This is all the Cleveland Browns fault.
Deshaun Watson was set to sign a contract with the Atlanta Falcons. It was so set that the Falcons had already made some Watson jerseys and were planning a press conference. The Browns, who at that point seemed to be out of the running, decided to make a decision that sent show waves throughout the league.
In a last-ditch effort to secure Watson, they offered him $230 million, all guaranteed.
It was a no-brainer for Watson, who would have to settle multiple massage lawsuits, and with no guarantee, he would be the same player he was before missing almost two years of football. It was an offer that he couldn’t refuse.
The NFL does not like to give out guaranteed contracts. The CBA is heavily in favor of the owners, and they want to keep it that way. The Ravens waited too long for Lamar Jackson’s extension. If they had locked him in before Watson’s deal, they wouldn’t have been staring at a situation where a former MVP who has never been in trouble and has led the Ravens to multiple playoff appearances was being asked to take less than Watson.
This is why 2022 was doomed to fail for the Ravens.
Don’t let the media fool you. Jackson is still an elite player in the NFL. He only played 11 full games this season, but if you expand his numbers out over 17 games, he would have had 31 total TDs and 4600 total yards.
It also should be noted that both times Jackson was hurt, the last two years have been in the pocket, so his running hasn’t made him injury prone.
There was a lot of speculation on if Jackson should have tried to play hurt, but if you listen to his teammates, they know that it wouldn’t have been wise for his career to go out on the field with an unstable knee.
The Ravens could have protected him more in the media, but now that the season is over, they can make it right.
BSO sources tell me that Jackson loves the city of Baltimore and his teammates, but he would like to be more involved in some of the franchise’s decision-making. The Ravens are looking for a new offensive coordinator and dire need of wide receivers. Around the league, Wide Receivers had no issues with Jackson, who has led the league in TD passes once in his career but was more concerned with Greg Roman’s offensive system.
Jackson’s pass attempts have been up the last two seasons, and you should expect that the new offensive coordinator will be tasked with running a more pro-style offense similar to the one Jackson ran at Lousiville. Early in Jackson’s career, it made sense to be that run-heavy, but he has evolved passed that point that should be the focal point.
As far as the contract, BSO sources tell me the Ravens will not match what Deshaun Watson got with the Browns. I have been told that NFL owners were incensed with Browns ownership for giving out that type of deal, so no team will likely give any QB that type of contract going forward.
At this point, both Jackson and the Ravens want to work it out, and the number to get it down will be around $200 million in guarantees or a little less. Jackson also will be more involved in the decision-making of the franchise, which is what you would expect from a franchise QB.
The Ravens have the ability to use the Franchise Tag, but that would really put pressure on their salary cap situation, so in the end it would be best to get a long-term deal done so they can focus on upgrading the roster.
If you are a Ravens fan, I would be cautiously optimistic.