The expected news became official on Friday when quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens officially paused contract negotiations prior to the 2022 season. Jackson's focus is on this year, while head coach John Harbaugh made it clear he knows Jackson will be the team's QB "for a long time."
What kind of deal did Jackson turn down?
Sources say Jackson was offered a deal that eclipsed that of Broncos QB Russell Wilson in key areas, with Baltimore's attempted extension being more than the $49 million per year in average new money that Wilson received on Sept. 1. The belief is that it also approached or beat Wilson in terms of guaranteed money, with Wilson receiving 68% of his deal guaranteed.
It was nearly that of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who will earn $50 million per year over the next three years in a highly guaranteed deal struck in March. With regards to guaranteed money, it fell short of the $230 million, fully guaranteed deal that Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson received after Cleveland traded for Watson in March.
A source familiar with the negotiations told NFL Media Insider Tom Pelissero the Ravens' final offer included $133 million fully guaranteed on a six-year deal -- roughly the same amount Jackson would make if he plays out his option, an exclusive franchise tag in 2023 and another tag in 2024. Jackson felt he deserved a fully-guaranteed deal like Watson's, and without a comparable offer, he's willing to bet on himself and keep going year-to-year for now.
In fact, fully guaranteed money is believed to be at the heart of the issue. Jackson is seeking as close to $230 million as possible, choosing to play on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract until he gets his desired deal.
Meanwhile, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti spoke out in the spring, telling a small group of local reporters, "I don't know that (Watson) 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."
Jackson is representing himself, engaging in conversations with general manager Eric DeCosta on the deal. In a statement, DeCosta said, "We appreciate how he has handled this process."
Jackson is on his fully guaranteed fifth-year option this year, earning $23.02 million.
After the season, he faces the first of two franchise tags, with the non-exclusive tag equaling $29.7 million and the exclusive tag $45.5 million (with both numbers subject to change over the next year). If there is no deal, Jackson likely would get another tag the following year -- and then likely face a tag so high he'll become a free agent.
But there is risk, considering only the fifth-year option is guaranteed right now. Jackson has always done things his own way, and based on Friday's decisions, he's set to bet on himself.