The Denver Broncos doubled down on their blockbuster trade for Russell Wilson before even seeing him play one snap in an orange uniform. On Thursday, the news broke that the Pro Bowler had inked a massive five-year extension worth $245 million, raising his average annual salary to $49 million per year. Crucially, however, the contract is not fully-guaranteed.
The money is greater but the breakdown of guaranteed money is very similar to Kyler Murray's extension with the Arizona Cardinals signed earlier this offseason. Wilson's deal marks the second big-money quarterback extension signed after the Cleveland Browns gave Deshaun Watson and all his baggage a fully-guaranteed contract worth $230 million.
That's why the talking point after the Wilson extension is not about the Broncos, but about Lamar Jackson.
Jackson is entering the final year of his deal and after the Watson contract everybody knew the negotiations between Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens were going to be contentious. It's easy to figure why, too. Jackson is as good a QB as Watson (arguably even better, considering his MVP trophy) with zero off-the-field concerns. If Watson got nearly a quarter-billion dollars no questions asked, why shouldn't Jackson?
It's strong logic, but the Ravens (along with nearly every other NFL team) are quite reticent to give fully-guaranteed deals to anybody. It simply isn't how things are done. Watson joined Kirk Cousins as the only two QBs in league history to receive fully guaranteed deals. Yet even acknowledging the relatively weak precedents set, how could the Ravens genuinely argue in good faith that Jackson doesn't deserve the same type of deal as Watson?
This Wilson contract gives them the ammunition to do just that. Wilson is a Super Bowl winner with elite counting stats and an unblemished off-the-field track record. He did not get a fully-guaranteed deal. Murray's deal does the same thing-- he's a young franchise QB, like Jackson, and received only $160 million guaranteed out of a possible $230 million. The Ravens have two separate cases to point to as reasons why they aren't obligated to give Jackson a Watson-like deal.
It isn't a watertight case, to be sure. Wilson will be 34 years-old by the time the 2022 season has concluded. Murray has yet to touch the tier of elite quarterback that would deserve such a deal. There are legitimate reasons to not give out a fully-guaranteed contract in both of those situations that don't exist in Jackson's.
But the negotiation game is all about precedent in the NFL. The Ravens now have two examples to illustrate why the Watson deal is an outlier and not the status quo for franchise quarterbacks going forward. If Jackson wants that fully-guaranteed contract, Wilson's extension with Denver is going to be a significant obstacle.