Baltimore Ravens Should Extend Lamar Jackson’s Contract Early

Lamar Jackson contract

Over his first three seasons, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has become one of the most exciting players in the history of the NFL. Jackson was a first-round pick of the Ravens in 2018 and took the league by storm the minute he stepped on the field. Since his first start Week 11 of 2018, he is the winningest quarterback in the NFL. Jackson’s contract situation will soon be the top storyline for the Ravens.

Lamar Jackson Contract Extension Should Come Sooner than Later

However, Jackson is also perhaps the most polarizing player in the modern-day NFL. His ability to scramble from the pocket makes him debatably the most dangerous player in the league with the ball in his hands. A quarterback that runs as much as Jackson does is a detour from the prototypical archetype at his position in 2021. In the day of the run and gun passing offense, Jackson has found an atypical way to navigate pro football. He has over 100 more rushing attempts than any other quarterback in NFL history through their first 46 career starts and is already 12th all-time in quarterback rushing yards.

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This gives Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta a complicated but simultaneously easy decision to make when it comes to extending his star quarterback. While Jackson still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, he is eligible for a contract extension prior to his fourth NFL season. Franchise quarterbacks typically never come close to hitting free agency and Jackson should be extended early with the cap set to skyrocket in a few years.

Lamar Jackson Contract Extension Should Come Sooner than Later

Jackson’s Long Resume of success

No matter how you spin the Lamar Jackson narrative, there is no denying he has had a ton of success at a very young age. He has a 30-7 record as a starter, made the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, won two AFC North titles, and won the NFL MVP in 2019. Jackson became the youngest quarterback to start a playoff game when the Ravens played the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 and then became the youngest player to record a perfect passer rating the following year.

The standard that Jackson has set for himself is incredibly high early in his career. He has already led the NFL in quarterback rushing yards, passing touchdowns, and QBR during his MVP season and is the fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 30 wins. At just 24 years old, his quarterbacking style makes him the centerpiece of an incredibly unique Ravens offense that could still just be scratching the surface of its potential.

Jackson’s ability to succeed in almost every given scenario likely means he has even more high-quality play coming. 2020 was dubbed a ‘down year’ for Jackson but he still finished top-12 among quarterbacks in each passer rating, QBR, and passing touchdowns. There should be no doubt in the eyes of Ravens management that Jackson can and will remain an elite quarterback in the NFL for a long time.

Get in Front of the Market

Projecting the market value of an NFL quarterback is not easy at any point. Quarterbacks are paid the most of any position in the league and the market value of the position is reset on a yearly basis. Almost every off-season, a new quarterback becomes the highest-paid player in NFL history.

Jackson is also in an interesting position. Due to Jackson’s NFL Draft class producing some of the most prominent young quarterbacks in the game, including himself, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Allen, the three will continually be compared to each other. This extends to the board room table and their upcoming contract negotiations. Whichever quarterback signs a new deal first will set a benchmark for the other three. Jackson has had the most success of the three to this point in their careers and should rightfully demand the most of the group. However, if DeCosta wants to get the best value on Jackson, the best option would be paying him sooner rather than later.

There may also have been a lesson learned in the Ravens waiting until after the conclusion of the 2012 season to extend Joe Flacco. The then-Ravens quarterback led Baltimore to its second Super Bowl in franchise history but was a free agent following the season. Former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome awarded Flacco with a six-year(s)/$120 million contract. The deal made Flacco the highest-paid player in NFL history to that point.

While Flacco rightfully deserved the contract he was awarded, if Newsome had signed Flacco prior to the beginning of 2012, he may have been able to keep him for significantly less money. Jackson deserves a lot of money for his accomplishments but his price tag only goes up with the amount of success he is having.

Comparable Contracts

When it comes to signing their own players, NFL teams typically use contemporary contracts to establish a fair price. The quarterback market is always booming but the recent deals given to the Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes and the Dallas Cowboys Dak Prescott have set a precedent for now.

On the heels of his first Championship, Mahomes received the largest contract in professional sports in July of 2020. The 10-year deal is worth up to $503 million and carries an average annual value of $45 million per season. The Kansas City quarterback has already won a Super Bowl, an NFL MVP, and has an absurd 38-8 record as a starter over the past three years.

Prescott’s contract was signed under very different circumstances than Mahomes. After starting 1-3 in 2020, Prescott suffered a severe ankle injury and missed the remainder of the season. He was playing on the franchise tag at the time. The Cowboys and Prescott then agreed to a four-year(s)/$160 million contract this past off-season. Prescott has started just three playoff games in five seasons as an NFL starter.

Jackson’s accomplishments fall somewhere in between Mahomes’ and Prescott’s. He has not won a Super Bowl like Mahomes but is on a pace to far succeed Prescott’s accomplishments by the time he is Prescott’s age (if he hasn’t already).

Fair Contract for Jackson: Five Years/$215 million (AAV $43 million)

Jackson is a star quarterback and deserves to be paid like one. The quarterback market is tough to read but a five-year deal with an average annual value of $43 million seems reasonable. A deal of this size would make him the second-highest paid quarterback in the NFL. Since 2019, Jackson has thrown the fifth-most touchdowns, has the fifth-highest passer rating, and has the most rushing yards amongst quarterbacks.

If DeCosta wants to lock in his franchise quarterback, he should want to do it soon. Jackson’s rookie deal runs out in 2023 — the same year the NFL’s salary cap is supposed to significantly rise. There has never been a quarterback like Jackson and another one like him may not come around for a while. Considering all the success the 2019 MVP has had, he deserves to cash in.

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