If it seems that the Ravens’ contract negotiations with Lamar Jackson have dragged on for years, well, that’s because they have.
In an era in which most teams reach deals with their star quarterbacks not long after they become eligible for extensions, the Ravens and Jackson are an exception. After more than 26 months, the Ravens and Jackson have finally agreed to a contract extension.
On April 27, the team announced it has agreed with Jackson in principle to a five-year extension through 2027. Reports valued the contract at $260 million, with $185 million guaranteed.
Here’s a look at the winding path the Ravens and Jackson took to reach an agreement.
Jan. 16: The NFL Network reports that the Ravens are open to exploring a contract extension with Jackson in the offseason. After a playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills later that day ends Jackson’s third season in Baltimore, he becomes eligible for an extension for the first time in his career.
Jan. 20: At his end-of-season news conference, coach John Harbaugh says the Ravens “absolutely” want Jackson signed to a long-term deal. “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.” Harbaugh notes that, because the salary cap’s expected to drop amid the pandemic, NFL teams face “a tough salary cap situation this year across the league.”
Jan. 25: At a separate end-of-season news conference, DeCosta says there’s “certainly a chance” that the Ravens will approach Jackson about an extension during the offseason. “He’s got a great relationship with this organization. He’s a very easy person to talk to, and certainly deserves a contract. He has played phenomenal football over the last couple of years, and our intention — and my intention — is to keep him in Baltimore for many, many years.”
March 9: DeCosta says he’s had a “couple talks” with Jackson, who’s representing himself in negotiations, but that the Ravens “haven’t really gotten into the actual contract proposals, negotiations and things like that.” DeCosta says he’s “confident and committed to trying to get a long-term deal done, and hopefully, we can get that done at some point in the near future. It may take a little time, but we’re willing to try.” He also acknowledges that there are some “different moving parts that make this different than a lot of other negotiations we’ve done,” though he doesn’t elaborate.
Asked about the four-year, $160 million deal that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had signed a day earlier, DeCosta compares quarterback deals to luxury-car shopping. “It’s like if you go to the Bentley dealership or the Range Rover dealership, you know what the cars are going to cost. You’re not going to get much of a discount; they all cost about the same. ... In the end, they’re all very big contracts for outstanding players. They’re quarterback deals. They’re marquee players, and you know you’re going to pay a lot, but you’re going to get a lot in return.”
April 30: The Ravens exercise the fifth-year option on Jackson’s rookie deal, keeping him under contract through at least the 2022 season.
May 1: DeCosta reiterates that Jackson “is a guy that’s going to be here.” DeCosta says he’ll “work tirelessly to get a deal done,” and that, with the NFL draft over, “we’ve got other things now on our plate, and Lamar Jackson is one of those things.”
May 6: In an interview with Pro Football Talk, DeCosta calls Jackson “a tremendous person and a great talent and just a guy that we know we can build this team around,” and says the Ravens “want to do [the deal] right. We want to do something he feels really good about, and we want to do something that we feel really good about as well.”
May 26: At organized team activities, making his first comments since the 2020 season ended, Jackson says he’s spoken with DeCosta about a contract extension and that he would “love to be here forever. I love Baltimore. I love the whole organization. I love everybody in the building. But hopefully, we’ll be making something happen pretty soon or whenever.”
Asked about the timeline for an extension, Jackson said he’s “not really worried about if it gets done this year or next year. I’m just trying to build and stack, and we’re going to see. We don’t know yet.”
June 16: At the Ravens’ mandatory minicamp, Harbaugh says he wouldn’t be concerned about a potential stalemate in contract talks affecting Jackson. “Look what he’s done; he’s going to get paid. He knows that. The question becomes: What’s he going to do? What’s his legacy going to be as a quarterback? That’s what he’s focused on. That’s what’s so great about it. The other thing is a done deal, OK? Is it this number or that number?”
Jackson, meanwhile, says he’s “not really focused on [negotiations] right now. I’m focused on getting a Super Bowl. I’m focused on getting better. I’m focused on working with my teammates right now.”
