Patrick Mahomes broke the football world when he signed not only the first NFL contract worth $400 million but potentially the first deal worth $500 million as well. The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback was due for a large pay raise coming off of both a league MVP and Super Bowl title over the past two seasons. Mahomes’s deal was not only a milestone for the Chiefs in extending the quarterback but set a benchmark for future upcoming contracts in the NFL. This perhaps affected no team outside of the Chiefs more than the Baltimore Ravens. General manager Eric DeCosta has a quarterback in Lamar Jackson that is maybe the first-closest contemporary to Mahomes. The Ravens quarterback will likely be looking for a contract extension in one year’s time.
The Ravens are coming off of their best regular-season finish in franchise history in 2019 and it was only accomplished because of their total team effort. Of the eventual 13 Pro Bowlers selected from the Ravens roster, eight were playing on their rookie contracts last season. Baltimore has been known as one of the top drafting NFL franchises for the duration of its history. Perhaps the only downside to drafting as successfully as the Ravens have over their team history is the challenge of choosing who to sign and who to let walk.
The next few off-seasons for DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh come with a number of huge decisions to be made regarding their younger players and if Mahomes’ new contract is any indicator of continually inflating NFL contracts, Baltimore brass is going to have their work cut out for them when choosing who to pay top-dollar.
Projecting the Baltimore Ravens Next Five Biggest Contracts
1. Lamar Jackson (QB) – Contract Expiration: 2022 + 2023 option
Of the players most affected by the Mahomes contract, Jackson is probably in the top five. The two players have been looked at as potentially the two faces of the NFL throughout the next decade and are the recipients of the last two NFL MVP awards. While Jackson does not have the playoff resume that Mahomes has had, they have accomplished similar goals throughout the regular season.
What differentiates the two most significantly is their playing styles. Neither of the quarterbacks is prototypically traditional but Jackson is by far the most obscure. His dynamic athleticism allows him to make plays with his feet that no other quarterback in the history of the NFL could make. The downside is that his playing style is somewhat susceptible to injuries. However, he has not missed a game due to injury since before his first start at Louisville in 2015 — playing in 38 of his team’s 39 possible games in college. He has yet to miss an NFL game with an injury and has started 24 straight games (outside of being sat in the Ravens final game of the 2019 season).
Even if his “injury-prone” concerns exist, Jackson’s numbers are simply too good to ignore. In 2019, he became the first quarterback in league history to throw for over 3,000 and rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. This was also despite sitting for approximately eight full quarters during the year. Jackson’s numbers could be hard to repeat on a yearly basis but with his work ethic being one of his defining traits, his ceiling is immensely high. As long as he’s on the field, he may be the most dynamic player in NFL history and has earned every bit of a salary close to Mahomes.
Predicted Contract: Six-years/$270 million
2. Ronnie Stanley (LT) – Contract Expiration: 2021
Stanley is the biggest fish with an upcoming contract expiration on the Ravens. In 2016, he was the first player taken with a top-10 pick by Baltimore since Terrell Suggs and has played every bit as well as a team could hope from a sixth-overall pick. 2019 was Stanley’s breakout year as he was named each a Pro-Bowler and a first-team All-Pro. His grade via Pro Football Focus has also increased every year he has been in the league. He was named PFF’s Pass Blocker of the Year in 2019 and had a career-high grade of 88.5.
Every team in the NFL could use a tackle of Stanley’s caliber, but the contract demands for left tackles are the second-highest behind quarterbacks. That creates a complication between himself and the Ravens. Stanley may be the best blindside tackle in pro football, as of now, but retaining him could dig a humongous hole into Baltimore’s salary cap. If Stanley gets to the open market, there’s no doubt his AAV will be in the ballpark of $25 million per year. If he were to stay with the Ravens, his yearly salary would likely have to take a hit.
For comparison, Laremy Tunsil was handed a new contract by the Houston Texans over this past off-season. The deal is a three-year, $66 million contract set to kick in at the beginning of the 2021 season. Tunsil’s average annual salary of $22 million is $4 million above the next closest tackle and though that gap is steep, that will likely be the floor for Stanley. Tunsil was part of the same draft class as Stanley but has been noticeably less productive in almost every season they’ve played. Therefore, Stanley’s contract will likely surpass Tunsil’s in both salary and length.
Predicted Contract: Five-years/$120 million
3. Marlon Humphrey (CB) – Contract Expiration: 2022
One of the biggest reasons for the Ravens dominance in 2019 was their plethora of quality players at premium positions. After being snubbed a year prior, Humphrey like Stanley was named to his first Pro Bowl and first All-Pro team in 2019. Humphrey was the lone bright spot on the Ravens defense, prior to the acquisition of Marcus Peters, having his best game of the year against Odell Beckham Jr. in Week 4. The Cleveland Browns receiver was held to just 20 yards on seven targets — his lowest total of the season.
Humphrey has been one of the clear elite corners in football over the past two years, allowing under a 70.0 passer rating when targeted in back-t0-back years. He has also forced eight turnovers over that time span.
Even with the contract extension handed to Peters earlier this year, the Ravens are more than likely going to retain Humphrey. Baltimore already exercised his fifth-year option this past April and will likely try to lock him up as soon as they can. One of DeCosta’s first moves as general manager was extending fellow corner Tavon Young‘s contract through 2021 and it likely isn’t a coincidence that both he and Humphrey’s contracts expire at the same time.
The Ravens made their living off of their defensive backs in 2019 and Humphrey is perhaps the most important member of the secondary. Depending on when Humphrey signs his new deal, he could become the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.
Predicted Contract: Five-years/$90 million
4. Mark Andrews (TE) – Contract Expiration: 2022
While Andrews was maybe the most improved player on the Ravens roster last season, the likelihood of him being extended by the Ravens is not as likely as some of the other candidates. The tight end group was one of the biggest factors in Jackson’s jump in production but it has already started to be broken up. Hayden Hurst was traded to the Atlanta Falcons in March and now the group is much thinner.
There is no doubt the Ravens would like to extend Andrews when the time comes. He already holds the Ravens tight end single-season records for receiving yards by a rookie, longest reception, and receiving touchdowns. The final determination will depend on if he wants to stay with the Ravens on the money they offer him. With the way Andrews is trending, he is going to become the NFL’s highest-paid tight end if he decides to hit the open market. In just his second season in the NFL, Andrews finished 2019 leading all tight ends in receiving touchdowns and he was fifth in receiving yards. This was despite playing just 41 percent of snaps on the year — 38th among tight ends.
If Andrews wants to be paid like an every-down tight end, that money likely won’t come from the Ravens. Watching Hurst, essentially, ask for a trade due to his decreased workload should only further this assessment. Nick Boyle, the Ravens primary blocking tight end, played over 300 more snaps than Andrews last year. Andrews will likely see more field time with Hurst now in Atlanta but in his current role, he will likely not be playing 70 percent of offensive snaps like Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz.
Predicted Contract: Five-years/$55 million
5. Orlando Brown Jr. (RT) – Contract Expiration: 2022
The summer of 2022 is going to be an incredibly stressful time for DeCosta. Brown is the third Pro-Bowler from 2019 that will need a new contract that 0ff-season. Since starting his first game Week 7 of the 2018 season, he has been a mainstay on the Ravens offensive line. Brown has played 1,975 consecutive offensive snaps for the Ravens over the past two years.
Baltimore has a history of getting tackles paid in free agency. Both Rick Wagner and Michael Oher are two recent examples of quality tackles drafted by the Ravens landing big contracts in free agency. Brown differs because he has already been named to a Pro Bowl in just his second season whereas the other two had not.
Jack Conklin, Ja’Wuan James, and Trent Brown all were right tackles coming off of their rookie contracts that were paid upwards of $12 million per year over four years during the past two off-seasons. None of those players had made a Pro Bowl prior to their second contract — though Conklin did make first-team All-Pro in 2016. Brown will likely be right in their wheelhouse when it comes to an average annual salary.
Stanley may be the anchor of the Ravens offensive line with Marshal Yanda retiring, but the offensive line’s success in 2019 was predicated on a full team effort. There could be a lot of change on the Ravens line over the next calendar year and whether or not to pay Brown will be one of their biggest decisions in 2022. He has the qualities of a top-five right tackle in the league and should still be improving at age 24.
Predicted Contract: Four-years/$68 million
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