The business side of the NFL is harsh and complicated at times. However, sometimes it is extremely easy to see when a new contract that gets given out will have ramifications for the next few seasons.
We may be seeing that in real-time with the Baltimore Ravens and their quarterback Lamar Jackson. Recently the Cleveland Browns made headlines by trading for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and giving him a five-year $230 million fully guaranteed contract.
That is the most guaranteed money to ever be given to a player in the NFL, and it doesn’t make Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti feel great about a potential Jackson extension.
“I’m trying to answer that when I had a reaction to it. And it’s like, ‘Damn, I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract,’” Bisciotti told Jamison Hensley of ESPN. “I don’t know that he should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others.”
Fans have started to understand more over recent seasons that hearing a guy got a five-year $80 million deal is often a pretty ambiguous thing. You have to wonder how much of that is guaranteed, tied up in incentives or if the team has left a year to easily cut the player to get out of the full length of the deal.
Guaranteed money has become the biggest bargaining chip in most NFL contract negotiations. In a sport where a player’s shelf life isn’t long enough to often get multiple chances to negotiate contracts or even play out an entire deal, being able to get as much of that money up front is very appealing.
The Browns have complicated things for plenty of teams looking to make deals with their quarterbacks. Jackson may be the biggest example though as he is the best quarterback going into a contract season.
Fellow 2018 draft class quarterback Josh Allen already has an extension in place with the Bills, and Baker Mayfield won’t be close to getting that kind of contract given the demand for him.
We just saw the Green Bay Packers give Aaron Rodgers a contract worth roughly $150 million with just over $101 million of it guaranteed. The fact that number skyrocketed so quickly makes a possible extension mucky at best as an agent will likely look at Watson’s numbers and a general manager will look at Rodger’s numbers.
The one thing the Ravens potentially have going for them is it doesn’t appear that Jackson is in a rush to get an extension done despite entering the final year of his contract.
“But it’s like, Eric [DeCosta] can’t keep calling him and say, ‘Hey Lamar, you really need to get in here and get this thing done.’ That’s not a GM’s job,” Bisciotti said. “Kirk Cousins did it that way. What if Lamar says that? I’ll play on the fifth year, I’ll play on the franchise, I’ll play on another franchise, and then you can sign me.
“And that gives me three years to win the Super Bowl, so you can make me a $60 million quarterback, because that’s where it will be four years from now. That might be the case, but I don’t talk to Lamar. It’s not my role. I don’t know the answer.”
It is a bit curious that Jackson doesn’t seem to be in more of a rush for an extension given his style of play is more injury prone opening himself up to being hit more by carrying the football as part of the running game. Jackson has confirmed for now at least that he is very committed to the Ravens. This actually could work in Baltimore’s favor as they could have at least another season for other teams to work out this potential issue the Watson contract has created.
We will have to wait and see, but it is very much worth monitoring as the Ravens and Jackson navigate this situation.