Lamar Jackson entered the 2023 offseason with much unsettled. The run-first quarterback is, without a doubt, one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Though he tears defenses apart on the ground, his passing ability is not to be underestimated. In 2022, the star QB went through grueling negotiations with the Baltimore Ravens front office to try and agree on a contract similar to the fully-guaranteed one of Deshaun Watson. Had a deal been done, Jackson would have been one of the highest-paid QBs in the game.
The Ravens offered Jackson a contract that would have seen him surpass Aaron Rodgers in total compensation. However, it was not fully guaranteed. Jackson, determined to strike the perfect deal, declined the offer. He eventually put negotiations on hold so he could focus on the season.
But contract talks began to swirl again once Jackson suffered a season-ending injury. While sidelined, the Ravens fell from prominence in the AFC standings and barely made the playoffs with Tyler Huntley as their starting quarterback. Many speculate that Jackson was remaining out in order to prove his worth to the team; when he plays, the Ravens win; when he doesn’t, they lose.
Such a strategy ultimately failed, though, as the Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson earlier this offseason, refusing to grant his desires. While the tag allowed Jackson to negotiate with other teams, the Ravens would be able to match any offer they made. This move was followed by several teams announcing they would not enter negotiations.
As a response, Jackson has now made an official trade request. He sees it as a way to escape a situation where he feels he’s being tremendously undervalued and go to a place where he can reset and work towards his desired contract. But does he truly have the leverage he thinks he does?
Right now, it’s hard to imagine any team will trade for Jackson. Baltimore is sure to ask for a steep price, given their quarterback’s talent and productivity, and teams will not want to lose valuable players or picks for a man who wants immense money. The response to Baltimore’s franchise tagging of Jackson proves NFL front offices want to stay away from fully-guaranteed money, especially for players with a notable lack of postseason success like Jackson.
It’s evident teams value playoff success when deliberating on whether they should pay a player top-tier money. There’s many sensational players around the NFL who play well in the regular season but fail to put it together when the lights get bright. Because playoff success usually translates to high attendance and primetime broadcasts, NFL front offices want to make sure their investments pay off.
Such an investment in Lamar Jackson may result in regular season wins, but he’s unproven when the games really matter. Though he deserves top-tier money, the fully-guaranteed contract he desires may be too steep of an asking price. Perhaps Jackson should temper his expectations and focus on winning. Then, maybe the money will come.