When Bills quarterback Josh Allen signed his long-term contract with Buffalo, we said that Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson should ask his team to change the names and give Lamar the exact same deal. That didn’t happen.
Then came the Deshaun Watson contract. Jackson basically asked the team to change the names and give him that deal. The Ravens continue to refuse to give Jackson a fully-guaranteed contract.
And so Jackson has played three games in the final year of his contract, with no deal in place beyond 2022. He has made a bet on himself. Through three weeks, so far so good.
“He’s won an MVP and he’s playing at an MVP level right now,” Bills quarterback Josh Allen told reporters on Thursday regarding Jackson, four days before Allen and Jackson square off in one of the best games for Week Four. “Given all the drama and details that are going on with all that contract situation he’s got going on, he’s just like, ‘You know, I’m gonna bet on myself.’ And I’m pretty sure it’s gonna pay off.”
The question isn’t if it will pay off, but when. The Ravens can squat on him for two more years beyond 2022, thanks to the franchise tag. He can’t force his way to the open market through the Kirk Cousins route until 2025. That’s 48 more regular-season games, plus any playoff contests for which the Ravens qualify.
Not only does this require Jackson to navigate nearly 50 games without major injury, but it also delays him getting what he deserves.
So here’s the real question for the 2023 offseason. Will he continue to accept a scenario in which the Ravens can keep him from getting from another team the kind of deal that the Ravens refuse to give him, or Will Jackson launch an effort to get out of Baltimore?
That’s what Watson did, and it was one of the ingredients in Watson getting the five-year, fully-guaranteed contract that he reportedly covets. Maybe, if Jackson eventually declares that he wants the Ravens to trade him, maybe the Ravens will wake up and give him the deal he wants. Maybe they won’t, and someone else will.
Much of the outcome depends on whether the Ravens become inclined to fully guarantee Jackson’s contract, or whether they become exasperated with his refusal to sign a new deal, take the best offer, and move on.
That would be a risky move for the Ravens, given that there’s no guarantee they’d find another quarterback who can do anything close to what Jackson does, in the draft or elsewhere.
So maybe owner Steve Bisciotti needs to just give Jackson the fully-guaranteed contract he wants. The sooner Bisciotti does it, the cheaper it will be. And, inevitably, the longer Biciotti waits, the more expensive it will become.
If the Ravens truly want to keep Bisciotti, at some point they just have to give him what he wants. Sure, it would be a lot easier if he had an agent. But he doesn’t. If you want to keep him, you have to accept this dynamic and find a way to work it out.
However it plays out, Jackson shouldn’t have to play two more years under the tag to get what he has already earned. So either the Ravens should bite the bullet and give him what he wants, or Jackson should pull the cord on an exit strategy from Baltimore.