The Baltimore Ravens Have Taken a Step Toward Securing Their Long-Term Future

The Baltimore Ravens are out of the playoffs following their loss to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC divisional round. However, they should factor into the Super Bowl conversation for a long time to come. This Monday, general manager Eric DeCosta announced plans to re-sign the main reason for their success, quarterback Lamar Jackson, to a long-term extension soon.

“He has played phenomenal football”

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The 24-year-old Jackson is coming off of only his second full season of starting for the Ravens. He has already won an NFL MVP award, while becoming the first quarterback in league history to rush for over 1,000 yards in two different seasons.

This season, he proved he was capable of winning a playoff game by defeating the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round. Late in the first half of that game, he sparked memories of his MVP season by eluding Titan defenders and rushing for a memorable 48-yard touchdown. The 20-13 victory marked sweet revenge for the Ravens’ crushing loss to the Titans the previous season.

At the Ravens’ end-of-season press conference, DeCosta was effusive in his praise for his team’s quarterback.

“He has played phenomenal football over the last couple of years,” said DeCosta, as quoted by ESPN. “My intention is to keep him in Baltimore for many, many years.”

The timing is right for an extension

In 2021, Jackson will enter the final year of his rookie contract. He will earn a base salary around $1.77 million, not accounting for signing bonus and incentives. His contract also includes a fifth-year option.

At a similar point in their careers, quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson cashed in heavily with big-money contracts. Mahomes’ 10-year, $450-million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs is still the richest in NFL history.

It’s not clear whether the Ravens will come forward with Mahomes-level money. Regardless, Jackson should still see a massive raise from his current contract, which puts him 25th among current starting quarterbacks.

Holes in Jackson’s game, or the Ravens offense?

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Despite the playoff victory and the strides Jackson has taken this season, questions still linger. The Baltimore Ravens finished dead last in the NFL in passing yardage in 2020. Granted, this does make sense, as they also attempted fewer passes than any other team.

Even accounting for the amount of time Jackson lost on the COVID-19 list, his numbers dropped from the previous season. On a per-game basis, he threw fewer completions for fewer yards and touchdowns than the prior season, while also exceeding his interception count from 2019. Defenses across the NFL — to some extent — wised up to Jackson and the Ravens’ offense, especially during the team’s midseason three-game losing streak.

However, Jackson is far from the only culprit, or even the primary one, for the Ravens’ playoff failure. The offense would not need to rely so heavily on the running game if they had a better corps of wide receivers. Their top wideout, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, tied for the team lead with a mere 58 catches.

A top wide receiver will be high on the team’s list of priorities, although head coach John Harbaugh told ESPN on Thursday that he “won’t beg anybody to be here.”

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference. Financial data courtesy of Spotrac.