As a Ravens fan, Sept. 18 hurt.
At the half, the Baltimore Ravens were leading the Miami Dolphins 28-7 in what seemed like a blowout. Lamar Jackson was playing at his absolute height, passing and running with ease, and the defense and special teams were playing lights out.
I left my dorm feeling like the game had already been decided. When I saw the security guard checking the score I told him, “Lamar is the truth.” He immediately agreed, but what he shouted to me as I was heading out the door was even more enthusiastic: “They better pay him!”
Since Jackson became the starter for the Ravens, he has always been “the truth.” He led us to the playoffs in 2018, won the second ever unanimous MVP in 2019, got the Raven’s first playoff win since 2015 in 2020 and was the main reason we were ever 8-3 in 2021.
This coming season, after a so-called “down year” (where he led the team to the top of the American Football Conference before a season-ending injury in week 14), expectations have simmered, and many question his ability. Not in Baltimore, though. Jackson is loved here, and an increasing anxiety has festered around his contract extension — something that once seemed inevitable.
The team exercised his fifth year option back in April, and ever since, discussions on his contract extension have been the sole focus of fans and media alike.
The first question was around Jackson’s representation; his mother was his agent for his rookie deal, and he has seemingly represented himself throughout the entire offseason. Many have advised against this, arguing he could easily be persuaded to take a lower deal than he was worth on the current market.
These worries have been proved unsubstantial, though, as he has already rejected a contract offer worth over $250 million, with $133 million guaranteed, which would have kept Jackson in Baltimore for another six years. This proposed contract is above two other recently signed quarterback contracts in guaranteed money, namely Broncos quarterback (QB) Russell Wilson’s $124 million and Cardinals QB Kyler Murray’s $103.3 million.
What Jackson is reportedly looking for is around $200 million guaranteed, a deal that is much closer to new Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson’s fully guaranteed $230 million. Watson’s signing was itself infested with controversy, having been the result of a disgusting bidding war over a quarterback with 24 separate allegations of sexual assault. Jackson, with good reason, feels he deserves at least as much respect as the new Cleveland QB.
Jackson has been the face of the franchise for quite some time now and he has embraced this image with open arms. Back in April 2020, he made his love permanent by getting a full ravens-themed chest tattoo.
But apart from this visual representation of his love, he expressed it through words this past offseason, tweeting, “I love my Ravens,” and calling the rumors that he was thinking about leaving the team a “false narrative.” It seems that for now, Ravens fans have no need to fear a sudden departure from their beloved QB.
Regardless, what Jackson is asking for is more than reasonable. The fact is that the market for contracts is based on precedent, and Jackson has outplayed all of his recent competition. He has remained steadfast in his worth, and in rejecting the proposed offer of $133 million guaranteed, he has in effect betted on himself, an act similar to former Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s hold-out before his Super Bowl Run in 2012.
Obviously, I am hopeful that Jackson also proves to the Ravens front office that he is worth what he is asking for.
In my eyes, and in most of Baltimore’s opinion, Jackson has already proved his worth. If this last game against the Dolphins has shown anything, it’s that Jackson is being severely underpaid for carrying most of the load on his team. After the defense faltered and allowed the Dolphins to score 28 points in the fourth quarter, I remembered all the money that was invested in the defense the entire offseason and couldn’t help but realize how much Jackson has delivered on so much less compensation.
It’s time to pay Lamar Jackson — if not for the future, then for everything he has already accomplished.