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Lamar Jackson to reap benefits of NFL QB market, Baltimore Ravens major losers

Baltimore Ravens star Lamar Jackson is the one big-name NFL quarterback that has not been in the news recently.

Thus far, the 2022 NFL offseason has been highlighted by blockbuster quarterback trades and some absolutely eye-opening contracts for players who define the game’s most-important position.

Lost in all of this is the fact that Jackson, 25, is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The former NFL MVP previously had discussions with the Ravens about an extension last offseason, but nothing came to fruition on that front.

For the agent-less Jackson, it’s now been all about sitting back and watching the quarterback market around the NFL change within the blink of an eye. In reality, it has done him a service while the Ravens find themselves in a precarious position.

Related: NFL’s highest-paid QBs of 2022

Lamar Jackson is the biggest winner from the NFL offseason

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It was this past weekend that the Cleveland Browns pulled off a blockbuster trade for Houston Texans Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson — giving up three first-round picks and change.

Cleveland also shocked the masses by handing Watson a fully-guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.

This, despite the fact that Watson is still facing allegations of sexual misconduct from north of 20 women in civil court.

“The AFC North landscape shifted greatly over the past week of free agency. No move had a greater impact than quarterback Deshaun Watson joining the Cleveland Browns. A part of why Watson waived his no-trade agreement with the Houston Texans was due to the record-breaking contract the Browns extended: a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal.”

Baltimore Ravens writer Kyler Barber, via the team’s official website (March 21, 2022)

The fact that Baltimore’s official website is acknowledging how Watson’s contract changes the dynamics tells us a big story here. Internally, the Ravens know that the playing field has shifted beneath them.

Jackson has more than lived up to his billing as a franchise quarterback, winning the NFL MVP as a sophomore back in 2019 and proving himself to be an elite dual-threat quarterback. The market will show that moving forward.

Related: Could the Baltimore Ravens trade Lamar Jackson?

Baltimore Ravens in less-than-stellar situation with Lamar Jackson

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As noted above, Jackson has one more year remaining on his rookie contract. It comes via a fifth-year option worth $23.02 million. To say that he’s vastly underpaid in the grand scheme of things would be an understatement.

In addition to Watson’s new contract with the Browns, Aaron Rodgers signed a record-breaking three-year, $150 million deal in Green Bay earlier in the offseason. Jackson’s option value was dictated long before the NFL QB market reset itself on a never-ending loop.

Lamar Jackson contract for 2022 compared to other NFL QBs (cap hit)

We fully get that Jackson is still playing under his rookie contract. The same thing can be said about Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence, among others.

It’s part of the process that leads to teams drafting quarterbacks early. The idea of building your roster around an inexpensive signal caller.

That’s fine and dandy. Unlike the other names listed above, Jackson has earned an MVP award and is entering the final year of his contract.

Baltimore Ravens facing Lamar Jackson contract decision

This leaves the Ravens in an unenviable situation. They will either have to place the franchise tag on Jackson following the 2022 season or come to terms on a long-term contract this offseason that will pay him upwards of $45 million annually.

Prior to the Watson trade and extension, Jackson was said to be perfectly fine with playing under the franchise tag in both 2023 and 2024 before hitting free agency in 2025. That would pay him roughly $60 million over that two-year span depending on extensions other quarterbacks might receive here soon.

But as the NFL QB market continues to reset, the Ravens will find themselves further behind the proverbial eight-ball. That includes Murray being eligible for an extension this offseason as well as the likes of Herbert and Burrow likely resetting the market come March of 2023.

The ball is in Baltimore’s court right now. How the team plays its cards will tell us a lot about the future financial health of the organization and Lamar Jackson’s long-term future in Maryland.