For months, I have been saying Lamar Jackson needed to lower his contract expectations. The Baltimore Ravens were never going to give him the massive, five-year deal he wanted. Many others agreed with me, especially coming off an injury marred seasons and after seeing the former MVP's production drop the last few seasons. So, yeah, we were all wrong.
Jackson won his game of contract chicken with the Ravens on Thursday, as the franchise handed him a five-year, $260 million deal. It will make him the highest-paid player in NFL history and tie him to the franchise through the 2027 season. It's a massive coup based on where things were a few weeks ago and considering Jackson still doesn't have an agent.
This deal isn't a slam dunk for the Ravens but they clearly felt backed into a corner and had to pony up the cash to keep Jackson. Especially after the Philadelphia Eagles handed Jalen Hurts $255 million.
In Jackson's 2019 MVP campaign, he completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 3,127 yards, with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He added 1,206 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. His quarterback rating (113.3) and QBR (83.0) were stellar. He looked like a new kind of NFL superstar. The problem? He's never gotten there again.
In 2020 he completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,757 yards, with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He had 1,005 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, and his passer rating (99.3) and QBR (67.3) both fell. He's missed 10 games combined in 2021 and 2022 thanks to injuries and his numbers continue to fall. Last season he completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 2,242 yards, with 17 touchdowns, seven interceptions, a 91.1 passer rating and a QBR of 59.1. He ran for 764 yards and three scores.
This contract is certainly a risk for Baltimore. Jackson has to get back to who he was in 2019 for it to pay off. The upside is he's still only 26 and if he can put his injury issues behind him, that return to excellence may happen. But it's a gamble.
No matter what happens on the field, Jackson got his massive payday. He won.