Nobody in the NFL gets paid quite like a quarterback does. Sure, top receivers, linebackers, and defensive linemen can earn contracts that approach and even surpass $100 million over several years, but quarterbacks are the most valued by every NFL team.
To wit, the 12 highest salaries in the NFL this year belong to quarterbacks. Someone not on that list? Lamar Jackson, who expects a massive deal as he hits free agency next season.
Jackson has set his sights so high, in fact, that he turned down a $250 million extension from the Baltimore Ravens this offseason.
Is this a smart move by Jackson or crazily short-sighted? Well…it could turn out to be both.
The extension would have increased the total value of Jackson's deal to $274 million through 2027. He would have made just over $23 million this season, then the extension would start in 2023. Jackson didn't have a problem with the total amount of money. He was more concerned with the total guaranteed money at signing.
The Ravens offered him $133 million fully guaranteed as soon as he signed, which is certainly no small number. But he looked around at what other quarterbacks have been making, particularly Deshaun Watson. Watson signed a $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns this offseason—a contract that was fully guaranteed at signing. That's the sticking point for Jackson.
Other quarterbacks—including Russell Wilson ($242.5 million total, $48.5 million per year, $124 million guaranteed at signing) and Kyler Murray ($230.5 million total, $46 million per year, $103.3 million guaranteed at signing)—have inked major deals this offseason. Jackson, who's only 25 years old, would have made more in total money, annual salary, and money guaranteed at signing than both Wilson and Murray if he signed this deal.
Instead, Jackson will head into the fifth-year option on his current contract. He'll make slightly more than $23 million this season and hope the team offers a better deal by next summer. If the two sides can't agree, the Ravens would likely use the franchise tag on Jackson.
This story has an interesting wrinkle to it since the Ravens went through almost the same situation a decade ago. Back then, their quarterback was Joe Flacco. And like Jackson, Flacco made a bet on himself.
It worked out well for Flacco. He led the Ravens to a Super Bowl, tying an NFL record for most touchdowns (11) without an interception. That offseason, he signed a six-year contract worth $120.6 million. At the time, it was a record for a quarterback.
Jackson is hoping for a similar result. For now, he'll have to go out and put up another great season, perhaps his best one yet. If he can do that, he'll definitely get his storybook ending — including a massive payday.