Now is the time for Lamar Jackson to think about his next contract
Baltimore’s dual-threat quarterback better get paid before an injury sidelines his future earnings
Baltimore Ravens Lamar Jackson recently missed a day of practice with a sore hip, the result of a celebratory somersault into the end zone in a Week 2 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now, it didn’t stop him from leading the Ravens to a last-second win over the Detroit Lions on Sept. 26, but that play should’ve convinced Jackson that getting a new contract should be his top priority.
Understand, the Ravens have picked up his fifth-year option, so he’ll be earning $23 million next year, a huge raise over the $2.4 million he’s making now.
Getting an agent would help, but his mother, Felicia Jones, is handling negotiations and Jackson is reportedly more focused on the season than his contract.
While admirable, the 2019 MVP currently ranks 46th in average salary among quarterbacks. He earns less than dudes such as Nick Foles, Jacoby Brissett and Joe Flacco.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, a member of Jackson’s draft class, has already signed a long-term deal worth $258 million over the next six years and $150 million guaranteed.
Jackson’s forthcoming deal should eclipse Allen’s contract since he has an MVP trophy and he’s the league’s most talented dual-threat quarterback. Full stop.
It made sense for Jones to lead discussions for Jackson’s rookie deal, which resulted in a four-year, $9.5 million contract, because those deals are essentially slotted.
The second contract for most NFL players is the one that sets them up for life. The average NFL career is 3.3 years, so most players don’t sniff a third long-term deal where they have the leverage.
Teams tend to discard players as soon as they find a younger, cheaper option. Look no further than quarterback Cam Newton.
He won MVP in 2015 and led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl. He’s been released each of the last two years by different teams and is unemployed at 32.
That day will come for Jackson sooner than he expects, just like it did for Newton, which is why he needs the nine-digit deal he’s due secured as soon as possible.
When it happens, four of the league’s five highest-paid quarterbacks will be African American.
Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes ($45 million per season), Dallas’ Dak Prescott ($40 million), Houston’s Deshaun Watson ($39 million) and Seattle’s Russell Wilson ($35 million) did it the traditional way.
So far, Jackson and his mother are not inclined to do so, a move they should quickly rethink.
Jackson is Baltimore’s running game. It’s kind of always been like that, but it has been magnified already this season because Baltimore lost its top two running backs to knee injuries. A knee injury could cost Jackson untold millions. The odds of him getting the same cash if he tears up a knee are slim.
Don’t use Prescott, who missed 11 games last season with a dislocated ankle, as an example of how Jackson will still get paid if he’s hurt.
Prescott bet on himself by playing under the franchise tag in 2020, so he was going to be an unrestricted free agent. Plus, Prescott was leading the NFL in passing yards when he was injured and his skill set fits most NFL offenses; Jackson’s doesn’t. He’s unique to Baltimore.
It would take another team several seasons to build around Jackson, which is forever in today’s win-now NFL.
An agent is about more than a percentage. And if Jackson doesn’t want to pay the traditional 3% fee, then he should find an agent who will do it for 2% or less. Real estate agents often take less than their traditional 3% fee under certain circumstances. Agents have all the hard conversations a player doesn’t want to have and listens to all the criticism that might affect the player’s relationship with the team if he heard it straight from the general manager’s mouth.
Jackson’s next contract is as much about structure as it is money to ensure he always has the most leverage with roster bonuses tied to the start of the new league year. If the Ravens ever want to go in another direction, he’ll have the entire offseason to find a new gig.
It’s about getting the most money possible in the first three seasons and creating escape portals in case salaries keep growing at an astronomical rate so he can quickly return to the negotiating table.
Jackson is 32-8 as a starter with 71 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions. He’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons, scoring 14 touchdowns on the ground.
He showed his value once again in Week 3, delivering a miracle win over Detroit. On fourth-and-19 with 26 seconds remaining, Jackson dropped back from Baltimore’s 16-yard line against a three-man rush and surveyed the secondary for an eternity. Finally, he stepped up in the pocket and delivered a perfect pass — just over the outstretched arms of a leaping defender — to Sammy Watkins for a 36-yard gain. Two plays later, Justin Tucker delivered a game-winning 66-yard field goal.
The NFL is a billion-dollar industry that represents show business at its finest. Jackson has put on a great show in his first four seasons. Now, he must devote the same energy to the business of the NFL.