An unnamed NFL executive warned the Baltimore Ravens against giving quarterback Lamar Jackson a long-term extension as contract values continue to explode at the sport's most important position.
The exec told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler on Wednesday the Ravens would be "foolish" to not consider handling Jackson's situation on a year-to-year basis, letting him play out the final year of his rookie contract before potentially using the franchise tag to keep him for 2023 and 2024 because of durability concerns related to his play style.
The 25-year-old University of Louisville product played 46 of a possible 48 regular-season games across his first three NFL seasons (2018-20).
Jackson's dual-threat playmaking ability is what helped make him the NFL's MVP in 2019, and that's likely to remain a major part of his skill set moving forward. He's rushed for 3,673 yards and 21 touchdowns in 58 career appearances.
The question is whether his 212-pound frame can withstand the extra hits that come along with that approach over the long haul. Fellow AFC standouts, Patrick Mahomes (230 pounds) and Josh Allen (237), also like to run but have more weight to help handle the added shots.
Yet while the concerns about Jackson's durability may have some merit, he's also shown the ability to win games from the pocket. In his MVP year, he completed 66.1 percent of his throws with a league-high 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 16 games.
His passing numbers dipped a bit in 2021 (16 TD, 13 INT), however, which does complicate the situation as the Ravens decide whether to offer a long-term extension.
The key question may be whether it's fair to ask Jackson to play under a year-to-year approach after many of his contemporaries landed monster extensions that provide ample long-term security.
Mahomes (10 years, $450 million), Allen (six years, $258 million) and Deshaun Watson (five years, $230 million fully guaranteed) are among the signal-callers to sign new deals in recent seasons.
In February, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said he's spoken with Jackson about an extension on a handful of occasions since last year but didn't commit to an imminent agreement.
"He's comfortable where we are right now. I think he feels that we have a lot of unfinished business, he has a lot of unfinished business," DeCosta told reporters. "He wants to win the division. He wants to win the Super Bowl. I think he and I both share that same vision. That's basically where we stand. There's a great line of communication."
For now, Jackson is set to earn $23 million in 2022 via the fifth-year option, which would rank 15th among quarterbacks in total earnings this season, per Spotrac.
That's good value for Baltimore, so it's no surprise the team isn't in a hurry to finalize an extension, but the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback may have to decide whether he's comfortable playing without a long-term commitment in the years ahead.