There are a lot of people who could be blamed for why Lamar Jackson’s contract negotiations with the Baltimore Ravens have stalled. But former NFL cornerback Richard Sherman has two new suspects: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
Sherman believes Mahomes and Allen not asking for fully-guaranteed deals when they signed their contract extensions pushed the league backward following Kirk Cousins’ record-setting fully-guaranteed deal with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018. Mahomes ended up signing one of the most team-friendly deals ever in 2020: A 10-year, $450 million contract with only $141 million for injury in 2020. Allen, meanwhile, signed a six-year $258 million extension with $100 million guaranteed in 2021.
“What pissed me off is when Kirk Cousins got his guaranteed deal, I thought quarterbacks from then on were gonna be like ‘if it ain’t guaranteed, I ain’t taking it,” he said on The Richard Sherman Podcast. “Then [Patrick] Mahomes took that BS deal — just 10 years and wanted it to look like half a [billion]. … But when he didn’t set it, then Josh Allen didn’t set it, now Lamar [Jackson]’s trying to set it after Deshaun [Watson]’s already set it. And [owners] are like, ‘Nah. We ain’t letting that go.’”
Mahomes’ deal has helped the Chiefs maintain their championship-caliber roster — but he’s only the fifth-highest-paid quarterback in the league by average annual value, per Over The Cap. That’s a laughable number for someone who is statistically the best player in his position. Allen, meanwhile, ranks sixth despite being in the conversation for the second-best quarterback. The Bills have also made it to at least the divisional round in each of the past three seasons.
This conversation around quarterback contacts really began in 2018 when Cousins signed a three-year, fully-guaranteed $84 million deal with the Vikings but reached an apex in 2022 when the Cleveland Browns agreed to trade for and pay Watson all of the $230 million he is owed over the course of his five-year deal. However, new contracts for players like Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford that same offseason proved Watson’s deal was more of an outlier than the new norm, though it prompted an NFLPA investigation into whether or not league owners colluded to stop teams from offering fully-guaranteed contracts.
Jackson’s situation will likely be the tipping point as to whether or not anyone else will get the same type of deal Watson got. Ravens owner Steve Biscotti already admitted Watson’s contract was a bad thing for their negotiations with Jackson, and the lack of teams interested in submitting an offer sheet for Jackson despite him receiving the non-exclusive franchise tag doesn’t bode well for his prospects as a trendsetter.
If Jackson can’t find common ground with the Ravens or another team, he’ll likely be forced to play on the $32.41 tag — or incur fines if refused to play. Meanwhile, other high-profile quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow will be looking for new deals soon. And the conversation around contracts will continue.
That’s when Sherman said he’s worried there will be less admonition around fully-guaranteed deals.
“When Burrow’s [contract] comes up and he asks for the same thing and the same people that’s mad about Lamar ain’t man, I’m gonna be mad,” Sherman said. “… This is the bed they laid, now lay in it.”