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Baltimore Ravens owner believed Deshaun Watson contract created ‘problems’ for Lamar Jackson negotiations

The Baltimore Ravens went into 2022 hopeful they could sign quarterback Lamar Jackson to a contract extension that made him one of the highest-paid NFL quarterbacks. While the organization immediately knew negotiations would be complicated, actions taken by the Cleveland Browns only made everything more challenging.

Because Jackson doesn’t have an agent, all negotiations the team wanted to engage in needed to go directly through him. Among the many issues caused by that unique circumstance was the fact the 2019 NFL MVP wouldn’t negotiate during the regular season.

  • Lamar Jackson stats (2022): 59.1 ESPN QBR (9th), 17-7 TD-INT, 764 rushing yards

However, it wasn’t the biggest hurdle that Baltimore’s front office had to navigate. When players are typically represented by an agent, their team feels more comfortable leaking information to sway public sentiment or being more critical during the negotiating process when they are strictly communicating with an agent.

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That’s not possible for the Ravens with Jackson. Despite the additional hurdles, though, the organization still had confidence it could get a deal finalized at a reasonable price early in 2022. Unfortunately for Baltimore, it appears that level of confidence wavered and negotiations were made even more complicated when the Browns signed Deshaun Watson to a five-year contract worth $230 million guaranteed.

Watson landed the unprecedented contract through his own unique circumstances. He demanded the Houston Texans trade him in 2021 then after sitting out the season, amid two dozen allegations of sexual misconduct, there was a bidding war for him during the 2022 offseason. On the verge of being traded to the Atlanta Falcons, Watson flipped to Cleveland after they offered him the first fully-guaranteed contract in NFL history worth more than $200 million.

The Browns were immediately criticized around the league, with executives and team owners livid that Cleveland broke precedent. It’s a move that fueled Jackson’s desire to earn more than $200 million guaranteed and seemingly caused issues at the top of the Ravens’ organization.

Appearing on the Bernie Kosar Show former Ravens’ general manager Ozzie Newsome said that team owner Steve Bisciotti wasn’t happy when Cleveland signed Watson to the historic extension.

Related: Why Lamar Jackson should start negotiating through the media

“Every club has to do what they have to do with contracts. I don’t worry about what other people do, but our owner did say that contract did create some problems. We have to figure out if that’s going to be the norm or is that an outlier. We don’t know.”

Baltimore Ravens executive vice president Ozzie Newsome on ownership reaction to Deshaun Watson contract

While Jackson has denied reports that he wants a fully-guaranteed contract, he is pushing for a level of fully-guaranteed money that Watson is the only precedent for. Every star quarterback to sign a contract extension in the last year has received less than $200 million guaranteed.

Related: Lamar Jackson ready to move on from Baltimore Ravens

Since receiving the non-exclusive franchise tag, allowing Jackson to openly negotiate with every other team, no club has reportedly reached out to him for negotiations. It reflects a league-wide sentiment that owners and executives want Watson’s contract to be an outlier.

The motivation is tied to the procedure of signing a player to a fully-guaranteed deal. The NFLA CBA requires owners to put any future guaranteed money above $15 million into an escrow account, preserved there so the player gets paid no matter what.

Related: Baltimore Ravens made Lamar Jackson another massive offer

Even for the richest NFL owners, putting up to 75 percent of a contract worth $200-plus million guaranteed requires significant planning and financial procedures. As a result, Watson will likely remain the outlier when it comes to fully-guaranteed contracts.

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