Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is not currently under contract beyond the 2022 season, and while it’s unclear whether the team and Jackson will agree to a long-term extension this offseason, the Ravens can use the franchise tag on him in 2023. So what’s next for both parties?
Former Green Bay Packers executive Andrew Brandt, who now writes about the business of football for Sports Illustrated and hosts “The Business of Sports” podcast, joined Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 18 to discuss possible reasons why the Ravens and Jackson have not come to a deal and how the process may play out.
This has been edited for clarity and content.
PressBox: The Ravens presumably want to get a deal done with Lamar Jackson. Why do you think it may or may not get done during the course of this offseason? What does your gut tell you about Jackson’s status with the Ravens?
Andrew Brandt: I think we’ve got to go back to this past offseason. He came off a great year, and there were three quarterbacks in that Class of 2018 that we, including me, expected to get big extensions — Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. As we all know, only one of the three got the extension. We can save Baker Mayfield for another day, but it was curious that the Ravens did not extend Jackson. I just didn’t understand where the lack of extension was coming from. Meaning, is it coming from the Ravens, who are not ready to commit, who didn’t even offer a deal or offered a deal that not was not pleasing to the Jackson side? Or is it coming from the Jackson side, where they think it’s better to wait and continue to see the market go up and up and up, and jump in the negotiations now? Now we come to a junction where there hasn’t been excellent performance due as much to injury as much as anything. What do they do? To spin to the end of the chapter, I guess my prediction is they don’t do anything. They still have a year left. It’s an option year, and that’s the advantage of first-round quarterbacks that you can exercise the option after Year 3, you can watch and learn in Year 4 and you don’t have to sink the huge guaranteed money in [before] Year 5.
PB: Let’s say the Ravens want Jackson to prove himself in Year 5. If you were in Jackson’s camp, why wouldn’t you say, “Nah, we’d rather not. Why don’t you go ahead and trade us?” When you look at the quarterback market, a lot of teams around the NFL are almost in desperate straits when it comes to the quarterback position.
AB: First of all, it’s going to be an active year for veteran quarterbacks. It’s a whole other discussion with Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson and Jimmy Garoppolo and maybe others. So you have that. It’s not going to be people beating down the doors for one veteran quarterback — maybe Aaron, but no one else. It’s a tough year to do that. The other part of this, of course, having been an agent, you only have that card once in your career, really — the card of, “Hey, if you’re not going to pay me, trade me.” That’s a hard thing to walk back from, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. People talk about franchise tags. Players, they all play. They all play under the tag. They get through it. I guess I just think this idea that players are unhappy without contracts while making tens of millions of dollars is not something teams take too seriously, to be truthful.
PB: This is Lamar Jackson. We’re talking about a unanimous MVP of the league. This is one of the most unique athletes in the history of football. What more does he have to prove to show that he deserves to be taken care of and given a big extension?
AB: That’s a good question. I guess people out there have mixed opinions of Jackson, and that may be within the front office of the Ravens. One, in negotiations, teams get in trouble when they pay for past performance rather than the future. If you’re judging how you’re going to pay Lamar Jackson, you look forward, not backward, and I understand that’s harsh because you say, “Hey, he’s been MVP,” but is he an MVP going forward? Is he going to have that type of production? That’s what they’re weighing. … I think the problem for Mayfield and Jackson is this: There are no medium contracts anymore for quarterbacks, unless it’s an Andy Dalton or a Nick Foles, so they’re either on rookie deals or they’re making $30 million a year. I’ve talked to team executives about this — not at the Ravens. But it’s like, “What do we do?” Because no ascending quarterback is going to take $15 million, $20 million a year. They’re just not. I understand it. That’s the dilemma.
PB: If you were in the shoes of Eric DeCosta right now, would you have trepidation about signing Jackson for big money?
AB: The devil’s in the details. People know from my Twitter and my articles, my podcast, my writing that a lot of these deals are not what they’re cracked up to be. I guess if you can get a deal you’re comfortable with that you can get out [of] — which is how teams look at these deals, can I get out after two years of guaranteed money, something like that — then you look at it. But you try to have professional and open and honest communication while not upsetting the player if you’re going to continue to evaluate and pay him on the option year. That’s probably the most prudent thing to do is not pay him. But I understand what you talk about and what fans talk about with the emotional element to this as well, and I get it. Lamar’s probably saying, “You don’t feel the way the Buffalo Bills feel about Josh Allen toward me?” That’s a question.
PB: If you are going to pay Jackson a year from now, is there an argument that you’re better off paying him now just to get a clearer picture of what the next few years are going to look like cap-wise and to be able to make decisions based on what you know those numbers are now going to be?
AB: You could make that argument a year ago. I would’ve made that argument a year ago, but they didn’t, and quarterback contracts tend to only go up if you’re at that level. Mayfield, we all thought, “OK, they’re not doing a deal, then the price is going to go way up.” Now people are thinking, “Wow, the Browns got away with not doing a deal. That’s good for them.” I don’t think people feel that way about the Ravens and Jackson. It’s great to have a young, ascending quarterback under contract. We don’t know what’s going into their thinking and why it’s not happening. … There are two types of contracts out there now for young quarterbacks, and if I were a player, I’d want the Dak Prescott type, which is four years, $40 million [per year], and the best thing about that is the four years. He’s going to get another bite at the apple at age 29 or 30, whereas [Patrick] Mahomes and Allen are eight- or 10- or 12-year deals, which basically take them off the free-agent market forever and the teams are locked in. I don’t know if the Ravens are trying to push those kinds of long-term deals and Jackson doesn’t want that. If I were representing Jackson, I would not want that Allen-Mahomes length. That only serves the team. I would want the Prescott length, and maybe that’s a sticking point.
PB: What do you say to someone who says, “I would never pay this type of money to any player. This is just a bad way to go about building a roster, I don’t care who you are. You’re going to hamstring your ability to compete and to put more good players on the field whenever you give this high a percentage of your salary cap to any player.”
AB: Listen, I managed the cap for 10 years, always had the highest-paid player in the league, or one of them in Brett Favre and then we did Aaron Rodgers. It’s a cop-out, I can say that. You have a $200 million cap. If you allocate $30 million to your quarterback, you have $170 million for the rest of your team. You have half your team on rookie contracts. I just think it’s a cop-out. Tom Brady’s making the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes might make the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers might make the Super Bowl. Drew Brees should’ve made the Super Bowl a couple more times. I don’t get that. I think it’s a cop-out. Now, if you don’t have the player, it’s a different story. But it’s a cop-out. The cap thing I think is put out there in the media by teams looking for excuses more than anything else.
For more from Brandt, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox