I Wouldn’t Give Lamar Jackson the Contract He’s Asking For

So the deadline has arrived today, March 7. The Ravens and Lamar Jackson were unable to reach an agreement on a long term contract, and so the Ravens have placed the “nonexclusive” franchise tag on him, which is valued at $32 million a year.

Of course, nobody really believes Lamar is going to play on that contract and make $32 million a year next season, but what this nonexclusive franchise tag allows is for him to enter into contract talks with other teams. If he does reach an agreement with another team, the Ravens have the right to match that contract and sign Lamar to it in order to keep him. If the Ravens choose not to match it, the other team can sign Lamar by giving the Ravens 2 first round picks.

It’s a pretty steep price to pay, which is why there may not be many suitors lining up to throw contract offers at Lamar: they are going to have to pay him big money, which really makes it tough to build a quality roster, plus they are mortgaging their future as far as first round picks go.

You don’t want to pay your quarterback top dollar, ideally, as it makes it really difficult to build out your defense and surround your quarterback with good pieces on offense, like a line and good pass-catchers. This is why so many NFL teams nowadays are trying to win with the QB on a rookie deal model–find a good young quarterback, pay him next to nothing, and use the available money to pimp out the rest of your roster with studs all over the place. For example, Jalen Hurts being on his rookie deal is why the Eagles were able to afford to have such a crazy-talented roster.

On the other hand, there are talks out there that once the Bengals give Joe Burrow a big contract, they may not be able to afford Tee Higgins anymore, as they will soon have to pay Ja’Marr Chase, too. If they’re paying Burrow $45-50 million a year, and Ja’Marr Chase is making top dollar for a wide receiver (around $30 million a year), they probably can’t afford to give Tee Higgins a new contact, which would come in at over $20 million a year for a receiver of his caliber. If they pay Burrow $50 million, Chase $30 million and Higgins $20 million, that would mean they have $100 million committed to just three players. Next year’s salary cap is scheduled to be around $224 million, and Cincinnati would theoretically have nearly half of that committed to three guys in a sport where you have a 53-man roster. They’d have $124 million to divide up between 50 other players, which comes out to an average of $2.5 million per player–you cannot build a quality NFL roster like that. This is why there’s going to be some pressure on Joe Burrow to take less money, and agree to a team friendly contract: if he gets the bag, then his supporting cast will unavoidably suffer.

What makes the situation worse for the Ravens is that Lamar wants a fully guaranteed contract which would be something like $250 million over 5 years, or $50 million a year. So they would be paying him $50 million a year into his 30s, which is not something you want with a player like him. He’s already 26, and running quarterbacks don’t tend to last super long. There is no way that Lamar will be as good in 5 years as he is today.

In fact, he’s already showing signs of regression. People always point to the fact that he won MVP in 2019 as a reason why he deserves a massive contract, but Lamar has regressed every year since winning MVP.

Let’s start with the fact that he can’t stay healthy for a full season anymore: he’s played 12 games in each of the past two seasons. He has played one game past December in the past two seasons combined. It’s starting to become a pattern.

Cam Newton, a running quarterback who was way bigger and more durable than Lamar Jackson, basically peaked at age 26 (his 2015 MVP year), was washed by like age 29-30, and was out of the league at age 32. Lamar, because he’s smaller than Cam, would be lucky to have the same longevity as Cam.

But let’s really drill down into the numbers for Lamar, so we can visualize the regression.

Lamar Jackson, passing yards by year since 2019:

  • 2019: 3,127
  • 2020: 2,757
  • 2021: 2,882
  • 2022: 2,242

Passing touchdowns:

  • 2019: 36
  • 2020: 26
  • 2021: 16
  • 2022: 17

Yards per attempt:

  • 2019: 7.8
  • 2020: 7.3
  • 2021: 7.5
  • 2022: 6.9

Passer rating:

  • 2019: 113.3
  • 2020: 99.3
  • 2021: 87.0
  • 2022: 91.1


  • 2019: 83.0
  • 2020: 67.3
  • 2021: 50.7
  • 2022: 59.0


  • 2019: 6
  • 2020: 9
  • 2021: 13
  • 2022: 7

Completion %

  • 2019: 66.1%
  • 2020: 64.4%
  • 2021: 64.4%
  • 2022: 62.3%

I’m sorry but everything is just trending in the wrong direction here.

Why would anybody want to invest max money into a player who peaked in 2019?

