Baltimore Ravens could’ve avoided the Lamar Jackson contract drama 2 years ago

The Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson couldn’t come to a contract agreement, so the QB received the non-exclusive franchise tag

In August 2021, the Buffalo Bills guaranteed Josh Allen $150 million. He played at a draft-bust level as a rookie, slightly improved in his second season, and after the Bills signed Stefon Diggs, Allen took off in season three. Lamar Jackson was selected in that same draft and in his first full season as a starter, he won the 2019 NFL MVP. Going into his sixth season with the Baltimore Ravens, he is now under the non-exclusive franchise tag.

It’s a position that Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert will likely not find themselves in. Like Patrick Mahomes, Allen, and Kyler Murray last offseason, those young signal-callers in Cincy and L.A. will probably sign a new lucrative contract offer before their fourth seasons begin. Yet here is Jackson, who does not have an agent, getting the Kirk Cousins treatment.

After Allen signed with the Bills, Ravens head coach Jim Harbaugh said there was no hurry to ink Jackson to a long-term extension and two years later it still doesn’t feel like they’ve pushed the gas pedal anywhere near the floor.


The Ravens are playing hardball

The Ravens are playing hardball in dealing with a position as specialized as NFL starting quarterback, and now so is the rest of the league. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, five teams — four of which desperately need a starting quarterback — have declared that they are not interested in Jackson. Those teams could have a former unanimous NFL MVP if they offer him what he deems an acceptable contract that the Ravens decide not to match, and it would only cost Jackson’s new salary and two first-round draft picks. It would be logical to believe that the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Las Vegas Raiders, and especially the Washington Commanders should be attempting to move mountains to get Jackson on their roster.


Of all teams in the NFL, how could those four be dead set against signing Jackson? The Commanders showed in 2022 that their roster is flush with talent. Jackson at quarterback instead of Taylor Heinicke or Carson Wentz with that receiving corps would give the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys serious problems during the 2023 regular season.


The Panthers proved to have some promising talent on their roster as they stayed in the NFC South hunt all season — though the division was abysmal — and the Falcons’ offense could be electric with Jackson behind center. Yes, the Raiders were 4-7 by Dec. 1, 2022, but if that offense with Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams had Jackson behind center, Herbert’s Los Angeles Chargers likely don’t make the postseason.

While for those teams to publicly out on Jackson so quickly is strange, there is some good reason for them not to offer him a contract. It is not as if he is able to sign with whichever team offers the best deal. The Ravens have the option to match any offer.


Sports agent Leigh Steinberg provides insight

Longtime sports agent Leigh Steinberg — who currently represents Patrick Mahomes — told Deadspin that because of the control that the Ravens have over Jackson’s contract, an unsuccessful offer going public could cause unnecessary headaches in the organization such as another quarterback option wanting more money.


But again, why go public instead of just quietly not pursuing Jackson? Is the league still smarting over the Cleveland Browns giving Deshaun Watson the first-ever fully guaranteed contract? Last year the owners were reportedly not happy with the Browns inking him to that deal. Here are Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti’s comments about that deal to the press during last year’s March owners’ meeting.

“It’s like, ‘Damn, I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract,’” Bisciotti said. “I don’t know that [Watson] should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me, that’s something that’s groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations hard with others. But it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to play that game, you know? We shall see.”


Of course, Bisciotti needed to make it clear he believed that a “groundbreaking” contract should not have been offered, especially to that player, and furthermore, they don’t see Watson’s deal as any type of new baseline for franchise quarterbacks. According to Steinberg, Bisciotti most likely wants that contract to be viewed as an “aberration.”


“You have to argue that it’s an aberration because, something,” Steinberg told Deadspin. “Otherwise it exists as a signing and I would use it as a comparable. I would argue this player’s been MVP. Has Deshaun Watson? No.”

This is the tangled web that the Ravens have weaved for themselves. They said in the statement that they released on Tuesday that their “ultimate goal is to build a championship team with Lamar Jackson leading the way for many years to come.”


Is Baltimore waiting for Burrow, Herbert to reset the market?

Currently, the Ravens might be waiting for Burrow and Herbert to sign their new contracts, so that even if they get paid over $50 million per year with television rights kicking in for the 2023 season and the salary cap increasing, they can argue that Watson’s contract is still indeed an aberration.


But what if Jackson isn’t even asking for a fully guaranteed deal? Stephen A. Smith said on First Take in February that he talked to Jackson’s camp and that they told him they have never requested a fully guaranteed contract. Even with the Ravens announcing that they have franchised tagged Jackson, no new contract numbers have been reported. The only deal that has been reported was by ESPN last year. That deal was for five years, $250 million, but only $133 million guaranteed.

It was in there Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter reported that their sources said Jackson wasn’t so much upset that the guarantee was less than what Murray and Russell Wilson signed for in 2022. The issue was the fully guaranteed money, and the player’s union was telling Jackson that he was justified in wanting such a deal.


