Lamar Jackson

Baltimore's Lamar Jackson looks to be the next $40 million man

April 10

Similar to his game, Lamar Jackson's social media is not subtle.

In Jackson's newest Instagram profile picture, some believed he was burning what looked to be a contract, but upon closer review, it actually appears to be a newspaper, one that suggests Jackson is not able to win playoff games. 

Jackson got that monkey off of his back this past postseason, delivering a win for Baltimore at Tennessee in the AFC wild-card round.

However, the Ravens would go on to lose at Buffalo in the divisional round, and Jackson now sits at 1-3 in four career postseason starts, a below-average record for the 2019 NFL MVP and first-team All-Pro selection, who is 30-7 all-time in the regular season.

Jackson, 24, has yet to enter the prime of his playing career, but he is about to enter the prime of his earning potential. His four-year, $9.5 million rookie deal will expire after this season, and the Ravens will have the opportunity to pick up the fifth-year option on Jackson for just over $23 million if they use the franchise tag. 

But Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta knows that keeping Jackson long-term is Baltimore's top priority for the near future.

And he also knows it will cost the organization a pretty penny, considering the price for a franchise quarterback is only ascending. 

Three of the latest examples of high-priced, young quarterbacks have come over the past year. In July 2020, the Kansas City Chiefs signed quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a 10-year, $450 million deal that could reach as high as $503 million. A few months later, in September 2020, the Houston Texans signed Deshaun Watson to a four-year, $160 million deal

In March of this year, Dallas gave Dak Prescott $160 million over four years, with $126 million guaranteed. 

For context, Mahomes, 25, is 38-8 in regular-season starts and 6-2 in the playoffs. He's once been named NFL MVP, once been named first-team All-Pro, once been named Super Bowl MVP, and is a three-time Pro Bowler.

Watson, 25, is 28-25 in the regular season and 1-2 in three playoff starts. He's been named to the Pro Bowl three times. 

Prescott, 27, is a two-time Pro Bowler, who is 42-27 in the regular season and 1-2 in the playoffs. 

Needless to say, all signs point towards Jackson being one of the next signal-callers to pull in upwards of $40 million per year, if not more. 

Is he worth it?

Former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks head coach Jim Mora Jr. told Sports Illustrated that despite the hefty price tag, Jackson is worth the check.

"The talent is undeniable to me. You gasp when you think about $40 million, but that’s the going rate and it’s a worthwhile risk for this type of player because he is without a doubt a game-changer. I was a defensive coordinator and the pressure he points on a defense is really hard to measure. He’s hard to prepare for."

Marcellus Wiley wasn't a defensive coordinator but did spend a decade as a defensive end, and on Friday's "Speak For Yourself," he too advocated for Jackson to get the bag, saying that while Mahomes is out of this world, Jackson has accomplished more than both Prescott and Watson. 

"You gotta respect what he's earned. It's not about giving Lamar Jackson what he wants. What he's earned is over $40 million a year. ... This is really a race for second and who's gonna be the second-highest paid quarterback. ... We know that Deshaun Watson has to be the floor when you talk about how much you're gonna pay Lamar Jackson.

"There is no way you can pay him less than [Deshaun Watson]."

On the flip side, Emmanuel Acho, Wiley's co-host, was hesitant to admit that Jackson was worth $20 million twice, and made the bigger point that NFL quarterbacks are being paid too much in general. 

He submitted that only four QBs in the game – Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson – are worth $40 million or more.

"If I'm paying you $40 million a year, I want you to win me a Super Bowl. And if you don't, just don't be the limiting reactant for my success. ... Lamar Jackson in the playoffs vs. Lamar Jackson in the regular season – what's really good? 

"Lamar Jackson, come playoff time, you could argue he's what's stopping them from succeeding."

Jackson's playoff numbers have indeed failed to match those that he's put up in the regular season, but that's not a foreign concept among some of the game's greats.

The win percentage, completion percentage and passer rating of Mahoes, Brady, Rodgers and Wilson all take a dip from the regular season to postseason all-time.

Could the answer be as simple as the playoffs are just more difficult than the regular season, playing against playoff teams that have studied your tape from the entire season?

Probably. 

But what Mahomes, Brady, Rodgers and Wilson all have that Jackson doesn't is a Super Bowl ring. 

And once Lamar gets paid, it will probably be time for him to deliver just that. 

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