Let’s look at his rushing numbers, because that’s obviously also a factor with Lamar.

Total rushing yards:

  • 2019: 1,206
  • 2020: 1,005
  • 2021: 767
  • 2022: 764

Yards per attempt:

  • 2019: 6.9
  • 2020: 6.3
  • 2021: 5.8
  • 2022: 6.8

Rush yards per game:

  • 2019: 80.4
  • 2020: 67.0
  • 2021: 63.9
  • 2022: 63.7

It’s all trending in the wrong direction here, too.

If I’m negotiating with Lamar and he’s asking me for a big deal, pointing to the fact that he won MVP in 2019, I’m saying to him, “Yeah, let’s talk about that: you have not played at an MVP level ever since 2019.”

We now have three full years of evidence of regression here with Lamar. And that probably goes hand in hand with the fact that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy and play the full year the past two seasons. The guy has been taking a beating–that’s what happens to running quarterbacks.

If he wants to prolong his career, we’d need to see him making strides as a passer–becoming more of a passer and less of a runner–but we don’t see that: he’s gotten worse as a passer since his MVP season. Again, we’re looking at three straight years of decline in virtually every major statistical category for him–including games played, too (which is the most important category when it comes to your quarterback.)

I’m sorry, but I’m just not giving Lamar a fully guaranteed 5-year contract. It’s not even about the whole “the other owners around the league really don’t want this precedent set of giving players fully guaranteed contracts” thing.

I would not care about that if I’m the Ravens. As far as I’m concerned, the Browns already opened up that Pandora’s Box. If doing the same is what it takes for me to keep my franchise quarterback, then I’m giving him a fully guaranteed deal, and the rest of you can take it up with Cleveland, since they’re the first ones who opened up this can of worms in the first place.

But the Ravens haven’t done that, and I think it’s because deep down, they just want an excuse to not give Lamar a fully guaranteed contract like he wants. They can trot out this excuse, “Look, Lamar, we’d love to give you the fully guaranteed contract that Watson got, but that was a one time thing; it was a special and unique situation because there were multiple teams bidding for DeShaun Watson. Plus, the other owners would treat us like a pariah if I ratified that precedent by giving you a fully guaranteed contract like Watson got.”

It’s definitely true that the owners do not want to see Baltimore validate the precedent of giving out fully guaranteed contracts. They want the Watson contract to be a one-off, a fluke, and if some other player after Watson (i.e. Lamar) gets one, then that means the precedent is established. So that’s why the other owners are probably, behind the scenes, begging the Ravens to not give Lamar the fully guaranteed deal. If the Ravens stand their ground here and refuse to give Lamar one, and he doesn’t end up getting one from another (and neither do Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert), then that means the league has effectively closed the Pandora’s Box the Browns opened up by giving Watson a fully guaranteed deal; they’ve put the toothpaste back in the tube. They will have ensured that the fully guaranteed deal Watson got was indeed a one-off.

However, the Ravens would gladly screw over the other owners and give Lamar the fully guaranteed deal–IF they thought Lamar was truly that valuable.

If the Ravens thought Lamar was as valuable as a guy like Mahomes, or Burrow, or Allen; or Brady and Rodgers in their prime, then they would give Lamar that fully guaranteed deal. They would say, “Lamar, whatever you want, you got it, buddy. We will pay you as much as we possibly can.”

But they haven’t done that, and I know why: because they don’t value him like that.

I’m sure they want to keep him, because having him is certainly better than being in the QB wilderness. But the Ravens know he’s not a “blank check” type of player. He is not a guy you break the bank for.

And I haven’t even mentioned the most important knock against Lamar: he’s 1-3 in the playoffs.

The year he won MVP, the Ravens went one-and-done in the playoffs. They lost to the Titans 28-13 in the divisional round after going 14-2 in the regular season and getting the bye.

On top of this, his stats in the playoffs are all noticeably worse than his regular season stats:

  • Comp%: 55.9%
  • TD/INT ratio: 3-5
  • Passer rating: 68.3
  • Yards per attempt: 6.62
  • Pass yards per game: 225
  • Sacks taken per game: 4.8

The only thing he’s been better at in the playoffs vs. the regular season is rush yards per game: 91.8.

He has only led the Ravens to 20 points once in 4 playoff games: the Ravens beat Tennessee 20-13 in the 2020 playoffs.

