Lamar Jackson Guaranteed Deal Demand Yields Ravens’ Franchise Tag

Lamar Jackson is staying with the Baltimore Ravens, at least for now.

The Ravens are using the franchise tag on the former MVP quarterback, after the team and Jackson failed to reach a contract extension despite negotiations over the last two years. Jackson has reportedly insisted on a fully guaranteed contract, a rarity in the NFL.

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The non-exclusive franchise tag, which allows a player to negotiate with other teams, will keep Jackson’s long-term future with the team unclear. Under the non-exclusive tag, Jackson is free to sign an offer sheet with another team, and the Ravens have the option to match (or receive two first-round picks if they don’t). They could also trade him if the sides cannot agree on a long-term extension. The two-time Pro Bowler already reportedly turned down a $250 million deal that included $133 million guaranteed.

“We will continue to negotiate in good faith with Lamar, and we are hopeful that we can strike a long-term deal that is fair to both Lamar and the Ravens,” general manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement. “Or ultimate goal is to build a championship team with Lamar Jackson leading the way for many years to come.”

Jackson is set to play on a one-year, $32.4 million deal this season under the tag, which is up from the $23 million he made on his fifth-year option this past season. The $32.4 million deal, however, is still below the current market for elite quarterbacks, which is roughly $45 million per season.

Jackson would have received market value ($45 million) if he received the exclusive tag, which gives more control to the team but pays a player the average of the top-five salaries at their position or 120% of their previous salary (whichever is greater). The 26-year-old star QB, who has been representing himself (with help from trusted advisors), is now in a position to leave the team that drafted him in 2018, or stay with the Ravens and perhaps receive an even pricier second franchise tag next offseason.

Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta said at the NFL combine last week that talks were ongoing, and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome added those talks would continue. But the team and Jackson could not strike a deal.

Tagged players like Jackson have until the July 17 deadline to reach an extension or play under the tag and there remains the lingering possibility that Jackson decides to hold out from voluntary workouts and OTAs ahead of the summer deadline.

Jackson has been angling for a fully guaranteed contract after Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson inked a five-year, $230 million guaranteed deal last year.

Many around the league view Watson’s blockbuster deal as an anomaly. But others aren’t buying that. Last year, the NFLPA filed a grievance that claimed NFL owners colluded to prevent teams from offering guaranteed contracts. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti even feared Watson’s deal would set a precedent and make negotiations more difficult.

Jackson has had injury problems the past two years and missed the last six games of the 2022 season, including the Ravens’ 24-17 wild card loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, because of a sprained knee ligament.

The Ravens, who recently hired a new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, have insisted that Jackson is their franchise quarterback. The franchise tag buys them time, but the question remains: for how long?

(This story was updated in the third paragraph to note potential draft compensation and in the fourth paragraph to add a quote from Eric DeCosta.)

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