World

The Baltimore Ravens Might Have Won This Round of Chicken With Lamar Jackson, But At What Cost?

We need to talk about Lamar Jackson’s value. 

Let’s just get it out of the way- of course the owners are colluding to avoid having to pay Lamar Jackson $200+ million guaranteed. 

But they’re not colluding against Lamar Jackson as much as they ARE colluding against Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who gave Deshaun Watson almost a quarter of a billion fully guaranteed dollars. 

NFL owners didn’t love that Haslam unnecessarily reset the market for elite passers, which has led to average quarterbacks like Daniel Jones and Geno Smith inking deals that give them a 2023 total salary beyond any single season payday Tom Brady made in his 23-year career. 

You’re worth what you’re worth, and the Cleveland Browns were desperate. You’re not going to hear me blaming Deshaun Watson for agreeing to get paid- though he will need to find a way to restructure if he ever wants his team to be competitive. 

Because the Browns are already 8 digits over the 2023 salary cap, and other teams see that. 

We’ve heard the Bills general manager talk about the advantage that the Bengals have right now with their QB on a rookie deal. If even the Bills are having a little bit of buyer’s remorse in having to pay Josh Allen market value, it stands to reason that the Ravens would be cautious and weigh all their options, even if they have a QB that has won an MVP award in the building.

And it’s no secret that at times, Lamar Jackson, who acts as his own agent, hasn’t seen eye to eye with the Ravens front office. The last two quarterbacks that got big money extensions despite not always getting along with the front office were Aaron Rodgers and Kyler Murray, and money didn’t change a thing. 

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are headed for a divorce, and Kyler Murray not only won the divorce with his Cardinals Head Coach and GM, but got full custody of the team. 

Last year, when the contract that the Jaguars gave Christian Kirk re-set the wide receiver market, so many players asked for a trade or an extension that NFL front offices had no choice but to do whatever they could to salvage the locker room. The players had strength in numbers. 

This time, it’s just Lamar Jackson. The NFL vs. Lamar. 

And don’t let anyone tell you this is a race issue. Most of the NFL’s highest paid quarterbacks are black. 

This is about Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who is a billionaire owner of an international talent acquisition and management firm, deciding to play chicken with his star QB on behalf of his colleagues.

And playing chicken is fine if there’s a reward to your risk, but what is the reward here? Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert’s agents just watched Daniel Jones ink a deal for $40 million per year for putting up season long stats that their clients typically reach by week 10. 

Even if the Deshaun Watson contract is an anomaly paid out by an owner who can afford it, because he’s one of the only executives at Flying J that didn’t go to jail for scamming truckers, the Jones and Smith contracts make the Watson deal look reasonable. 

Steve Bisciotti might have won the day by making Lamar Jackson’s franchise tag non-exclusive, to show his quarterback that there isn’t a 2023 market in which a team is willing to commit $200 million and two first round picks… but the day is fading. 

Lamar Jackson is getting paid by someone. And if Steve Bisciotti isn’t careful, he will have proven his point only to have to turn around and pay $200 million to an average quarterback two years down the road, rather than rewarding the MVP in the building.

Let that sink in.