusive franchise tag to quarterback Lamar Jackson, there is no guarantee that, if it comes down to it, he will sign the tag and play. For that reason alone, his future remains one of the biggest ongoing stories in the NFL.
It is believed that he is seeking a fully-guaranteed contract of length, similar to that the Cleveland Browns gave to Deshaun Watson a year ago. The Browns’ decision has been roundly derided by others around the league, for multiple reasons. But acting largely as his own agent, many have believed that he is doing himself a disservice. Among those is former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“I would say, I think it hurts him not having an agent. I know it hurts him not having an agent”, he said in the most recent episode of his Footbahlin podcast. “I’m not sure why he doesn’t have one; he just doesn’t want one. In the NFL, you can pay agents between 1-3%, so he can pay an agent 1% of his $200-some million-dollar contract and he’ll be fine”.
While other players who represent themselves, including teammate Roquan Smith, have been able to successfully negotiate market-value deals with teams, what Jackson is reportedly seeking is nearly without precedent. And NFL teams would like to make sure it doesn’t become one.
Other quarterbacks of similar talent and accomplishment have not sought the same demands, like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, the former signing a 10-year, $450 million contract in 2020. Allen signed a six-year, $256 million deal in 2021, of which $100 million was fully guaranteed at signing.
“He and Josh Allen were in the same class. Josh signed a new deal two years ago and has already made $40-some million”, Roethlisberger noted. “That’s $40-some million that Lamar will never make back. I understand he’s waiting for this big deal, but he could just keep doing two-year deals”.
More specifically, Allen has already pocketed $ around $62 million since being drafted, and is earning about another $27 million this year, including the $26.42 million of his base salary he had turned into a signing bonus as part of a standard contract restructure.
In comparison, Jackson has only earned, to date, a little over $32 million under his rookie contract including his fifth-year option, and he would roughly double that by playing under the franchise tag this year. That would still put him well over $20 million behind Allen’s earnings through 2023.
“It just feels like he’s been missing out on bigger money than he could’ve been getting”, Roethlisberger said, who earned $256 million during his 18-year career. “But maybe it’s not about that. Maybe it’s about wanting to go somewhere else. Who knows what it is?”.
I don’t believe there has been any great sense that Jackson has any desire to leave Baltimore barring the pursuit of the type of contract he believes he is entitled to. But he doesn’t comment much on these sorts of issues, and players would rarely be willing to go on record in such situations to air grievances. Not, at least, until they’re already elsewhere.