In 2018, Lamar’s first playoff game when he came in midway through the season for Flacco, they lost 23-17 to the Chargers.

Then 28-13 to the Titans in 2019.

In the 2020 divisional round, Baltimore lost to the Bills 17-3, although Lamar got hurt in the game and had to exit.

The playoff record for Lamar isn’t great.

I care more about that than the MVP award he won in 2019.

When you compare Lamar’s playoff numbers to other quarterbacks, it’s not pretty. On this chart, I’ve included Lamar, as well as Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes just so you can see what elite-level playoff QB play looks like. But I’ve also included Jimmy Garoppolo, because believe it or not, Jimmy G’s numbers in the playoffs are better than Lamar’s:

Lamar wants money like Mahomes got and like Joe Burrow is about to get, but he’s not even close to them in terms of playoff numbers. In fact, even Jimmy G has him beat in terms of playoff numbers.

I know it’s not exactly fair to make these comparisons because they lack context, and of course they don’t include rushing numbers. But at some point you have to be able to stand on your own resume. If you’re really that dude, then the numbers should reflect that and speak for themselves.

Plus, I’ve been told time and again–we’ve basically been beaten over the head with this agenda–that Lamar is actually an elite passer, has one of the greatest arms in the history of professional football, why don’t they just unleash him and let him air it out? etc.

Well, if that’s the case, then I’m going to judge Lamar on his passing numbers. People can’t have it both ways: they can’t be out here saying that #ACTUALLY, Lamar is a generational passer but then say “Well you can’t just evaluate Lamar on his passing numbers.”

I don’t see great passing numbers here for Lamar.

I see a guy with okay passing numbers–yet trending in the wrong direction–and great running numbers, but which are also trending in the wrong direction as well.

Lamar is not worth as much as he thinks he is. If he had an agent, he might be more inclined to accept that, but who knows.

There are a lot of different reasons why he will not get that fully guaranteed contract and become the highest-paid quarterback in the league, but none of those reasons are more obvious than the simple fact that he doesn’t deserve to be the highest-paid QB in the league on a fully-guaranteed deal.

I hope that he is able to get himself a nice contract that gives him financial security for several years to come, because I do feel for guys like him who play the game of football in a way that is not conducive to having a 15-20 year career.

The Ravens might just be playing chess here with their use of the nonexclusive franchise tag. If a team comes to Lamar and offers him a fully guaranteed contract, that could provide the Ravens the excuse they need to turn around and offer Lamar the same: they can say, “Look, we tried to avoid giving him the fully guaranteed contract, but somebody else was going to do it, so we had no choice but to match it.”

It gives the Ravens the cover they need to give Lamar that fully guaranteed contract. None of the other owners could be mad at them at that point: they resisted giving Lamar the fully guaranteed contract for as long as they could, and then some other team out there went and crossed the line, which then forced the Ravens to do the same.

But I’m not sure any other team will come to Lamar and offer him the contract he wants. Again, if another team signs him away from the Ravens, they also have to give the Ravens 2 first round picks, and that, coupled with the fact that they’d be signing Lamar to a contract that would severely limit the team’s ability to fill out the rest of the roster, just doesn’t seem like an attractive proposition.

Imagine having Lamar with a weak offensive line, limited pass-catchers and an average-at-best defense–and no first round picks for two years. That is not a recipe for success. You are going nowhere fast if you put yourself in a situation like that.

Lamar definitely deserves more money than a guy like Danny Dimes. The Giants just gave Danny Dimes a 4 year contract worth $160 million, but only $82 million guaranteed.

But I will have to see what guys like Herbert and Burrow get before I can confidently say what I think Lamar should get in his contract. Lamar deserves a lesser contract that Burrow, but about the same as Justin Herbert will get. That’s what I think. However, I could see an argument for Herbert getting a better contract for Lamar since Herbert is younger and way more likely to be better than Lamar in 5 years.

Some salary cap experts have guessed that Burrow will get something like an 8 year, $402 million contract from the Bengals with $142 million guaranteed and $240 million in total guarantees. It basically translates into about $51 million a year. I would not give Lamar that type of contract, and I don’t even think he’s asking for anything like that.

But hey, if Danny Dimes is worth $40 million a year, then Lamar is worth more than that. Then again, it’s all based on the guarantees and incentives and stuff like that.

Bottom line, I would not give Lamar that fully guaranteed contract. I totally understand where the Ravens are coming from here. I’d like to see Lamar get some financial security, though, because history shows he will not be a guy who plays into his mid-late 30s.

