Projecting Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield New Contracts After Josh Allen's $258M Deal

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVAugust 6, 2021

El quarterback de los Bills de Búfalo, Josh Allen, lanza pase durante un entrenamiento en Orchard Park, Nueva York, el lunes 2 de agosto del 2021. (AP/ Foto Jeffrey T. Barnes)
AP/ Foto Jeffrey T. Barnes

Josh Allen is the happiest man in the NFL after reportedly agreeing to a six-year, $258 million contract extension with the Buffalo Bills.

Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield likely aren't far behind on the happiness spectrum.

Allen's deal is the first to get completed among the trio of 2018 first-round quarterbacks and will likely set the tone for negotiations for Jackson and Mayfield in the coming weeks.

Of the two quarterbacks, Jackson's deal feels more likely to get done ahead of the regular season. The 2019 NFL MVP now has a base set for his demands; the Ravens have little recourse but to give Jackson a contract that exceeds Allen's on an annual value.

Jackson has emerged as perhaps the most dynamic dual-threat quarterback the sport has ever seen since taking over as Ravens starter midway through the 2018 season. Baltimore is 30-7 in regular-season games started by Jackson, and while he's not a Patrick Mahomes-level passer, he's shown massive improvements since his Heisman-winning tenure at Louisville. Even Jackson's biggest fans never expected him to complete 64 percent of his passes at the NFL level. 

By contrast, Allen has exactly one good season of football under his belt. It was a spectacular season, but there were concerns as to whether he was a franchise quarterback heading into 2020. In his first 27 starts, Allen threw for 5,163 yards and 30 touchdowns against 21 interceptions while completing 56.3 percent of his passes. He threw for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns against 10 picks alone last season.

The Bills were satisfied enough with his brilliant campaign to anchor their franchise to his continued development.

Lamar Jackson Contract Projection

4 years, $180 million ($135 million guaranteed) 

The Ravens should have no immediate concerns about Jackson. He's proved himself for three straight seasons—even if the 1-3 playoff record hasn't quite lived up to the regular-season brilliance.

Where Baltimore and Jackson may have an issue is the number of years on his new contract. There's no question Jackson's skill set is unique; at least half of his value as a quarterback is due to his transcendent scrambling ability.  He's remained remarkably healthy during his NFL career, but Jackson's playing style does leave him at a higher risk of injury.

A six-year extension is probably out of the question for that reason; the Ravens should look at the four-year, $160 million deal given to Dak Prescott as a sort of low-end beginning point for talks.

Baker Mayfield Contract Projection

5 years, $185 million ($120 million guaranteed)  

(*if Mayfield signs before Week 1)

Mayfield may be better served waiting out the 2021 regular season and betting on himself. Just as the Ravens have no reasonable argument to pay Jackson less than Allen, Mayfield has no reasonable position that states he should be paid as much or more than Allen.

Mayfield has posted a 23-22 record as a starter while never throwing for more than 3,827 yards in a season. His 43 interceptions are 12 more than the formerly mistake-prone Allen and more than double Jackson's career total (18). While it's true Mayfield has more attempts than Jackson, his interception rate (2.9)  is also a full percentage point higher than his  AFC  North rival's (1.9).

Mayfield is clearly the third-place finisher in this race, a solid-but-unspectacular quarterback who seems best served as a game manager in the Browns' run-heavy offense. There may be no better-protected quarterback in football when you factor in Cleveland's excellent offensive line and running game.

Side-by-side, it's hard to find any reason the Browns should even match the $160 million over four years given to Prescott. Based on talent and production, Mayfield should slot in around that $30-35 million per season range.

Mayfield almost certainly wants more than that, and Allen's deal may set the watermark for his desires. Unless the Browns overpay, the two sides may want to allow 2021 to play out and get another season's worth of data to see where Mayfield stands among his contemporaries.