Deshaun Watson’s fully guaranteed deal is absolutely factoring into Lamar Jackson’s next contract

Back in June, when Lamar Jackson finally addressed the mystery surrounding his sluggish contract negotiations with the Baltimore Ravens, he suggested the most jaw-dropping deal in NFL history — the expansion between Deshan Watson and the Cleveland Browns — There was no effect on his condition.

“I am my own man,” Jackson said. “I don’t care about what those guys get.”

Jackson became a man on Friday Feather His own

No contract extension with Ravens. No guaranteed funding beyond 2022. No protection against catastrophic injury. And perhaps most obvious, there is no absolute certainty that this gamble will work out favorably for the 25-year-old former league MVP. In the history of dice rolls for an NFL player, this is arguably the riskiest move ever. This has a vast spectrum of potential consequences, from Jackson to ultimately the richest extension that pro football has ever seen, to the prospect of a serious injury or season that changes the entire trajectory of his next contract.

It’s all on the table now. And the idea that Watson’s deal had nothing to do with it is absurdly unbelievable.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson celebrates a touchdown scored by Le’Veon Bell against the Los Angeles Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Baltimore. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Can Lamar Jackson follow the same path as Cousins, Prescott and Rodgers?

In a league where leverage makes king, it would be foolish to believe that Jackson wasn’t signing Watson to a fully guaranteed $230 million contract or that circumstances eventually bagged such a big deal. Jackson’s “betting on himself” nature now makes him think about Watson’s contract. What’s the use of betting on yourself if you’re not considering the windfall gains enjoyed by the select few quarterbacks who have turned their leverage into league-shaping and life-changing contracts?

Consider them:

  • Kirk Cousins ​​played through two franchise tags in Washington and then forced himself into free agency at age 29. The payoff was a solid quarterback in the middle of establishing a staggering financial path for the remainder of his career. First with three years, with an $84 million fully guaranteed deal with the Minnesota Vikings, then with a series of expansions that would eventually see Cousins ​​retire someday with nearly $250 million in career earnings. .

  • Dak Prescott played through a franchise tag with the Dallas Cowboys after turning down a contract extension in consecutive off-seasons. With team owner Jerry Jones facing the abyss of starting in the quarterback position, Prescott turned his leverage into a four-year, $160 million deal (with $126 million guaranteed), which would see him age 31. qualify for free agency. If Prescott’s productivity remains at his current level and he plays at least into his late 30s, it is possible that he could reach $500 million in career earnings by retirement.

  • Aaron Rodgers structured his previous expansion to keep the Green Bay Packers at a crossroads after the 2021 season. Either they will require him to sign a new deal, trade him or retain parts of the team and charge him a salary-cap of $46.7 million in 2022. Result: Rodgers signed a nearly three-year deal. $151 million with over $101 million guaranteed. If he plays for the next three seasons, he will make about $350 million in career earnings. Another $112 million is filled in a couple of option years in 2025 and 2026, if he is willing to play until age 43. It doesn’t seem like it, but if it does, Rodgers’ career earnings would be upwards of $450 million.

As impressive as that trio is as the god of contract negotiations, it was Watson who became the sledgehammer this off-season. Not only did he generate a staggering amount of leverage by sitting out the 2021 season and pushing his “no trade” clause, he played down his trade availability perfectly – in the process giving the franchise time to meet the Browns “ending” ” did. their celestial demands.

Despite the great importance of off-field litigation and allegations of sexual assault and misconduct, Watson’s wildly precarious circumstances – combined with Brown’s desperation – helped him generate arguably more contract leverage than any player before him. Of. And the end result was a deal that was bound to eventually cause problems in quarterback negotiations, even though players such as Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals and Russell Wilson of the Denver Broncos used Watson’s deal as a template for their own expansion. were not inclined to do. ,

What did Jackson turn down?

In fact, it will always be in the hands of elite quarterbacks and their agents when it comes to following in the footsteps of the Watson deal. While Murray and Wilson were able to move forward in terms of guaranteed money, neither took the great risk of playing their deals to get the maximum profit. Jackson is taking a step that Murray and Wilson did not. If the end goal of that move isn’t to secure the same amount of guaranteed money as Watson, why take the extra risk?

The sensible answer is no.

The deal that was on the table when talks ended Friday was an expansion that, according to a league source, would make Jackson the second-highest-paid player in the NFL, with guaranteed money exceeding only Watson. Rejecting that kind of deal is a strong statement for Jackson, who says that when it’s all over he wants to step on everyone, not just everyone other than Watson. If that is the goal, then Friday’s inability to reach the extension is understandable.

Consider that Jackson’s lack of an agent streamlines his decision-making process in a way that’s quite different from other elite quarterbacks signing deals. If Jackson is ready to play through significant risk, he doesn’t have an agent’s voice in his ear reminding him what he stands to lose over the next six months. Then consider that Jackson is now a season from reaching the first important milestone event that dramatically changed the landscape for Cousins ​​and Prescott: forcing their team to use the franchise tag in 2023. And not just any tag, either. In all likelihood, the Ravens will use a special tag, preventing Jackson from talking to any other team and paying an average of the top five quarterback salaries in the league by 2023 (a range that is currently between $45 million and $50 million). is in between).

This would stand as the largest single-season cap taken by a team under the franchise tag. And when you add a 20-percent pay bump for the second tag in 2024, that equates to a huge leverage, the kind that ultimately gets a player what he wants.

This is the track that Jackson is playing with the Ravens. In the rearview mirror of some of the other exclusive quarterback deals acquired through leverage, it should look familiar. All Jackson has to do now is stay healthy and play up to his ceiling. If he does so, he will surely be a man of his own.

With a paycheck that stands too far.

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