Update: I wanted to include this conversation between Rich Eisen and Tom Pelissero. Pelissero brings up some very good points on why teams out there are reluctant to go after Lamar.

I’ll transcribe it in case you can’t watch:

PELISSERO: “With the quarterback position in particular, you’re talking about years of preparation in many cases. In terms of what you’re building around the quarterback, the draft capital you put into the player, the development, the money you put into a player. The idea that all 32 teams are going to shed their quarterback for anyone besides maybe Patrick Mahomes is just not in line with reality.

“With Lamar Jackson–again, unbelievably dynamic player; he is fun to watch when he’s on, and he’s won an MVP–to get him, you have to be able to say as an organization, ‘We want to commit 20% of our salary cap, and 2 first round draft picks, for a player who–as good as he is–has suffered back to back lower body injuries that have ended his seasons, taken him out in December and January, and we’re going to have to completely overhaul the way we play offense, and the personnel, to suit his unique skillset.

“Is somebody going to seriously consider this? I think a bunch of teams are going to seriously consider it. But that’s a lot different than saying, ‘We’re actually going to be be able to go and not only give Lamar a contract he will take–which may well take the fully guaranteed contract, because that’s what he wants–but also one that the Ravens are not going to match, so we’re not doing the work for Baltimore, who continues to say that their priority is to get Lamar back on a long term deal.’ You’re also giving up the two first round draft picks–it’s a lot.

“Again, is there a team that’s actually going to do it? Absolutely possible. And I would anticipate that there are a bunch of teams having these exact conversations. But you’d better have a plan, you’d better have the resources, and you’d better believe that you can do something that nobody has done, with a quarterback eating up that much of the salary cap–which is, win a Super Bowl.”

EISEN: “I wholeheartedly understand and agree with you when it comes to–look, signing Lamar Jackson isn’t just like a free agent where it costs you nothing draft compensation-wise, and it’s not like signing Lamar Jackson isn’t really going to be anything of an outlier from any other contract in the NFL, save one [DeShaun Watson’s], and signing Lamar Jackson, you’re not getting the 2019 version, you’re getting the 2023 version, which did not finish the 2021 and 2022 seasons healthy. There is an incredible amount of moving parts and caveats and this and that. So anybody out there saying, ‘Hey, nobody’s jumping at him so there must be something fishy going on here.’ It’s not all things else being equal here.”

So there are just a lot of moving pieces here with the Lamar situation.

It’s not as simple as, “Does anybody out there want him or not?”

There are a lot of teams that would like to have him as their quarterback, obviously. He would be an upgrade for the majority of teams in the league.

But when you start thinking about the kind of contract that he not only wants but is demanding–putting his foot down and not budging and inch on until he gets it–and the fact that you’ll have to give up two first round draft picks just for the privilege of signing him to an absolutely ludicrous contract… signing Lamar Jackson is just not as attractive as it seems at first glance. Any team that does it will have to pay a very heavy price.

And this is the thing that I keep going back to: if Lamar was really That Dude™; if he was really as amazing as everyone in the media was saying, then there would be no price too high for him.

You think if Patrick Mahomes was in the same situation–where you could sign him if you give him a fully guaranteed contract and surrender 2 first round picks–that any team in the league would be hesitating for a second on this?

No chance. Every team in the league including the Bills and Bengals would be willing to pony up whatever it costs to get Patrick Mahomes, if he were in the same situation as Lamar is in. I think the same would be true of Joe Burrow and Josh Allen as well, but for every team except the Chiefs. If Joe Burrow or Josh Allen hit the open market, no QB in the league is safe other than Mahomes.

Mahomes is an upgrade over any quarterback out there. I would say Burrow is an upgrade over any quarterback other than Mahomes, and then Allen is an upgrade over any quarterback other than Mahomes and Allen. That’s the pecking order as I see it.

I think teams out there would give up anything to get Mahomes, Burrow and Allen.

Lamar just isn’t on that level. There is a price that makes you balk at signing him. I think, personally, that price is considerably lower than the price for Mahomes, Burrow and Allen.

“Oh but Lamar won an MVP!”

Yeah, and he’s also declined for three years straight since winning that MVP. He can’t stay healthy anymore. He’s 1-3 in the playoffs.

