Five years after he fell to the end of the first round, draft day was a huge payday for Lamar Jackson.
The Baltimore Ravens agreed in principle with Jackson on a five-year deal Thursday, making their star quarterback the highest-paid player in NFL history.
The Ravens and Jackson agreed on a $260 million, five-year deal with $185 million in guaranteed money, a person familiar with the terms told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract hadn’t been signed.
The deal keeps the 2019 NFL MVP in Baltimore for the foreseeable future and ends a contract negotiation saga that was dominating the team’s offseason. Jackson’s contract tops the $255 million, five-year deal the Philadelphia Eagles gave Jalen Hurts earlier this month. Hurts got $179.3 million in guarantees.
Deshaun Watson still has the biggest guaranteed contract in NFL history. The Cleveland Browns gave Watson a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million extension last year to waive his no-trade clause and agree to join the team.
The Ravens announced the deal hours before the first round of the NFL draft, and it’s fair to say that in Baltimore at least, this news will overshadow whoever the team might take in the first round.
“Very excited — it was a long, long process,” general manager Eric DeCosta said. “But family is never easy. We’re thrilled that we were able to get this done.”
After playing out his rookie contract, Jackson’s future with the Ravens was in doubt. Baltimore put the franchise tag on Jackson last month, but the Ravens kept expressing confidence that they could keep him — even after Jackson made a trade request public.
The team’s tweet announcing the deal included a video of Jackson talking.
“For the last few months, there’s been a lot of he said, she said, a lot of nail biting, a lot of head scratching going on,” Jackson said. “But for the next five years, it’s a lot of flock going on.”
That was a reference to the term “Ravens Flock” used by the team’s fans.
“Let’s go baby. Let’s go, let’s go,” Jackson added. “Can’t wait to get there, can’t wait to be there. Can’t wait to light up M&T (Bank Stadium) for the next five years, man. Let’s get it.”
It’s an interesting coincidence Jackson’s new contract was announced on draft day. Five years ago, he wasn’t one of the top players taken.
Baltimore landed him with the 32nd pick, and he was the fifth quarterback chosen. Of the four who went ahead of him, only Buffalo’s Josh Allen has enjoyed success comparable to Jackson. Allen signed a long-term deal with the Bills two offseasons ago.
Jackson’s deal brought one of the NFL’s biggest offseason stories to a conclusion — right as one of the league’s biggest annual events was about to start. The Ravens can now expect Jackson in the lineup for the first game of the season, without drama about whether he’ll report to camp. They’ve already boosted his wide receiving group by signing Odell Beckham Jr. Baltimore also has a new offensive coordinator after hiring Georgia’s Todd Monken.
Jackson is already one of six quarterbacks in NFL history with 10,000 yards passing and 4,000 rushing. He’s been hurt at the end of the past two seasons, however. At age 26, his best days could well be ahead of him, and now he’ll remain in a Baltimore uniform.
Jackson, who was negotiating without an agent, stood to make $32.4 million this season if he played on the franchise tag, but that path had potential pitfalls for both sides. Jackson would have risked losing a lot of money long term if he was injured, and even if he stayed healthy, the team might have had an unhappy quarterback on its hands. Jackson’s contract situation didn’t seem too disruptive last offseason, but it took a different turn when he announced in late March that he’d requested a trade a few weeks earlier.
Whether that was out of frustration with the process or an attempt to draw more interest from other teams, Jackson and the Ravens now appear to be very much on the same page.
—Noah Trister, The Associated Press