OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens coach John Harbaugh expects Lamar Jackson to be a long-term fixture for the franchise.
The organization will have an opportunity to back up those words because this is the first year the Baltimore quarterback is able to negotiate a contract extension.
"Absolutely, we want Lamar to sign a long-term deal and be with us," Harbaugh said. "I’m totally certain that that’s going to happen. When it happens, that’s the details, and that’s what we have to figure out. ... But that will happen either this year or next year, I’m sure."
Jackson is not due to become an unrestricted free agent until 2023, but the Ravens have prioritized reaching deals with their key playmakers before they test the free-agent market. However, the NFL is still working out the details of how much teams can spend this year after dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 over the past year.
Baltimore general manager Eric DeCosta will undoubtedly exercise the fifth-year option by May 3 for Jackson this offseason if they can't reach a long-term deal.
"We do have a tough salary cap situation this year across the league, as you guys know, because of the pandemic," Harbaugh said. "The salary cap is unpredictable and it’s probably going to drop right now. So, I think the guys that negotiate those, for all these contracts for all these players across the league, that’s going to be a real question mark – how that’s going to play out.
"So, it’s not my area. I don’t focus on that as much as Eric does. Certainly, Eric will be all over that, but it will be interesting for all of us to see how contracts play out for players around the league with the salary cap drop this year.”
Jackson's season came to a disappointing end with a 17-3 loss to the Bills. He threw a critical interception on a third-and-goal to Buffalo cornerback Taron Johnson, who ran 101 yards for the score. Baltimore never recovered and Jackson was later forced from the game with a concussion.
He fell to 1-3 in the postseason over his young career and his teammates said it was another learning experience. Despite some of that frustration, Jackson is already one of the most dominant players in the NFL.
One year after being named NFL, MVP, Jackson had another solid season. He threw for 2,757 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions (99.3 rating). Jackson also became the first quarterback in league history to record two 1,000 yards rushing seasons.
The Ravens need to get him more support on the offensive line with pass blocking and a playmaking wide receiver.
Jackson still needs to improve as a passer, but he's led the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his three seasons. Baltimore is confident he can eventually bring home a Super Bowl trophy.
"He’s going to work hard at that stuff, and he’s going to improve and get better, and it’ll show up in how he plays next year," Harbaugh said.
That means they'll have to invest heavily for his services
Patrick Mahomes jolted the market for quarterbacks with a 10-year extension worth up, $503 million deal with the Chiefs. The deal is the most lucrative in North American sports history, surpassing the previous mark set by Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who signed a 12-year, $426.5 million contract in 2019.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson inked a four-year, $156 million extension in September and that would be a better model for a potential new deal for Jackson.
A new deal for Jackson would likely be worth about $43.5 million annually over a four-year extension.
It's a price the Ravens appear willing to pay.