Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has amassed a record of 45-16 in his starts in the NFL. The record comes out to a winning percentage of over 73%. As the starter, Jackson holds an incredible amount of responsibility for the wins he has attained. Most organizations that have great players who have contributed to winning in a big way reimburse said players financially. Jackson finds himself in a different position. While the big story for Baltimore in 2022 should be their AFC playoff berth, instead Lamar Jackson's contract beef with the Ravens took center stage.
Lamar Jackson Played under a Dark Cloud of Contract Doubt
Prior to the season beginning, Jackson turned down a hefty deal. The contract was reported to be worth $250 million, with a potential $290 million on the table. The deal, however, lacked the desired guaranteed money that Jackson and other players often seek. Only $133 million was fully guaranteed in the contract.
Though fully guaranteed deals are rare, they are saved for those with the highest talent, which Jackson possesses. Despite his off-the-field legal troubles, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson signed a five-year, $230 million contract in the offseason. As with every dollar guaranteed in Watson's contract, Jackson seeks the same respect and trust from the Ravens.
In an uncomfortable and awkward situation with his employer, Jackson's contract situation mirrors that of Calvin Johnson's issue with the Detroit Lions. If history is any indication, Jackson's relationship with the Ravens might not end well.
Calvin Johnson's Contract Battle with the Detroit Lions
On Feb. 6 2021, the Pro Football Hall of Fame elected to induct Johnson in his first year of eligibility. The 6-foot-5 receiver from Georgia Tech had an immaculate career, winning several Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors.
The great receiver known as "Megatron" no longer has the best relationship with his one and only former team.
After the 2015 season, Johnson decided to retire and walk away from the game while his body was still fresh enough after nine strong seasons. In 2012, the Lions had given Johnson an eight-year contract worth up to $132 million. As part of the contract, Johnson was given a $3.2 million signing bonus.
Since Johnson retired before the contract was up, the Lions ordered that Johnson pay back half the bonus even though it would not aid Detroit with its cap space or financial situation.
Johnson has since been frustrated with the Lions and felt disrespected. For so many years, the receiver sacrificed his health for the organization and entertained the crowds at Ford Field. As a thank-you, the Lions wanted every dime they could get from Johnson.
To this day, Johnson has not affiliated himself in any way with the Lions, and the relationship is still cold.
Old School Meets New School, But the Stakes are Higher
In a similar situation, Jackson has yet to receive what he seeks from the Ravens. Jackson has been an elite player, winning as much as anyone at his position. Now, Lamar Jackson's contract dispute adds unnecessary friction.
As the Ravens head into the playoffs for a matchup against the reigning AFC champion Bengals, they are likely to be without Jackson. The 2019 NFL MVP has been rehabbing a knee injury suffered in the Ravens' narrow victory over the Denver Broncos in Week 13. During the time off, head coach John Harbaugh and others have been hopeful that Jackson will return.
Without a contract, there is no incentive for Jackson to return quickly to the playing field, as he would only risk further injury.
The writing is all over the wall for the Ravens to continue stalling on the contract situation with Jackson. Linebacker Roquan Smith, who was acquired from the Bears earlier this season, just received a five-year contract extension at the end of the 2022 season. The deal is worth $100 million, with $45 million fully guaranteed.
Since more cap space is designated for Smith's contract, the Ravens are likely to franchise-tag Jackson and bring the former Louisville Cardinal back to run the offense in 2023. The tag doesn't guarantee Jackson long-term financial stability. Since the tag is a one-year deal, Jackson will still be in search of a fully guaranteed deal that covers himself for multiple years.
As the Ravens' brass continues to hunker down, the relationship with Jackson will continue to sour. If the situation gets bad enough, Baltimore could be viewed in the same light that Detroit is for Megatron, and Jackson's historical run with the Ravens could turn into an awkward mess after his career is over.
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