Lamar Jackson, Ravens fail to reach deal setting up one of biggest gambles in NFL history

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens will head into the final season of his rookie contract without a contract extension, an impasse that amounts to one of the biggest gambles in NFL history by both a franchise and an NFL player.

The two sides failed to reach terms on a new deal by Friday, missing a deadline that Jackson set earlier this week. It means the Ravens' franchise quarterback will now play through the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, earning just over $23 million for the 2022 season before becoming eligible for free agency next offseason. However, a league source told Yahoo Sports on Friday that the Ravens plan on applying the exclusive franchise tag on Jackson next offseason, keeping him in the fold through 2023 as the two sides continue to work on a new deal.

“Despite the best efforts of both sides, we were unable to reach a contract extension with Lamar Jackson,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement Friday morning. “We greatly appreciate how he has handled this process and we are excited about our team with Lamar leading the way. We will continue to work towards a long-term contract after the season, but for now we are looking forward to a successful 2022 campaign.”

Columnist Mike Preston writes that anything beyond three years is too risky for a quarterback who runs as much as Lamar Jackson. The Ravens' signal-caller could still receive significant guaranteed money and come back for another extension after three years.  (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens remain at an impasse over a contract extension. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) (Baltimore Sun via Getty Images)

The development represents significant risk for both sides, as Jackson now shoulders the potential for injury in 2022 without a lucrative extension while the Ravens will now face two more quarterback negotiations (Justin Herbert with the Los Angeles Chargers and Joe Burrow with the Cincinnati Bengals) weighing on talks in 2023.

As it stands, Jackson would currently be considered the market-setting player out of that trio. However, it’s feasible that an MVP performance or Super Bowl run by either Herbert or Burrow in 2023 could set the stage for either quarterback to demand a fully guaranteed extension similar to the one signed by Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. It’s also feasible that Herbert or Burrow could push to become the NFL’s highest paid player in their new deals, or even reach for a contract tied to a percentage of the salary cap, which would be one of the biggest negotiating wins in league history.

That’s a multitude of scenarios in play without considering the leverage Jackson could have with a strong 2022 campaign. As it stands, it’s believed he is seeking a deal more closely tied to Watson’s fully guaranteed pact, rather than one along the lines of the Arizona CardinalsKyler Murray or the Denver BroncosRussell Wilson. Neither Murray or Wilson landed fully guaranteed contracts.