Lamar Jackson And the Ravens Are Both Wrong

Denver Broncos v Baltimore Ravens
Denver Broncos v Baltimore Ravens / G Fiume/GettyImages

On Monday, Lamar Jackson revealed he asked the Baltimore Ravens to trade him. The two sides have made no progress on a long-term deal and the team has given him the non-exclusive franchise tag. The same contract impasse that has hampered this situation for years continues and now it appears the relationship is irrevocably broken. From an outsider's perspective, both parties are wrong.

The Ravens should have gotten a deal with Jackson done years ago. They selected him with the 32nd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and built their offense -- heck, their team -- around him. He rewarded that trust, as he was named MVP in his second season (2019). At that point, the Ravens should have invested in him long-term. Had they signed him to an extension -- preferably one that started in 2021 or 2022 -- they would have saved themselves a ton of money and stress.

Heading into the 2020 season quarterbacks were making far less than they are now. Other than Patrick Mahomes' massive deal -- which was an outlier -- top quarterbacks were making between $30 million and $35 million per year. As examples, Russell Wilson made $35 million in 2020, Ben Roethlisberger made $34 million, Aaron Rodgers and Jared Goff took home $33.5 million, Kirk Cousins made $33 million and Carson Wentz got $32 million. Now the top signal-callers are making between $40 million and $50 million. Baltimore should have fully committed to Jackson after his MVP season and solved its quarterback issues for the foreseeable future.

In his MVP season he completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 3,127 yards, with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. His passer rating of 113.5 and QBR of 83.0 were elite, and he rushed for 1,206 yards and seven more scores. Maybe he thought he deserved a Mahomes-level deal. If so, that's an absurd stance to take. That said, he has completely misread his market and his best possible situation would have been to sign with the Ravens long-term.

Before the 2022 season, the franchise reportedly offered Jackson a six-year deal that included $133 million fully guaranteed in the first three seasons, and could have been worth a total of $200 million. Jackson reportedly counter-offered a deal bigger than Deshaun Watson's fully-guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns. Which is a ridiculous premise to even begin with.

Since winning that MVP, Jackson hasn't come close to reaching those heights again. Injuries have been part of the issue, and this offseason he's looking for a contract coming off a campaign in which he only played 12 games. In that time he completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 2,242 yards, for 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His quarterback rating of 91.1 and QBR of 59.1 were average, and he rushed for 764 yards and three touchdowns. Those aren't elite numbers to enter contract negotiations on.

A lot has been made about Jackson not having an agent and there is something to those complaints. An agent would know how to negotiate with an NFL team to get his client the best possible deal. Crucially, an agent could also manage his client's expectations and could have told Jackson he was never getting a deal like Watson's. Not having an agent has cost Jackson a lot of money.

The Ravens should have signed Jackson years ago, and he should have lowered his contract expectations years ago. Both sides have screwed this up royally. Now the Ravens are without a quarterback and Jackson is without a team.