The Lamar Jackson situation with the Baltimore Ravens has been one of the biggest off-field storylines in the NFL.
Jackson is playing under the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. The Ravens offered the star quarterback a five-year, $250 million contract extension with $133 million guaranteed.
Jackson represented himself without an agent in the negotiation and declined the Ravens’ offer. He emphasized his desire for a fully insured deal, similar to the one issued to Deshaun Watson by the Cleveland Browns. Because of the lack of compromise for a fitting extension, Jackson and the Ravens could not reach an agreement before the season.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Jackson is set to earn $23 million this season but has no guaranteed money after this season. If he gets injured or declines in play, there is no promise for a large contract after the season concludes. Moreover, a severe injury could leave him without any financial stability to fall back on.
This begs the question: Should Jackson have taken the money offered, or should he bet on himself to earn a more significant contract?
Kyle Alexander, a sophomore journalism major at Howard University, voiced his thoughts on the situation.
“Lamar should be paid as a top quarterback because he’s exactly that,” Alexander said. “Look at Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, and Deshaun Watson. Lamar has done more than [all of] them. He was the second-ever unanimous MVP, led the league in passing touchdowns, and was the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards multiple times. We even saw last year that when he’s out, the team can’t win without him.”
Howard University quarterback Quinton Williams also commends Jackson for staying true to his beliefs.
“I think in this case it’s simply betting on yourself and [your] skill set,” Williams said. “Lamar believes in his abilities and his value to the Ravens organization as a whole. I don’t think he wants to leave the Ravens organization. Lamar just wants to feel valued, especially seeing other guys that aren’t as dynamic as him get huge deals. So for him to demand more money was a gamble on his part, but through these first couple of weeks, he’s been playing great. In the end, I think it will pan out in his favor, and we’ll see a historic contract being signed.”
Jackson has the statistics and accolades to back his case. He won the Most Valuable Player award in 2019, where he set the NFL record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. Jackson became the youngest player to earn the award and the fourth African-American quarterback to win. He is the only player besides Tom Brady (2010) to be named Most Valuable Player unanimously. Jackson has set many rushing and passing efficiency records in his young career. He has the most wins by a starting quarterback under 25.
Jackson has performed at this level despite not having a premiere No. 1 wide receiver. Christian Marshall, a sophomore journalism student at Howard University, spoke about Jackson’s star power in comparison to others in his position.
“I would argue that he’s had the worst supporting cast out of all his contemporaries,” Marshall said. “Josh Allen has Stefon Diggs, Joe Burrow has three All-Star caliber wide receivers, Patrick Mahomes has Travis Kelce and played with Tyreek Hill. The list goes on. Lamar Jackson is the only elite quarterback without an All-Star level receiver. Yet, he still performs at an elite level week in and week out.”
Despite Jackson’s success, he has faced heavy criticism as a quarterback. He has been labeled as a passer whose only abilities are in the run game. Sports analyst Eric Mangini called out Jackson after a Ravens victory in 2019.
“I was impressed by Baltimore to some degree,” Mangini said. “If this is how you want to play football, and you wanna take your quarterback and turn him into a running back who also happens to pass every now and then, that’s great. But you can’t sustain it.”
Some believe these comments have a racist undertone, as many African-American quarterbacks have had comments like these aimed in their direction.
“I do think that race has a part to play in how he is talked about,” Marshall continued. “You look at the fact that people say Lamar can’t pass, yet he led the league in touchdown passes during his MVP year. Look at the difference in reaction when Lamar runs the ball compared to other QBs like Josh Allen.”
Alexander, however, shuts down these critics, crediting Jackson’s style of play as his biggest asset.
“He’s done more than some of the other quarterbacks who got extensions,” Alexander said. “As far as injuries, he had one major injury last year and the concussion in the Bills playoff game, both of which came with him being in the pocket. His style wins games, and he’s improving as a passer every year.”
One thing is clear: Jackson is taking a gamble on himself. Through the first three weeks of this NFL season, Jackson is replicating that MVP season he had three years ago.
Jackson has 749 passing yards and 10 passing touchdowns to just two interceptions while rushing for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He leads the league in passer rating, passing touchdowns, and yards per carry. Despite all he has done throughout his career, Jackson is still pushing to silence critics and obtain the money he wants.
Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman