NFL executives are reportedly curious about what type of contract extension Lamar Jackson may receive from the Baltimore Ravens after the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen and Dallas Cowboys' Dak Prescott each eclipsed $40 million annually.
Jeff Howe of The Athletic reported Thursday there's no consensus whether Jackson could challenge those quarterbacks atop the salary list or whether he'll be closer to $30 million per season, but one executive said much of the criticism the dual-threat QB faces is unwarranted.
"The idea that he is a non-traditional quarterback, people need to get over that," the unnamed exec told Howe.
Jackson's ability to make plays with his legs, and the weekly discussions about how that aspect of his game makes planning difficult on opposing defenses, has actually caused his talent as a passer to get overlooked during his ascent to becoming a top-tier quarterback.
The 24-year-old Louisville product led the NFL in passing touchdowns in 2019 with 36 en route to earning the MVP award. For his career, he's completed 64.5 percent of his throws with a terrific 76-21 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Baltimore's balanced offense doesn't often allow him to put up gaudy yardage totals, though he did throw for 442 yards in Monday's overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts. That said, he ranks eighth among all signal-callers in passer rating (102.9) since 2018, per StatMuse.
The other factor that must be considered is the Ravens' general lack of playmaking talent on the outside since Jackson took over as the starter on a full-time basis in 2019.
Tight end Mark Andrews has been a reliable presence over the middle, but here are the top three wide receivers in terms of catches the past three years:
- 2019: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead IV, Seth Roberts
- 2020: Brown, Snead, Devin Duvernay
- 2021: Brown, Sammy Watkins, Duvernay
That's a lackluster group. Brown is a high-upside, big-play weapon, but he's yet to reach the level of a true No. 1 receiver so far in his career. The other wideout options have been average at best.
Consider Allen's success in Buffalo. He struggled as a passer during his first few years before the Bills added a legitimate top target in Stefon Diggs. That's when everything started to fall into place for the strong-armed QB.
Jackson would benefit from a similar blockbuster move, and there's been nothing to suggest he couldn't handle a more pass-happy offense if the receivers around him were better.
The one question that does linger is his playoff performance. He's 1-3 across four postseason starts with a 55.9 percent completion rate, three passing touchdowns and five interceptions.
A deep playoff run this year, which is possible with Baltimore off to a promising 4-1 start, could put him in perfect position to negotiate a contract extension in the offseason—if the Ravens wait that long.
Jackson counts just $3 million against the salary cap this year in the fourth season of his rookie contract. The front office previously exercised the fifth-year option for 2022 at $23 million.
Add in the franchise tag and it's not the end of the world if a new deal isn't in place soon, but as Allen's recent extension showed, signing top-tier quarterbacks certainly isn't going to get any cheaper in the years ahead.
The bottom line is Jackson deserves to get paid among the league's elite whenever that contract is finalized. And if for whatever reason Baltimore doesn't want to pay him that much, there will be no shortage of teams offering it on the free-agent market in 2024 or 2025.
It's hard to imagine the Ravens will let it reach that point, though.