Could Lamar Jackson become the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history?

For the Baltimore Ravens, a big talking point of the 2021 offseason has been when a long-term contract with quarterback Lamar Jackson will get done. The fourth-year signal caller is under contract for two more years in Baltimore, but many are looking forward to seeing just how his new deal will look like with the Ravens, assuming the two parties can agree to something that works for both sides.

Many are debating how much Jackson’s contract will end up being worth, with some believing that his deal will be somewhere in between what Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (four years, $156 million) and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (six years, $240 million) got from their respective teams. However, there are a few who are in favor of Jackson surpassing the richest quarterback contract in NFL history, which currently belongs to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (10 years, $450 million).

Sports Illustrated’s Bill Enright believes that if Jackson were to say he wanted more money than Mahomes, Baltimore should “absolutely” give the quarterback “whatever he wants”.

With big contracts like Jackson is expected to get, there are plenty of particulars that need to be sorted out, including guarantees, salary escalators, clauses, incentives and more. Each contract can also have money spread out over years differently, so some players get money earlier in their deals while others have to wait. Teams who have a great understanding of the salary cap can fit big contracts into a small amount of cap space by using different workarounds and other methods.

It seems like both Jackson and the Ravens want to get a deal done with each other. While it’s possible that Baltimore’s star could become the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history in some way, it seems unlikely at this point for a few reasons.

For one, Jackson wants to win and values his teammates as well as the organization he plays for. It doesn’t seem like he’ll go to management and demand to be the highest paid at his position, because doing so would cripple the Ravens’ cap space for a certain number of years and could mean that the team would have to let some of his pass catching weapons walk, including Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. He could want to keep his teammates around and take a team-friendly deal because of it.

Another reason is because at the moment Jackson doesn’t have a Super Bowl title (or even appearance) to his name. Winning a Super Bowl championship makes the price of any quarterback contract go up considerably, as Baltimore figured out with Joe Flacco.

At the end of the day, Jackson’s contract will most likely fall somewhere in between what Watson and Prescott got from their organizations. It could even surpass those deals, as Jackson has more accolades and playoff appearances than both. However, unless Jackson absolutely demands surpassing Mahomes, it doesn’t seem like his deal will be more than the Chiefs’ quarterback in terms of total money.

If the salary cap continues to balloon and Jackson wins a Super Bowl before he signs his contract, a deal between the quarterback and the Ravens could have higher average annual value (AAV) than Mahomes’ contract ($45 million AAV). However right now, that doesn’t seem likely. Nothing about the deal will be known until a contract is agreed to and the details are reported, so it’s all just speculation at this point. What is known is that Jackson is in line for a massive payday, and deserves every penny of whatever contract he signs.