Aug. 9: At Ravens training camp, Harbaugh is asked whether Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s new six-year, $258 million extension could affect Jackson’s negotiations. “Nothing has changed in the sense of, it’ll happen when it’s going to happen, when it’s best for both sides to happen. Both sides want it to happen. There’s really not a hurry on it. Lamar is going to be our quarterback for many years to come. We want him; he wants us.”
Jackson says he’s “not worried” about Allen’s deal.
Sept. 13: ESPN reports before the season opener that while Jackson and the Ravens have had “positive and ongoing dialogue about a lucrative contract extension,” Jackson is “immersed in his quarterbacking job” and unlikely to complete a deal until he has time to “focus on the negotiations.”
Oct. 30: Pro Football Talk reports that “no progress was made” on contract talks with Jackson during the Ravens’ bye week.
Dec. 12: Jackson suffers a season-ending ankle injury in a loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Jan. 10: At his end-of-season media availability, Jackson says he hasn’t talked with Ravens officials about restarting contract talks during the offseason. “I’ve got to worry about getting back right right now, and getting ready for this offseason.”
Feb. 4: At his end-of-season news conference, DeCosta estimates that he and Jackson had “five or six conversations” over the past year about his contract. DeCosta says the Ravens are “working at Lamar’s pace. He’s comfortable where we are right now. I think he feels that we have a lot of unfinished business, he has a lot of unfinished business. He wants to win the division. He wants to win the Super Bowl. … We will operate based on his urgency. So that’s basically where we stand.”
DeCosta also says that “nothing has changed” with the team’s commitment to Jackson. “I think there’s a lot of upside with our offense; Lamar is a big part of that. He’s the right person to do it. He’s a leader. He’s beloved. He’s a phenomenally talented player, and he makes us better.”
March 2: At the NFL scouting combine, DeCosta reiterates that the Ravens will work “at Lamar’s urgency” and says he’s texted recently with Jackson. “I think that it takes two sides to actively put their heads together and get the deal worked out. We are ready to be there for Lamar at any point when he decides that he really wants to work on it. We will be. We have an awesome relationship.”
March 4: In an appearance on NBA star LeBron James’ talk show, “The Shop,” Jackson is asked what he hopes to take from James as he grows. “Everything. And being a champion. I feel like that’s the one thing I want to take from him, if anything else — you know, being a champion and being a billionaire. That’s what I’ve been thinking about ever since I was a little kid, being a billionaire and being a champion.”
March 18: The Houston Texans trade quarterback Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns, who sign him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract, setting a record for the highest guarantee given to an NFL player.
March 22: At the NFL owners meetings, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti says the team will pay Jackson “when he’s ready,” but that he doesn’t expect Jackson to agree to a contract extension in 2022. Biscotti calls Jackson’s approach to his contract situation “unique as hell” and praises his obsession with winning. “All I know is that his teammates freaking love him and the front office loves him. It’s like, ‘You just keep doing you, Lamar, and we’ll make it work somehow.’”
Bisciotti also calls Watson’s contract “groundbreaking” and acknowledges that it’ll make negotiations “harder with others, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to play that game, you know? We shall see.”
May 26: Jackson skips OTAs for the first time in his career. Harbaugh declines to comment on his absence, deferring to Jackson.
May 27: Jackson responds to criticism from NBC analyst and former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, tweeting that OTAs are voluntary and that he will attend them. He ultimately does not attend them.
June 16: Two days after reporting to mandatory minicamp, Jackson says his absence from OTAs was not contract-related. “I just wanted to stay away and just grind. I just wanted to come back and just see how I felt. I feel good.” Jackson says he’s “having conversations” with the Ravens about his contract extension and that he expects to play in Baltimore for the rest of his career.
Jackson says Watson’s contract hasn’t affected his thinking about his own contract’s value. “I’m a man of my own. I don’t worry about what those guys get.” ESPN later reports that all of Jackson’s counteroffers to the Ravens in 2022 were for fully guaranteed contracts that exceeded the value of Watson’s deal.
July 9: Jackson tells reporters in South Florida that photos on his social media accounts that read, “I NEED $,” aren’t a message to the Ravens. “They’re making it seem like I’m talking to the Ravens, when I’m not,” Jackson says of the reaction to the pictures, which were taken from the 2001 movie “How High.” He adds: “Our contract discussion is going on already. But it ain’t about that, though. I’m not putting my business life on social media. I won’t ever do that.”
July 21: Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray becomes the first star quarterback to sign an extension since Watson’s trade. Murray’s five-year deal is worth $230.5 million, including $105 million fully guaranteed upon signing, far short of what Watson’s contract guarantees.
July 28: After reporting for the start of training camp, Jackson expresses optimism about the chances of reaching a new deal with the Ravens. “I think so. We’ll have to see.”
Jackson, who’d re-engaged the Ravens in contract negotiations in June, declines to comment on whether he’s seeking a fully guaranteed contract, but says he plans on continuing talks “whenever we have free time.” Harbaugh says that “both sides are very motivated to get the job done.”
Aug. 13: Jackson, who’s entering the final year of his rookie deal, says he plans on ending contract negotiations by the team’s season opener.
Harbaugh says he remains “very confident” that a deal will be reached. “You can’t really rush it. I don’t think either side wants to rush anything; both sides want to be happy when it’s all said and done, and probably both sides unhappy when it’s all said and done, to some degree, right? That’s kind of how it works.”
Sept. 7: Jackson says his deadline for contract talks is Sept. 9, two days before the Ravens’ season opener against the New York Jets. He says he doesn’t know whether a deal is close, or even whether he and DeCosta have made progress on talks since the start of camp.
Jackson says he’s not worried about the risk of playing without a long-term contract finalized. “It was a pretty big risk last season, the year before. I wasn’t thinking about contract negotiations around that time. This season, it’s going to be the same thing, but I’m just playing football. Anything can happen, but God forbid the wrong thing happens. I’m keeping God first and just playing ball, like I’ve been doing.”
Sept. 9: In a statement, DeCosta says the Ravens and Jackson were unable to agree to a contract extension by Jackson’s deadline. “We greatly appreciate how he has handled this process and we are excited about our team with Lamar leading the way. We will continue to work towards a long-term contract after the season, but for now we are looking forward to a successful 2022 campaign.”
Sept. 11: ESPN reports that Jackson turned down a five-year extension offer worth over $250 million, including $133 million guaranteed at signing. Under the terms of the deal, Jackson would have earned a higher average annual salary than Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson ($48.5 million) and Murray ($46 million). According to The Washington Post, the Ravens were willing to fully guarantee only the first three years of his extension, “leaving the sides tens of millions of dollars apart.”
ESPN also reports that the NFL Players Association advised Jackson that he was justified to seek a fully guaranteed contract, which Watson had received from Cleveland.
After a season-opening win over the New York Jets, Jackson tells ESPN that he turned down an offer that included guaranteed money between $160 million and $180 million.
Sept. 14: Jackson says he’s “done talking” about his contract negotiations with the Ravens. “I told you guys before, I was going to be done with it Week 1. Week 1 is over with. We’re done talking about it. I’m focused on the Dolphins [in Week 2] now.”
Oct. 27: After a prime-time win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jackson picks up and holds a fan’s sign about Jackson that reads, “PAY ‘EM NOW!” Later in the week, he explains: “I just saw the sign fall, and I just picked it up; I’m reading it, and then I saw what it said, and I started laughing.”
Nov. 27: After a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jackson lashes out on Twitter at a fan who questions his value and says the Ravens should let the quarterback reach free agency. Jackson’s tweet goes viral before it’s deleted. A day later, Harbaugh calls the comment “so out of character” for Jackson.
Dec. 4: Jackson suffers a knee injury in a win over the Denver Broncos. Despite optimism from Harbaugh about Jackson returning to action, he’ll go on to miss the season’s final six games.
Jan. 12: In his first comments since his knee injury, Jackson tweets that he’s still recovering from a borderline severe PCL strain in his left knee that has left the joint “unstable.” A day later, Harbaugh says the message surprised him. He declines to comment on the specifics of the injury.
Jan. 15: Jackson does not travel with the Ravens to their AFC wild-card-round game, reportedly because of an illness. The Ravens lose to the Cincinnati Bengals, 24-17.
Jan. 16: A handful of Ravens veterans defend Jackson and say they want him back in 2023. “You can’t let a guy like him go,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell says. “I know it’s football and there’s always some new exciting toy, a new exciting kid that has potential to go out there and be great, but this is a for-sure, a known. You know Lamar Jackson is an incredible player. I think it’s in the best interest of the Ravens organization to give him a long-term contract and make him our guy.”
Jan. 19: At the Ravens’ end-of-season news conference, Harbaugh says the team is “200%” committed to Jackson. “Lamar Jackson is our quarterback; he’s been our quarterback. Everything we’ve done in terms of building our offense and building our team, how we think in terms of [bringing in] people and putting people around him is based on this incredible young man, his talent, his ability and his competitiveness.”
DeCosta says the Ravens are “excited” to renew negotiations with Jackson. He declines to comment on whether the team would be willing to entertain trade offers and calls the negotiations a “burden for both of us.” Still, he remains optimistic about getting a deal done. “It’s going to take some time, it’s going to take some effort, it’s going to take great communication, give and take, but I’m confident that we’ll be on the right path to get that done.”
Asked whether Jackson would be the team’s starting quarterback in 2023, DeCosta says: “I don’t see any reason why he won’t be.”
Feb. 14: The Ravens announce former Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken as its new offensive coordinator. Monken played a critical part in Georgia’s back-to-back national championships. Monken replaces Greg Roman, who announced in January he would not return as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator.
March 7: Ravens place the nonexclusive franchise tag on Jackson, allowing the quarterback to test his value on the open market. The nonexclusive franchise tag gives the Ravens the right to match any offer sheet that Jackson signs with another team after the free agent signing period begins March 15.
“Having not yet reached a long-term deal with Lamar Jackson, we will use the franchise tag,” DeCosta says in a statement. “There have been many instances across the league and in Baltimore when a player has been designated with the franchise tag and signed a long-term deal that same year. We will continue to negotiate in good faith with Lamar, and we are hopeful that we can strike a long-term deal that is fair to both Lamar and the Ravens. Our ultimate goal is to build a championship team with Lamar Jackson leading the way for many years to come.”
March 17: In a memo shared on the NFL Players Association’s website, executive director DeMaurice Smith says the league’s franchise owners could be colluding against Jackson and alleges they were “criminally gaming the game itself” to avoid paying fully guaranteed contracts.
Smith questions why the Ravens and other teams have been unwilling to offer Jackson, who is representing himself in negotiations, a deal with guarantees similar to those in other sports.
March 23: Jackson denies that an uncertified agent has been negotiating with teams on his behalf. He is reacting to a memo the NFL sent all 32 teams instructing them not to negotiate with a person identified as Ken Francis, who “may be contacting Clubs and attempting to persuade Club personnel to enter into negotiations” with Jackson.
March 27: In a series of tweets, Jackson writes that “as of March 2nd,” he’d requested a trade and cited the Ravens front office’s disinterest in “meeting my value.” He sends out the tweets just as Harbaugh sits with the media in Phoenix during the NFL’s annual owners’ meetings.
“You’ve got to plan for all the contingencies, for sure, but I’m pretty fired up about Lamar Jackson,” says Harbaugh, adding that he expects Jackson to open the season as the team’s starting quarterback. “I mean, Lamar Jackson is a great player. Lamar came back in great shape last year. He’s fired up to play. That’s the Lamar that I’m looking forward to seeing. Can’t wait to get back on the grass and go to work, and I’m confident that’s going to happen.”
“I didn’t get any assurances for anything” from Jackson, Beckham says. “Life’s uncertain. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, the next day. We only know what’s happened in the past, so to me, it just was — excited about the possibility of that [playing with Jackson]. My thoughts would be that he would be here. I know that these two want him to be here. And at the end of the day, that’s going to be up to him.”
April 27: The team announces it has agreed with Jackson in principle to a five-year contract extension. The long-awaited deal will make him one of the highest-paid players in NFL history and end two-plus years of fraught negotiations.
The deal, which runs through 2027, is reportedly worth $260 million, or a league-best $52 million annually. His $185 million in reported total guarantees would also be the second most in NFL history, behind only Deshaun Watson’s fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.