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Jalen Hurts’ contract a reminder of the realities for Lamar Jackson

Baltimore Ravens quarterback should finally accept that he won’t receive the fully guaranteed deal it appears he believes he deserves

The Philadelphia Eagles rewarded quarterback Jalen Hurts with a massive contract extension on Monday, and rightfully so.

By the most important metrics, Hurts, in only his second full season as a starter, emerged as the NFL’s second-best signal-caller. He finished second in voting for both the Associated Press 2022 NFL MVP award and the AP All-Pro team at his position, and he nearly led the runner-up Eagles to a Super Bowl championship.

Hurts improved so demonstrably as a pocket passer while remaining a dual-threat standout that even his most fervent onetime critics became as invisible as the Eagles’ defense in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.

Now, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson should finally accept that he won’t receive the fully guaranteed contract it appears he believes he deserves and refocus on the field in an effort to silence his doubters similarly.

How are Hurts and Jackson linked? Permit us to explain.

On Twitter in late March, Jackson announced he wanted out because the Ravens have “not been interested in meeting my value,” prompting him to request a trade March 2. Reportedly, the Ravens presented Jackson with a lucrative multi-year offer some time ago that many NFL observers believe is befitting a star of Jackson’s status.

The package, however, is not fully guaranteed like the $230 million contract the Cleveland Browns gave Deshaun Watson to persuade him to waive his no-trade clause as part of a deal to acquire him from the Houston Texans. Jackson has also revealed his dissatisfaction with the money guaranteed fully in the Ravens’ offer.

The problem for Jackson, however, is that he never has had the leverage in negotiations he would have required to prompt any team to offer him what Watson was guaranteed or more, and Hurts’ new deal provides another reminder of the realities of the market even for franchise quarterbacks – the most important players in a quarterback-centric league.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (left) celebrates against Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Juan Thornhill (right) during Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

On paper, Hurts became the NFL’s highest-paid player with a $255 million extension. But as a practical matter, Hurts ranks second to Watson with $179.304 million in total guarantees, including $110 million guaranteed at signing.

Reportedly, the Ravens put this on the table for Jackson: $133 million guaranteed at signing, injury guarantees that increased the total to $175 million and an additional $25 million in guarantees if Jackson remained on Baltimore’s roster on the fifth day of the league year in 2026. Essentially, that’s $200 million guaranteed for a player who still has something to prove.

Make no mistake, Jackson is a star. He has led the Ravens to multiple postseason appearances, he’s among the NFL’s most gifted athletes, he was once voted as the league’s top player and he’s arguably the greatest dual-threat quarterback of all-time.

There’s also this: Jackson hasn’t delivered in the playoffs and he has finished the last two seasons injured. During that span, he has missed 11 games, including Baltimore’s AFC wild-card playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in January.

Although Jackson has improved as a pocket passer, it’s fair to say he’s still a work in progress in the dropback game. In determining what to offer Jackson, the Ravens must factor in everything. That’s the way it works.

Throughout the regular season and in the playoffs last season, Hurts shined both passing and running. He was so spectacular in the Eagles’ 38-35 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl that he almost engineered a victory. There’s no shame in finishing second to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who’s the best in the business.

Even if Jackson had ever performed as well in the playoffs as Hurts did last season and had some measure of leverage in contract talks, it’s still highly unlikely that the Ravens would have offered Jackson a contract for $230 million or more guaranteed. NFL franchise owners are as in favor of contracts that are guaranteed fully as they would be for ending tax write-offs.

Other NFL team owners and top decision-makers were downright apoplectic on learning of Watson’s unprecedented deal. After finally accepting they made a grave error in selecting quarterback Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, the Browns were highly motivated to acquire a top-tier quarterback. Their desperation showed in their willingness to meet Watson’s contract demands.

From the moment Watson signed his extension, the contract was an outlier. Club owners are determined to keep it that way.

To many NFL observers, it’s odious that there was a bidding war for Watson and he received a record-setting contract despite his off-field conduct, while Jackson, who has accomplished more on the field than Watson, hasn’t received an offer to his liking. While the optics aren’t good for the NFL, the situations aren’t apples to apples.

After failing to complete a long-term extension with Jackson, the Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on the two-time Pro Bowler to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. Unlike the exclusive tag, the non-exclusive one permits Jackson to negotiate with other NFL clubs, though the Ravens could match any offer Jackson receives.

No bidders for Jackson have been identified publicly. There just isn’t the leaguewide interest in Jackson — at the contract terms he is seeking — that he needs to spur the change he desires.

Coming off a fabulous season with his rookie contract finished, Hurts was in the catbird seat in his talks with the Eagles. He was also wise enough to realize that his current employer as well as potential future ones would only go so far.

It’s time for Jackson to reach the same conclusion.

Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at Andscape. He enjoys watching sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.