Baltimore Ravens superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson may have just endured the worst three-week stretch of his career, but Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer doesn’t think it’ll affect his ongoing contract extension negotiations with the Ravens.
“I think the Ravens will pay him after the season and pay him near the top of the quarterback market, and I think Jackson’s earned it,” wrote Breer on December 1, acknowledging but ultimately dismissing concerns about Jackson’s durability.
Jackson regularly shoulders a gargantuan load for the Ravens offense as the NFL’s premier dual-threat quarterback, gaining over three-fourths of their total offensive yards this season, despite missing a Week 11 game with the Chicago Bears due to illness.
He’s currently averaging 34.1 passing attempts and 12.3 rushing attempts per game this season, putting him on pace for career-highs in both categories, which, according to Breer, is “an unheard-of workload for a quarterback.”
That has sparked concerns about Jackson’s “sustainability,” this season, most recently after Baltimore’s November 7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
“But thus far, it’s hard to argue that it’s affected him,” wrote Breer, who noted that of Jackson’s three missed games since becoming the Ravens’ starting QB in 2018, “zero are due to wear-and-tear.”
Breer Predicts Future Durability for Jackson
Jackson then received his second comparison to legendary Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders this season from Breer, who observed:
That, of course, doesn’t mean he’ll hold up this way forever. But he’s got great ability to avoid taking clean shots from defenders (an ability that kept the great Barry Sanders going into his second decade as an NFL player), and he’s evolving as a passer to where you’d think he, and the Ravens, may progressively lean a little less on him as a runner over time.
Jackson’s ability to weave in and out of rushing lanes while avoiding big hits is perhaps his most underrated trait. He eschews the traditional quarterback slide in favor of a gymnast-like style that frequently sees him dive and roll to end his runs, making it difficult for opposing defenders to lay the boom.
But Breer makes an even more important point, arguing that Jackson’s vast improvements as a passer would reduce the weekly stress on the young quarterback’s legs.
Any offense with Jackson under center (or, more accurately, in the pistol) should use his elite running abilities as a focal point, but that aspect of his game shows up when he drops back to pass as well. Whether he’s extending plays behind the line of scrimmage before taking a shot downfield, or taking off with the ball on his own, Jackson is going to run regardless of the playcall. As a result, it’s possible for the Ravens to reduce the number of designed quarterback runs for Jackson as he continues to progress throwing the ball.
Is Jackson Worth Top QB Money?
Jackson’s pedigree as the 2019 MVP who’s led the Ravens to the playoffs in the last three seasons indicates that the average annual value for his extension is likely to fall in the $40-$45 million range, similar to contracts recently signed by Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott.
His level of play to this point in his career, along with the potential for him to become even better, makes an extension a no-brainer for Breer:
I think we’re all seeing his value this year. The Ravens have lost their starting left tackle and their top two running backs, and worked through a long list of injuries in their receiver room earlier in the year, and Jackson’s the guy that’s held the whole operation together. How’s it worked out? Baltimore is fourth in the NFL in total offense and second in rush offense, and holds the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
His 19-point comeback against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5 again stirred up discussion of Jackson’s extension, with some even suggesting that he should be the highest-paid player in the NFL.
Jackson has expressed a desire to stay in Baltimore “forever,” so there’s clear willingness from both sides to find common ground for a potential deal.
And then there’s the intangibles. Jackson’s professionalism, work ethic and love for his community make him beloved in Baltimore, both by fans and the organization as a whole.
Breer added, “Beyond the on-field value, he represents just about everything John Harbaugh, Eric DeCosta and all the guys in Baltimore want in their players.”
“You can feel good about paying him,” he concluded.
Ravens fans would certainly feel more than just “good” if (and hopefully, when) Jackson signs a deal that keeps him in Baltimore for years to come. The Ravens already extended tight end Mark Andrews , Jackson’s favorite target, earlier this season, indicating their commitment to making sure that Jackson stays a Raven as well.