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The Lamar Jackson contract saga was the drama of the 2023 NFL offseason until the Baltimore Ravens and their quarterback finally agreed on a deal. Jackson negotiated the deal (mostly) by himself, which caused a lot of consternation in NFL circles. In the end, though, Jackson won the negotiations and is a rich(er) man now because of it.

The Lamar Jackson contract

Lamar Jackson contract, Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson | Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Lamar Jackson was the last pick of the first round in the 2018 NFL Draft. And while fellow Class of 2018 QB Josh Allen got a long-term extension and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray got an extension, and even 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts got an extension, Jackson went without.

In the 2023 NFL offseason, with free agency looming, the Ravens used the non-exclusive franchise tag on their QB, allowing any team to offer him a contract and sign him for two first-round picks.

However, Jackson — who represented himself with the help of his mom and (possibly) his business partner Ken Fischer — didn’t seem to have any suitors on the market.

Still, Jackson and his in-house team persisted, and despite not getting exactly what he wanted, the QB still won in his negotiations with the Ravens.

What Jackson wanted was a $230 million, fully guaranteed deal like the Cleveland Browns gave Deshaun Watson. This contract threw a monkey wrench into quarterback salary negotiations around the league, and franchises desperately colluded tried to get back to the status quo.

The Ravens QB didn’t want the status quo, though. He wanted Watson-level guaranteed money.

The impasse finally shifted when Jalen Hurts got his new deal. Hurts and Jackson are similar quarterbacks, and Hurts’ deal was back in line with what signal-callers were getting before the Watson contract blew everything up.

Hurts signed a five-year, $255,000,000 pact with the Eagles with a $23,294,000 signing bonus and $179,399,000 guaranteed. What made the contract special is that Hurts (for the moment) became the highest-paid NFL player in history, with an annual average salary of $52 million per season.

With the Eagles QB’s deal on the books, Jackson was able to come off his fully guaranteed request and negotiate in better faith.

The Lamar Jackson contract he ended up with is a five-year, $260,000,000 pact with a $72,500,000 signing bonus and $185,000,000 guaranteed ($135M at signing).

These numbers gave Jackson, and his team wins on several fronts.

First, the guarantees — $135 million at signing, $185 million practically guaranteed, as releasing Jackson before these guarantees hit would crush the team’s salary cap — is the second-most in NFL history behind Watson.

Second, the average annual value (AAV) of the deal is $52,000,000. That puts him above Hurts as the highest-paid player in NFL history. It likely won’t last for long, as Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are due for extensions soon. But it is still another win for Jackson.

Finally, maybe the biggest win for Jackson is the signing bonus. While the team can spread that over their cap for five years, Jackson gets a $72,500,000 check (or maybe direct deposit?) this season. That’s the biggest signing bonus in NFL history, $6.5 million more than Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott got back in 2021.

Things looked bleak with the Lamar Jackson contract situation for a while this offseason. But in the end, for all the grief the QB took for doing this himself, Jackson won, and he is now nearly $200 million richer because of it.


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