Ravens unable to reach new NFL contract deal with Jackson

·3 min read

Lamar Jackson has rejected contract offers from the Baltimore Ravens and the 25-year-old star quarterback will play the upcoming NFL season on the final year of his original deal.

The Ravens confirmed Friday that the two sides were unable to agree terms of a new deal before Jackson's self-imposed deadline ahead of the team's Sunday start of the campaign.

"Despite best efforts on both sides, we were unable to reach a contract extension with Lamar Jackson," Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said.

"We greatly appreciate how he has handled this process and we are excited about our team with Lamar leading the way.

"We will continue to work towards a long-term contract after the season, but for now we are looking forward to a successful 2022 campaign."

It's a gamble for both sides. Jackson, known for his skillful passing combined with flashy runs, would have no guarantee should he be injured. The Ravens could lose him to free agency or be forced to make him a franchise player, a one-year deal with a salary among the NFL's highest at the position.

Jackson will make $23.016 million this season in his fifth-year option off his rookie contract.

A deal was made tougher to strike when the Cleveland Browns reached a fully guaranteed $230 million deal with Deshaun Watson in March, over $40 million more than is guaranteed in the next-highest contract between Kyler Murray and Arizona.

Jackson said Wednesday it wouldn't be riskier playing this season than it has been any other, although he has taken 737 hits since his 2018 debut, the most of any NFL quarterback.

"It was a pretty big risk last season, the year before," Jackson said. "I wasn't thinking about contract negotiations around that time.

"This season, it's going to be the same thing, but I'm just playing football. Anything can happen, but God forbid the wrong thing happens."

Jackson, the unanimous NFL 2019 Most Valuable Player, has a 37-12 record as the Ravens' starting quarterback in the past four seasons but the club is only 2-5 without him.

In 2019, Jackson set records for NFL quarterbacks with 1,206 yards rushing and 176 carries while throwing for 3,127 yards and a personal best 36 touchdowns.

Baltimore has managed only one win in three trips to the playoffs with Jackson and the Ravens missed the post-season altogether last year, going 8-9 while Jackson struggled with five missed games, four with an ankle injury, and a career-worst 13 interceptions.

Jackson does not have an agent, meaning he spoke directly with DeCosta about a new deal.

"I'm comfortable, but it's probably different because it's your quarterback, and not an NFL agent," Jackson said Wednesday. "I've been pretty cool. Eric has been pretty cool with it."

- Coach confident of deal -

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, whose club opens the season on Sunday at the New York Jets.

"You're hopeful," Harbaugh said of the hiatus in talks until after the season. "Those things will work themselves out in the end. I'm confident of that. That will happen when it's time."

In the meantime, Jackson will remain the team's offensive leader.

"Lamar is playing quarterback," said Harbaugh. "He's going to be playing quarterback here for a long time."

Jackson, who turns 26 on the eve of the season's final game in January, is the first Ravens passer to play out his rookie contract since Joe Flacco in 2012. He led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title at the end of that season and became the NFL's highest-paid player the following season.

Flacco will quarterback the Jets against the Ravens on Sunday.

Harbaugh said he spoke to Jackson on Thursday about putting contract talks behind him and concentrating upon the campaign.

"Hey, let's go be our best and focus on football and that's what he has been doing all along," Harbaugh said. "I know nothing will change with that and we'll focus on Sunday."