All of this could have been avoided if the Ravens did what the Bills did in 2021 and what the Chargers and Bengals are likely to do this summer. They should have inked their quarterback — who, unlike those teams’ QBs, has won an MVP — to deal ahead of his fourth season. Long before the Haslams shook the quarterback market like a snowglobe with their offer to Watson.

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Derek Carr chose the path most traveled signing with New Orleans

The Derek Carr free-agency sweepstakes is over.

After months of speculation, Derek Carr has decided on his next NFL home, and it’s not the destination we’d been led to believe it would likely land. No, Carr has not signed with the New York Jets. The former Las Vegas/Oakland Raider has signed a long-term contract with the New Orleans Saints and is now the best quarterback in the NFC South.

While this decision could prove to be the right one, it certainly doesn’t feel like it moves the needle much. All the talk over the past few weeks about Carr heading east to play with the Jets potentially was exciting due to the division. The QB matchups in the AFC East were far more intriguing than what we could see in the NFC South.


Obviously, Carr’s done what’s in his best interest while choosing a familiar path. Saints head coach Dennis Allen was coaching the Raiders when Carr was drafted in 2014. So, there’s that familiarity even if they were only together briefly. Allen only lasted four games into the ’14 campaign, his third in Oakland.

Instead of matchups like Carr vs. Josh Allen or Tua Tagovailoa, fans can look forward to Carr battling whoever the Panthers, Buccaneers, and Falcons throw on the field. This signing would mean much more if Sean Payton were still running the show in New Orleans. Sure, offensive coordinator, Pete Carmichael is still there, but somehow it just doesn’t feel the same.


The good news for Saints fans is that you now have the best QB in the division, even if by default. Every other team in the NFC South has questions at the position and could be looking to the NFL draft for answers. New Orleans still has a pretty good defense and has added a Pro Bowl QB to the mix. Anything less than a division crown and nine wins in 2023 will be disappointing. Unless another team in the division can land Aaron Rodgers or Lamar Jackson, Carr and New Orleans should be on easy street this season. 

As expected, Bryce Young measures in at under 6 feet tall at NFL Combine

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young speaks to the media during the NFL Combine.

The question of the combine, draft, decade, football writ large is if smaller quarterbacks can make it in the NFL. Bryce Young’s literal judgment day arrived Saturday and came in at 5-foot-10 ⅛ inch, 204 pounds. Shorter QBs like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and Kyler Murray have all performed at MVP levels during their careers, two of the three have rings, and Brees is a two-time offensive player of the year. Hell, even Jeff Garcia had a sizable cup of coffee in the league.

The position is as much about skill and timing as it is about preservation. Slide, go down, throw it away, take the cheese. We laud Tom Brady because he was never athletic, but always climbed the pocket or side-stepped the rush. His game was never dependent on uber athleticism, which is why he was able to be in our lives for way too long. Brees also had a lengthy career by any metric, and was able to be effective up until, and maybe a year after, he couldn’t throw anymore.

Young is mobile, but doesn’t use it as a crutch, and one of his best abilities is pocket presence. He stole this past season’s game against Texas with a swivel of the hips and a nice little scramble, but will he be able to do that against NFL defensive linemen? Nolan Smith, the pass rusher out of Georgia, ran a 4.39 40 at the combine a couple days ago, and that’s faster than a lot of wide receivers.


One of the keys to Young having a successful career, like any quarterback, is avoiding decapitation. Bigger guys like Josh Allen — whoa-my-god, why are you still reading this? What am I, the 18 millionth sports person to say this?

Bryce Young is still getting drafted in the top 3

Let’s be honest for a second. Young is getting drafted, probably in the top three if not first overall by whoever takes the Chicago Bears’ pick off their hands. This is manufactured bullshit to the highest degree. I respect it, because most of this job is bullshitting and overreacting to men playing children’s games, but that just means I’m keenly aware of bullshit when I read, hear, see, taste, touch, and smell it.


The “Is Young big enough?” debate reeks like your crunchy neighbor’s compost pile, and, again, like Bryce, I’m repeating myself: We will get to see whether he’s able to last in this league. It’s not as if he’s going to be in the XFL because I’m taller than him (and I’m not even six feet tall).

But, Sean, Young could forever change the future of an NFL franchise and a metropolis, which means jobs, revenue, a better sense of community for a city.


And… ? It’s 2023. People spent the past couple years vacating cities, and (I’m assuming because I left a remote area for a city in the past 16 months) are wondering why in the hell they would ever go back. Jeff Bezos can get you anything in two days. Sunday Ticket is moving to YouTube. You don’t need DirectTV or a sports bar anymore, and it’s probably for the best because Frank wept profusely at B-Dubs last year during multiple Jacksonville losses, and I’m sick of being publicly embarrassed.

GOD DAMMITTTTTTT!!!! *Incoherent screams* *A man clutches his chest* *A thud*

Twenty minutes later

What happened? Where am I? Am I in heaven? No? Still sitting in front of a Google doc… Fuck my life. This must be hell.