Lamar Jackson is the face of the Ravens, a former unanimous MVP, the engine that makes the entire offense of the AFC North power go, and he is not under contract beyond this season.
There is hope, however, that a holdout won't happen and that things are progressing between the two sides. After skipping voluntary OTAs, for which he was criticized, he was seen at the Ravens practice facility on Monday for the first time this offseason.
Jackson responded to specific criticism coming from Chris Simms back in May, saying;
"Lamar wants to be Lamar, Chris. This part of OTAs is voluntary, my guy. I will be there, just not on your watch. Find something else to talk about."
An MVP quarterback skipping out on OTAs while in the middle of contract negotiations is worth talking about, so Simms and the others were fine to make it a story. Which is why Jackson following through with his "I will be there" promise is also a story worth talking about.
It's worth talking about for one very big reason - it's an indication that a training camp holdout becomes far less likely since he's clearly getting ready for mandatory minicamp.
Current Contract Negotiations
Jackson is playing the 2022 season on a $23 million option year. And if no new deal is reached, the Ravens can have him for another year on the franchise tag.
The Ravens, for their part, say that they want to actively engage in negotiations with Jackson, who represents himself. But general manager Eric DeCosta said that Jackson "hasn't been interested" in talking with him about the new contract.
Some of that may be because of the way the 2021 season ended for Jackson. He missed the final four games with an ankle injury, and the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time with Jackson as their starter. In terms of on-field leverage, a better year in 2022 would give him more.
But considering the contract that Deshaun Watson just signed and all of the guaranteed money that carries with it, one would think Jackson has all the leverage. If everything works out in Watson's favor, at best, he is a creep.
If it works out against Watson, he's something far worse. Jackson, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of leader you want as the face of your team. He's likable, great in the community, and Ravens fans absolutely love him.
Not keeping Jackson long-term isn't an option for the Ravens' front office. Jackson leaving Baltimore would be the most painful football move since the Colts snuck out of town in 1984.
Lamar Jackson vs. Other NFL Quarterbacks
When it comes to 2022 money, Jackson is just behind Russell Wilson and just ahead of Dak Prescott. But the Broncos are working on an extension for Wilson that will pay him significantly more money than he is making right now, and Prescott has $35 million in guaranteed money still on his contract and a cap number of $49 million coming next season.
Jackson is underpaid compared to those two quarterbacks and criminally underpaid when you consider that he is being paid significantly less than Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Jimmy Garoppolo.
When comparing Jackson on the field, looking at his numbers against Josh Allen, a fellow 2018 draft pick, he compares quite favorably.
Jackson has a better winning percentage as a starter. He has more yards per pass attempt, more yards per completion, a higher quarterback rating, and far more yards gained rushing the ball. And these numbers include the stellar season that Allen just had, and the injury-plagued season for Jackson.
So when Jackson eventually does sign a new contract, the $150 million in guarantees that Allen got with his contract is a pretty good baseline.