Lamar Jackson might be able to figure this agency out after all.
In what was arguably the most agent-like maneuver in Jackson’s stance on representing himself in negotiations with the Baltimore Ravens, the star NFL quarterback shared details of a contract extension offer that looked better than it really was. On Tuesday, Jackson responded to a report that he had turned down $200 million in guaranteed money, on Twitter:
“133/3 years fully guaranteed but I need an agent?”
There was a lot to unpack in such a short tweet, starting with Jackson’s continued stance that he doesn’t need an agent to complete a contract negotiation that is currently nowhere near done. But aside from the long-running story of Jackson representing himself in a protracted, high-stakes negotiation, it was the seemingly captivating suggestion from Jackson that he had been offered a three-year, fully-guaranteed deal for $133 million. If true, it would be a contract that would arguably constitute a solid counteroffer from the Ravens, given that the short-term nature of it would have made Jackson eligible for free agency again after the 2025 season, when he turns 29. years old. But as always, the devil is in the details, and according to a source familiar with the negotiations between Jackson and the Ravens, the quarterback had only tweeted a share of the actual offer.
“[The tweet is] right, but that’s only the first three years of guarantees in a five-year deal, the source said. “That’s the guaranteed part. But that part about the first three years is accurate.”
That means that while Jackson (the agent) was tweeting about Jackson (the player), he made the Ravens’ offer look better than it actually was. Because in the pantheon of NFL contracts, a three-year deal with full guarantees is far better than a five-year deal with only three years of guarantees.
All of this is relevant now that Jackson’s franchise-branded window for negotiations with other NFL teams finally opens at 4:00 PM ET on Wednesday. First, because it shows the absurdity of where this whole situation is currently deadlocked with the Ravens, with Jackson going wild on Twitter with reports of details of a contract negotiation that neither he nor Baltimore have disclosed in their full and accurate context. Second, because it all underscores the reality that this is going to drag on for a long, long time. Likely until July 17, which is the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term contract.
What Jackson and Rodgers have in common
And while there are certain aspects of this whole soap opera that we’ve never seen (like a quarterback representing himself in a potentially record-setting deal), there’s a palpable mood of discontent beginning to mirror Aaron Rodgers’ opposition to the Green Bay Packers back in 2018. Given all the drama that has happened in the last five years, few will remember that negotiation. But it contained one overarching aspect that has lingered between Rodgers and the Packers for years: The subplot of an underlying respect issue between the front office and the franchise quarterback that never quite resolved itself and set the stage for what we’re seeing right now — essentially, a painfully slow trade of Rodgers to the New York Jets entrenched this year with issues that have never abated between an MVP quarterback and management.
We covered that mess a lot. Record money eventually solved the problem (albeit for a short time), making Rodgers the highest-paid player in NFL history. Now, the messy soup of issues between Jackson and the Ravens’ front office feels like it’s starting to go down a similar path. Both crossroads were imbued with some sort of issue of how a quarterback felt valued by his team. For Rodgers, it was whether or not the general manager or other decision makers were willing to listen to his thoughts when it came to building the roster. For Jackson, there appears to be a crossroads of how the front office has staked his value versus how Jackson thinks he stacks up against other quarterback deals. They don’t necessarily sound the same, but the underlying theme in both is about how a player feels valued by their franchise. Rodgers wanted to be valued when it came to his input, while Jackson wants to be valued when it comes to his paycheck.
The key between both is not what they want. The key is what they perceive. And the shared opinion is about disrespect. We can debate whether the view of the player is accurate, but that is irrelevant. What matters in this situation is the feelings of the players and their ability to act on those feelings by refusing to commit to a contract.
Both sides of the Jackson debate have merit
In the wake of all this with Jackson, two sides are digging in their trenches. In one, you have a camp that says Jackson can’t get his ideal long-term deal because NFL owners are pushing back against a black quarterback who refuses to abide by the status quo in contract negotiations and wants to change a system that refuses to give players fully guaranteed deals . In the other trench, you have a camp that points to Jackson’s injury history, lack of leverage and style of play as the overarching reason he doesn’t seem to have a bevy of suitors offering guaranteed contracts.
If we embrace reality, both sides are probably right on some – but not all – points. Do NFL owners want to make guaranteed quarterback deals a staple of the landscape? Of course not. If anything, teams’ brainstorming looks at the latest wave of long-term quarterback deals and sees a plethora of regrets (see: Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, etc.). They want fully guaranteed quarterback deals about as much as they want a hole in the head. Conversely, Jackson sees himself pushed against the Watson deal and wonders: If a player with recent and significant off-field issues, a barely .500 starting record and zero MVP seasons is worth the most one-sided contract in NFL history, why is I not worth the same?
If we’re being honest, we can see the “why” behind both viewpoints. No one in this matter is 100% wrong or 100% right. And neither has a template to work with when it comes to hammering out their differences without an agent acting as a conduit. The simple fact is that there are many obstacles injected into this scenario that make it problematic — whether it’s Watson’s contract or Jackson’s lack of an agent; or the simple fact that every landscape-changing deal in league history is full of pitfalls.
Going back, this is a negotiation that is tailor-made for trouble. Especially when it got into the territory of how a team respects unusual quarterback talent versus how the general market values the same commodity. Jackson believes he is worth a contract the Ravens have been reluctant to offer. The rest of the market will weigh in, starting Wednesday, and all indications are that Jackson will be confronted with the same restraint elsewhere that he has experienced inside the walls of the Ravens facility.
We can all argue why that is. And we all want to be right on some level. But the only thing that matters is whether or not Jackson is deemed worthy of a contract offer that goes beyond what Baltimore has extended to this point. If no other NFL teams step forward, it’s a sign that this whole soap opera is going to hang around longer than anyone could have expected a few months ago. A famously awkward dance that starts with the Ravens in 2023 and ends with another team in another year, with nothing but blame and recriminations in between. If you doubt that, just look at what’s going on with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers right now.
The two situations are more closely related than you might think. But the destination and the divorce – it feels more likely with each passing moment.