Has anybody ever rooted harder for someone to get paid, and to get paid with guarantees, than Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson likely was for the Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts? The NFC champion just signed a five-year, $255 million extension, but it included “only” $110 million at signing—less than that given to Russell Wilson last year, and obviously less than half of Deshaun Watson’s completely guaranteed $230 million deal.
That’s obviously not good news for a quarterback who is reportedly seeking to set a new record for the most guarantees at signing in NFL history. Still, even Jackson has seemingly confirmed that the Ravens have been willing to step up to the plate, implying that the highest guarantee he was given in any offer fielded from the office was $133 million, which would be the second-most ever behind Watson.
Earlier this offseason Baltimore applied the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson, who publicly announced that he requested a trade in early March. All of this appears to be little more than a negotiating tactic as he acts as he his own agent, as he has otherwise given no indication of wanting to leave the organization. He simply wants to get a deal structured his way.
And he may be slowly realizing that it won’t be so easy. The reality is that he has been able to freely talk to teams for a month now, since the start of free agency, about signing an offer sheet with them, or even discussing a possible trade scenario in which they deal directly with the Ravens.
There hasn’t been any indication that any conversations have gone very far—indeed, at the outset, a number of teams essentially declared in public they would not pursue him. Of course, nobody wants to give out huge guarantees, and it’s in every organization’s interest to make Watson’s deal the extreme outlier that is currently is.
With Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert also up for new contracts within the next year, one wonders if there is any hope for Jackson to have another example to point to. The best chance he has is Burrow, who has been very successful the past two seasons, nearly bringing the Cincinnati Bengals a Super Bowl in 2021 and coming very close to returning to the title game last season.
In spite of the fact that Hurts was given the largest contract in the history of American football in terms of per-year average annual salary (and the third-largest total), the structure is thoroughly unremarkable. With only 43.14 percent of the deal fully guaranteed at signing, that is right in the same range as most major quarterback deals that have been signed in recent years, barring the outlier 10-year deal Patrick Mahomes signed.
Jackson has until the summer to decide what to do before he has no option of signing a long-term extension. If there is no resolution by then, the Ravens may have to offer him more than the $32 million and change he is scheduled to play for in 2023 by signing the franchise tag.
While the extension deadline for the tag prevents multi-year contracts from being completed, it doesn’t prevent a new one-year deal that can exceed the value of the tag. And as long as Jackson doesn’t sign the tag, he can hold out without consequence since he is not under contract, which puts the pressure on Baltimore.