OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are determined to reach a long-term deal with quarterback Lamar Jackson.
However, the new contract will reverberate throughout the organization and affect the way the team conducts business, according to Baltimore general manager Eric DeCosta.
"It will change the way that we do contracts, potentially," DeCosta said. "We will have to be probably a little bit more careful about which players we sign and which players we don’t sign. We may lose some good, young players. That’s unfortunately just the salary cap age that we’re in, and it happens to every single team. So, we’ll be aggressive, if possible. I think the Draft will continue and will always remain the lifeblood of this organization when it comes to building this team and building the roster, and Draft picks will be more important than ever.”
Last year, Deshaun Watson became the latest quarterback to land a mega-deal, inking a four-year, $156 million extension with the Houston Texans. Watson has since demanded a trade from the struggling franchise.
Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year extension worth up to $503 million with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020. 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.
Those recent contracts have set the market for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is still playing under his rookie deal and averages $2.4 million per season. Jackson is not due to become an unrestricted free agent until 2023.
Jackson will be looking for a deal worth around $40 million per season.
DeCosta is confident the team will make a prudent investment.
"It’s great to have a QB. It’s great to have a QB who wants to win badly. He prepares to win, and he cares. He’s a part of this community," DeCosta said. "That’s a really important thing; we don’t take that for granted. We try to be as strategic as possible in the short term, but also in the long term. I think [senior vice president of football operations] Pat Moriarty and [director of football administration] Nick Matteo do an awesome job looking at the salary cap and the implications of deals that we make. We try to be responsible in the short term.
Jackson, who was selected by the Ravens with the 32nd overall pick in the 2018 draft, has gone 30-7 as the starter in the regular season. He has thrown for 7,085 yards with 68 touchdowns and 18 interceptions over his young career. Jackson is also the only quarterback in NFL history to run for over 1,000 yards in two seasons and has 2,906 yards rushing and 19 scores overall.
Jackson also won the first playoff game of his career this past season over the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens are fully committed to him over the long term and expect to reach a new contract before he can test the free-agent market.
"We want to have the quarterback that cares as much as we do, and he’s a leader, and he’s the face of the team, and he represents the team as well as he does, and he gives us a chance to win every game," DeCosta said.
The Ravens have done a solid job keeping their young talent and have reached contract extensions with valuable playmakers in the past year, including cornerback Marlon Humphrey, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and tight end Nick Boyle.
Now, the focus is on Jackson and tight end Mark Andrews.
However, those deals will come at a high cost.
"We try to be aggressive as well. We’ve tried to be proactive, as I think you’ve seen in the last few years with contracts with veteran players [and] with guys that we’ve drafted and developed," DeCosta said. "We’ve tried to keep as many of those guys as possible. We understand that if we do sign a long-term deal with Lamar Jackson, that’s going to change the way we’ve operated the last couple of years. We certainly understand that, and we look at that as a great problem to have. We aspire to [have] that type of problem. We want to have the franchise quarterback."