The Cleveland Browns’ $230 million fully-guaranteed contract with quarterback Deshaun Watson was a real kick in the jejenum for the Baltimore Ravens. Not because they had any interest in Watson, of course, but because they were right at the heart of negotiations with their own quarterback, Lamar Jackson, which more than a year later remain ongoing.
You see, according to reports, Jackson is insistent upon getting a deal similar to Watson’s, believing that if Watson can get a contract that large that is fully guaranteed he should as well. Since that deal was made, owners around the league have tried to paint it as an outlier, with some wondering if they haven’t taken it too far.
“It’s like, ‘Damn, I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract’”, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said last year at the league’s annual meeting in March. “I don’t know that he should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others”.
And it has. Otherwise they wouldn’t have had to apply the franchise tag to Jackson this year. And we also know that it has been a major complication because former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome recently said as much.
“Our owner did say that that contract did create some problems”, he said on The Bernie Kosar Show recently. “What we have to figure out, is that gonna be the norm, or is that gonna be an outlier? And we don’t know”.
Jackson has implied that the most the Ravens have been willing to offer fully guaranteed in any of their contract proposals is $133 million, presumably on a five-year contract worth at least as much as Watson’s $230 million.
Other reports favorable to the team have put the number at $200 million, but that included salary that was guaranteed only for injury, which is more standard in contracts. Full guarantees are very different from injury guarantees, even if, in Jackson’s case, it would likely operate in effectively the same way.
And it’s still not fully guaranteed. Bisciotti last year did say that he wasn’t sure Watson should be the first to get that kind of deal. Yet he also said, “It doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to play that game. . .We shall see”.
More than a year later, we’re still looking, watching, waiting. Under the non-exclusive franchise tag, any team with first-round picks in 2023 and 2024 may submit an offer sheet in an attempt to sign Jackson. But they must be willing to part with those picks and also face the possibility of the Ravens matching their offer, doing work for them.
Baltimore has until the summer to work out a long-term extension, otherwise Jackson will be forced into a situation where he must decide to either play under the franchise tag, which pays a little more than $32 million, or sit out the season.