In spite of the fact that we are in the most lucrative phase of football in the history of the game, today’s elite athletes often prioritize full guarantees over total value. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt seemingly traded potentially a larger total value of his contract in order to persuade the front office to break historical precedent and fully guarantee the first three years of his deal.
The Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson certainly did not give the team any kind of discounts. With the smoke settled, in fact, he got himself a very good deal—minus the specter of the Deshaun Watson contract, which the league may have now succeeded in turning into an aberration.
After well over a year of steady negotiating, Jackson finally put his signature to paper yesterday on a five-year, $260 million contract. We already knew from that basic structure that it was the largest contract in NFL history in terms of per-year value at $52 million, but other details were left begging.
Pro Football Talk released those details yesterday, shining a light on exactly what he was holding out for. In the end, he got the structure that was largely anticipated, with the first three years fully or effectively guaranteed. There is also a rolling guarantee into year four.
In all, he receives $135 million fully guaranteed at signing, according to Mike Florio, which is the second largest in NFL history behind the Watson deal, surpassing the $124 million that Russell Wilson got from the Denver Broncos a year ago and the $110 million Jalen Hurts received recently from the Philadelphia Eagles. His three-year cashflow of $156 million is also the largest in NFL history.
Notably, Jackson’s $20.25 million base salary for the 2025 season, along with a $750,000 roster bonus, become fully guaranteed in March of 2024. If the Ravens were to try to get out of the contract by then, they will have paid him $135 million for one season of play, so we can consider his $21 million for 2025 an effective guarantee given the incredible unlikelihood he is not on the roster a year from now.
Jackson also has another $29 million in 2026, which is guaranteed for injury, that would become fully guaranteed in March of 2025 if he is still on the roster by then. Baltimore would be paying him $156 million for two seasons of play if he did not see year three of his deal.
While it fell short of his apparent aspirations for a deal that was fully guaranteed in its entirety at signing, it is still a very robust contract that represents one of the best in NFL history in its effective guarantee structure as well as its immediate full guarantees.
There is also enough flexibility over the length of the deal to allow the Ravens to maneuver by restructuring his contract to create cap space, even if Jackson’s $72.5 million signing bonus also marks the largest anybody has ever been given. In terms of the dotted line, he didn’t do so bad for himself acting as his own agent.