Ravens need to give Lamar Jackson a guaranteed contract already
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson exists as an extension of the Ozzie Newsome era. The final pick of the first round of the 2019 Draft has been absolutely dynamite, yet oddly polarizing. Since assuming control of a 4-5 Ravens team from Joe Flacco midway through the 2018 campaign, Jackson has consistently hauled the Ravens across the finish line into the postseason. However, the 2019 unanimous MVP’s pivotal prove-it year has been a constant stutter step between advancing his case for a guaranteed contract.
For every two steps Jackson made forward, external factors pushed him another step backward. In the first half of the season, Jackson would blow the tops off of opposing defenses with his arms and legs before their fifth-ranked defense DVOA would melt in the second half. Too often, it was left to Jackson to clean up the mess, which strengthened his case for a fully-guaranteed contract.
Jackson deserves a guaranteed contract
From Jackson’s perspective, his next deal is back pay on the past and insurance that gives him leverage in the Ravens’ offensive schemes. During his first five years as a Raven, Jackson earned pauper figures amid a world of king’s ransom contracts while operating an antediluvian offense that Greg Roman hasn’t updated in the past decade.
Jackson playing with a grade-2 PCL sprain is a non-starter, especially when he’s yet to secure a contract that would be an improvement upon Deshaun Watson’s deal.
Prior to spraining ligaments in his knee, Jackson was well on his way to having another Shohei Ohtani season. The LamaRB discourse paints his distinction as a dual running back and quarterback as a scarlet letter, but to the contrary, Jackson’s skillset makes him the most unique threat in the NFL. Imagine criticizing Derwin James for roaming the secondary, blitzing the passer, and lining up in the box to defend the run.
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Pulling double duty for a fraction of the paycheck of his peers had to have left Jackson salty over the years. His durability has become an issue in the last two seasons, but that’s due to how the Ravens have been using him. The idea of a guaranteed contract is a touchy one for miserly NFL owners. Cleveland’s Jimmy Haslam essentially pissed into the quarterback contract market when they offered an MLB-style deal to Deshaun Watson. Baltimore is going to extremes not to set a new benchmark and utilize Jackson as their do-everything back.
At 26, there’s still a circuitous way to go until his athleticism takes a precipitous decline. But it’s incumbent on Baltimore to evolve beyond their run-first, second and third offense to the point that Jackson’s split of runs to passes is more heavily weighted towards the latter.
The trade rumors, the cryptic posts, comments, and Jackson’s self-preservation have seemingly been confused with a desire to play elsewhere. Consequently, the rumor mill has been activated. There would be no shortage of suitors, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The problem isn’t the quarterback
Baltimore could entertain trading Jackson for a few first-round picks and a dream, but that option shouldn’t come into play until they’ve tested the limits on how high a properly-compensated Lamar could take Baltimore if supplemented by a true number-one receiver and an innovative scheme that opens up their offense.
A week into the offseason, only two head coaches have been fired yet six offensive coordinators were canned. Franchises have shown the willingness to bring in new ideas to reinvigorate their passing attacks. Greg Roman’s inflexibility should make him the seventh OC to get the ax.
Offensive coordinators are a dime a dozen. The truly transcendent ones become head coaches elsewhere. But quarterbacks of Jackson’s ilk are hard to come by. Baltimore divorcing Jackson before exhausting all their resources would be football malpractice. It would behoove the Ravens to at least provide their generational football utility belt with a bit more than the bare minimum in resources before hopping back into the quarterback derby.