Joe Burrow may not have won an MVP award yet, but he’s 5-2 in the playoffs, with 3 of those 5 wins being on the road; he’s been to the Super Bowl and would’ve won it if he had a half-decent offensive line. He’s gone into Arrowhead and won in the playoffs. I would take a guy that is 5-2 in the playoffs over a guy that is 1-3 in the playoffs but won the MVP award in 2019, without a second thought.

Josh Allen also has no MVPs but he’s 4-4 in the playoffs, he’s been to the AFC Championship game, and guess what: he’s way more durable than Lamar. He stays healthy. You can count on him being available in December and January. I would rather have Josh Allen than Lamar.

People either cannot or will not see the reality of the situation when it comes to Lamar Jackson. There’s all this #OUTRAGE over the fact that teams aren’t clamoring to sign him. Well, it’s pretty simple: maybe Lamar just isn’t as good as y’all thought he was.

The worst part about all of this is that it’s all Lamar’s fault, and specifically because he has stubbornly refused to hire an agent to handle all these negotiations. Mike Florio has been hitting on this point for weeks now: Lamar has brought all of this on himself by not having an agent. He and Myles Simmons really had some great points on this today.

The initial premise of the segment is the question of, “Do you think Lamar is more likely to give in and hire an agent, or sit out the entire 2023 season?”

Both guys agreed that it’s not so outlandish to envision Lamar sitting out next season instead of just hiring an agent and getting a contract done, and for one reason: because it’s a point of pride for Lamar. He’s got too much pride to give in now and hire an agent.

Simmons brought up a great point: If Lamar wants the same deal that DeShaun Watson got, why doesn’t he just make one or two phone calls and hire David Mulugheta, Watson’s agent?

Because doing this would be, in Lamar’s mind, admitting that he went about this all wrong, that he really screwed up, and he needs to hire an agent to clean up his mess.

FLORIO: “The leak to Stephen A. Smith from Lamar’s camp, that we heard about 13 days ago, that Lamar never asked for a fully guaranteed contract, I thought that was kind of a way to distance from the idea of a fully guaranteed contract. Because, again, it becomes a point of pride: don’t want to hire an agent because you don’t want to admit you were wrong, don’t want to back off your demand for a fully guaranteed contract because you don’t want to admit you were wrong to want one all along [and thus you leak it to the media to make it seem like you never wanted one in the first place, so how could you be in the wrong–it’s everyone else who is wrong for actually believing you wanted one!]

“It felt like, maybe, [Lamar] was looking for a way to back off. Now, he’s never going to find out if none of these teams ever engage him in conversation, because they all assume he wants a 5 year, fully guaranteed contract. That would be the irony here… of him not getting any phone calls: they [other teams around the league] think he wants a fully guaranteed contract, so they’re not calling him. Maybe he wants something else now [other than a fully guaranteed contract], and there’s no way to let anyone know because he doesn’t have an agent to aggressively, proactively engage these other teams…

“This is a mess, and I feel bad for the kid because… it’s his own fault. At a certain point it’s fair for us to say, ‘Lamar, this is all your fault. The fact that you don’t have a long-term deal, the fact that you haven’t gotten your financial reward for what you’ve done in the NFL–this is your fault. You were penny-wise and pound-foolish; you’re being stubborn now, you continue to make bad decisions for your own financial future, this is your own fault.

SIMMONS: “This situation would have been avoided if Lamar Jackson had an agent because the agent never would have let Lamar step on the field in his 4th season [which was 2021] without a new contract, right? Josh Allen [who was drafted the same year as Lamar, 2018] got a new deal that offseason, and if Josh Allen gets a new deal, and he’s not won an MVP, and this player [Lamar] has won an MVP, then he shouldn’t be stepping on the field without a new contract that pays him more than Josh Allen…. This should have been done years ago.”

They’re exactly right here.

This is Lamar’s own fault. He could have had an awesome contract years ago if he’d swallowed his pride and hired an agent. Sure, he would have had to cut the agent in on the contract, but right now he’s sitting on $32 million a year instead of $45-50 million. If he had an agent, the agent would’ve gotten him closer to $50, and even if you take out 10% (I have no idea what percentage agents charge, so I’m high-balling it at 10%, although I’m sure it’s lower) then that’s still $45 million for Lamar–which is way more than $32 million.

There’s still time for Lamar to salvage this situation, but it’s going to require him to swallow his pride and hire an agent.

Get your money while you still can, Lamar.

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