The Baltimore Ravens recognize this offseason is pivotal for their future. Coming off another disappointing loss in the playoffs, the Ravens are committed to building around Lamar Jackson. For that to happen, though, they need to sign him to a long-term contract.
Jackson fell well short of building upon his NFL MVP campaign, but he came through with the first playoff win of his career. After answering one of the remaining questions surrounding his game, Baltimore is ready to open up its wallet by making Jackson one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Ravens have already made it evident they are ready to commit to Jackson. Negotiations on a contract extension began almost immediately this offseason, with both sides hopeful that an agreement could be reached. Nearly a month into talks, it seems the two sides won’t be putting pen to paper anytime soon.
According to the Boston Globe‘s Ben Volin, Jackson and the Ravens remain "far apart" in their negotiations. While Baltimore wants to get a deal done, it also recognizes the contractual leverage at play.
Because he was the 32nd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Jackson carries only a $3 million cap hit and $1.77 million base salary for the 2021 season. The Ravens also have a fifth-year option, which they will exercise in the coming weeks.
The real money will start coming in for Jackson in 2022. Under the new CBA, players drafted between picks 11-32 from the 2018 NFL Draft and beyond receive the average salary of the third through 25th-highest-paid players at their respective position.
It represents a significant pay raise for Jackson but is just a fraction of what he will receive in his next contract. Given Dak Prescott is headed towards a multiyear deal worth $40 million annually and Deshaun Watson signed a deal worth a $38 million AAV, Baltimore will need to pay their star a lot of money very soon.
Signing Jackson to a long-term deal now and spreading out the money owed over the life of his extension makes plenty of sense. However, the Ravens must also weigh the value of using their cap space in the next two seasons to build a better supporting cast around their face of the franchise.
There’s no risk of Jackson walking anytime soon. He will be under contract through 2022, once the team option is exercised. While he is eligible for free agency in 2023, the Ravens would immediately use the franchise tag to keep him from reaching the open market.