The Lamar Jackson contract saga is going to get ugly before it gets resolved one way or the other. The Baltimore Ravens are playing hardball, refusing to recognize the Deshaun Watson contract as the standard for a top-flight quarterback. And Jackson is representing himself without the help of an agent to smooth out the process. That’s why the situation has gotten this far, and it stands to get worse as details of the negotiations are already starting to leak out.
A leak about the Lamar Jackson contract negotiation has the two sides far apart
When NFL teams and agents are negotiating contracts, it’s not uncommon for strategic leaks to come out to help bolster the case of one side or the other.
In the Ravens vs. Lamar Jackson situation, Jackson is representing himself with the help of his mother. It’s an unusual situation that makes getting a deal exponentially tougher. But one thing that is going to form — agent or no agent — is the leaks.
On NFL Divisional Round weekend, NFL insider Dov Kleiman reported that ESPN analyst and former NFL player Ryan Clark was told, “The #Ravens offered QB Lamar Jackson $113 million in guarantees initially before eventually raising it to $133 million.”
Kleiman also just happened to note that “one of the last big money deals a QB signed is #Browns Deshaun Watson, with $230 million fully guaranteed.”
That last nugget has to make you think that the leak came from the Jackson camp.
By leaking that the Ravens’ initial Lamar Jackson contract offer had $117 million less in guarantees than the Watson deal and that the revised offer was still $97 million short seems designed to make the Ravens look bad.
It is also subliminally sympathetic to Jackson. Using the Watson contract as the benchmark, it not only compares the two QBs in performance and paychecks, but it also makes fans think about how the Cleveland Browns gave a massive, fully-guaranteed deal to a player who’s faced multiple sexual misconduct allegations in recent years while Jackson has been an upstanding citizen and an incredible member of the Baltimore community for the last five years.
Maybe this leak didn’t come from the side looking for a new Lamar Jackson contract. But if it didn’t, Jackson and his mom owe someone a huge thank you because it only helped his case.
The Deshaun Watson contract hurt the Ravens, Bengals, Chargers, and others
Last offseason, the Browns organization fell all over themselves to bring in disgraced QB Deshaun Watson. Not only did they send three first-round picks (2022, 2023, 2024), a 2023 third-round pick, and a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans. They also gave Watson a historic full-guaranteed (and suspension-proof) contract.
The five-year, $230,000,000 deal for $46,000,000 annually was the first fully-guaranteed deal of that size in NFL history. Now, it is officially the benchmark against which all other franchise QB contracts will be judged, whether teams like it or not.
And teams do not.
The Lamar Jackson contract is the first test case regarding the Watson deal. Teams want to say that it is a ridiculous outlier given out by a desperate and stupid franchise. Agents and players want to say it is the new standard by which all top-tier QB contracts should be based on.
Whether the Ravens cave or push it off to another team, the Watson deal — via the Lamar Jackson contract — will likely become the new standard. And that’s a problem for more than just the Ravens.
The Los Angeles Chargers with Justin Herbert and the Cincinnati Bengals with Joe Burrow are the next two teams watching this closely. These franchises could be in for a world of financial hurt in the next few years if this fully-guaranteed deal becomes the norm.
And it doesn’t stop there. After that, it’s Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars (and maybe Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears), and in four or five years, it could come back to bit the Texans after they take Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, or Will Levis in the 2023 NFL Draft.