It is unclear whether the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson would have negotiated the contract if the Browns had not offered quarterback Deshaun Watson a fully guaranteed, $230 million, five-year deal. It is quite clear that the Watson contract played a big part in preventing the Ravens and Jackson from doing anything.
It is generally believed that Jackson wanted a fully guaranteed contract, mainly since Watson got one. This is not an unfair position for Jackson. He won the league MVP award. Watson did not. Jackson has been a role model for the Ravens off the field. Watson, to put it mildly, is not. If Watson is entitled to five years with a full guarantee, so does Jackson.
On the contrary, it is not unreasonable for the Ravanas to refuse to do so. Later contracts (such as the Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson deals) suggest that the Watson contract was an aberration. Indeed, the planets are completely drawn to Watson. Despite off-field issues, he: (1) forced a trade from Houston; (2) managed to get four teams to the table in an effort to land his services; (3) Baker dropped Brown from consideration after burning the bridge with Mayfield; and (4) a desperate Brown franchise made Watson an offer he could not refuse as a completely guaranteed deal.
Jackson, until he is ready to be traded after the 2023 season, will not be able to generate the same kind of crowd for his services. Even if he did, one of the teams chasing him would have to be desperate enough to be offered the kind of contract that would trigger ridicule and rejection from the rest of the league.
And if the Ravens decide to implement a franchise tag for 2023 and 2024, Jackson remains three years away from Kirk Cousins-style unrestricted free agency. Jackson, given his playing style, may not be the same player after three more years of regularly running the ball and taking hits.
This is another reason why Jackson needs an agent who will explain the situation to him. Who would have told him why the Watson deal was an unattainable goal, the first being absent and the first wanting to refuse to play for the Ravens. Who will advise him on the risks and rewards, costs and benefits, pros and cons of taking or not taking, which is the best proposition Ravens put on the table.
Then there is the possibility that Jackson was being quietly mentored by the NFL Players Association, and still is. Union president Jesse Tretter wrote an essay after the Watson deal urging agents to insist on fully guaranteed contracts. What if the NFLPA, in any advice given to Jackson, was trying to advance that agenda instead of considering Jackson’s genuine best interests?
Since Jackson hasn’t said much more than anyone about the process, it’s reasonable to wonder where and from whom he got his advice. If someone was advising him to stick to a fully guaranteed contract without explaining that he probably would have been better off getting the most guarantees and maximizing his compensation relative to the Murray and Wilson contracts, then there is no reason to deny it. It would help to explain. Accept Baltimore’s final offer—if they were willing to surpass Murray’s and Wilson’s numbers.
No one knows what the Ravanas gave. But it’s the Ravens, not one of the various useless teams that always find a way to make things worse. Given the deals they’ve made in recent years with major players, it’s fair to assume that the Ravens have put together a package that, while not completely guaranteed, will be worth $124 million a year over the next three years. Strong choices have been made—an annualized base of $23 million in 2022, roughly $46 million under the special franchise tag in 2023, and then $55.2 million under the tag in 2024.
Unless Jackson is planning a power play, such as seeking a trade after the 2022 season, the options are Door No. 1 ($124 million over three years) or Door No. 2 (Baltimore’s best offer, as part of a deal). As it came down. Wasn’t completely guaranteed). He chose door number 1. He has every right to do so. Here’s hoping he does it with full understanding and appreciates the impact of passing on Door No. Saying, “It was not fully guaranteed” is not a good enough reason to do so.