Musings on Lamar Jackson’s contract gamble and the Ravens’ decisive win over the Jets

Published 9/11/2022 7:51 p.m. EDT, Updated 9/12/2022 12:20 p.m. EDT

Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on in the first quarter of the game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Chapter One of the Lamar Jackson “I’m-betting-on-myself” tour got off to a splendid start with the Ravens quarterback throwing for 213 yards and three touchdowns in Baltimore’s 24-9 win over the New York Jets.

“He played a patient, veteran quarterback game,” coach John Harbaugh said after the game. “He was in control of everything.”

Jackson looked somewhat shaky early on, which was to be expected since he didn’t play a single down during the preseason. But the rust slowly faded, and by the second half the dynamic electricity of his unique skill set was back in full effect.

“It was us feeling it out out there,” Jackson said, explaining the offense’s slow start. “We were getting back into the swing of things.”

The performance certainly gave the front office something to ponder after Jackson turned down the Ravens’ five-year contract extension proposal worth upward of $250 million.

The contract negotiations are now put on pause until after the season, with each coming game serving as a referendum on his future worth. If Jackson and the Ravens can’t reach an agreement by March 7, the team will place the franchise tag on him to ensure that he doesn’t become an unrestricted free agent. In that scenario, he’d command a salary of $45 million in 2023.

The team went down this road 10 years ago with former quarterback Joe Flacco, who looked more like Joey Buttafuoco ovah heah on Sunday as the dominant Ravens defense repeatedly pummeled the Jets starter.

Jackson is following the strategy that Flacco used when he declined the team’s contract extension offer as he was entering the fifth year of his rookie deal. He proceeded to lead the franchise to the Super Bowl and signed a blockbuster six-year, $120 million deal with $51 million guaranteed.

Under his fifth-year option, Jackson will earn $23 million this season with an eye toward a future contract that should make him the highest-paid player in football.

The $250 million offer that the Ravens had on the table included a guaranteed $133 million upon signing.

But that guarantee is about $100 million less than Jackson is seeking, using the Cleveland Browns’ absurd Deshaun Watson contract — a five-year deal for $230 million with an average salary of $46 million, with every penny of it guaranteed.

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And Jackson has a legitimate argument. He’s already a unanimous league MVP, the youngest ever, as well as the youngest player to be named Pro Bowl MVP. And unlike Watson, he comes with no baggage or off-field controversy following him around.

The Ravens argue that the Watson deal is an extreme aberration, and their offer to Jackson should be more in line with the recent five-year deal the Denver Broncos gave Russell Wilson — $242,588,236, which includes a $50 million signing bonus and $161 million guaranteed.

Jackson is holding firm to his stance, following the negotiating blueprint of Paul Cicero: “Eff you, pay me!”

Both Jackson and the Ravens are entering risky territory, which should add even more intrigue as the team attempts to go from ashy to classy, from worst last year to first this year in the AFC North.

Buckle up and get ready for the ride.

Takeaways from Week 1 win

Meanwhile, here are a few observations from Sunday’s game.

1. The Jets stink.

Either that or the Ravens’ defense is going to be exceptional this year because they treated Joe Flacco and the Gang Green offense like Sonny did the biker gang in “A Bronx Tale”: “Now youse can’t leave.”

The Jets were a putrid 2-14 on third down conversions, and Flacco spent more time on his hind parts than Al Bundy on the couch reminiscing about his football glory days at Polk High.

He’d better hope the young franchise QB Zach Wilson recovers quickly from knee surgery. I’m surprised he wasn’t carted off the field like Poe the Ravens mascot two weeks ago.

2. J.K. Dobbins, J.K. Dobbins, where art thou, J.K. Dobbins?

After witnessing that horror show of a running game, Ravens fans are yearning for Dobbins’ return.

The offense ran the ball 21 times for a mere 63 yards, with Mike Davis having the longest run of the day for a trifling 10 yards. That’s not going to cut it against the upper echelon. Once Lamar Jackson shakes off the last of the residual rust, he’s going to need a dangerous running attack to lighten the heavy burden he currently bears of carrying the entire offense.

Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay looked good alongside Mark Andrews, answering some lingering questions about the receiving corps. If rookie Isaiah Likely can live up to the potential he flashed during training camp and the preseason, Jackson will have plenty of options to pepper the ball all over the field.

3. The safety position is in good hands with Marcus Williams and the gifted rookie out of Notre Dame, Kyle Hamilton.

Williams led the Ravens D with 12 tackles, 10 solo, and also snagged an interception while Calais Campbell wreaked more havoc on the Jets offensive line than a Kardashian courtside at an NBA game.

4. No more injuries, please.

Despite the passing grade of an opening day win, two injuries provide cause for concern. Left tackle Ja’Wuan James, who was filling in for the injured Ronnie Stanley at the line’s most important position as Jackson’s blindside protector, tore an Achilles tendon. Kyle Fuller’s knee injury warranted the CBS announcers to say that they would not show a replay due to the disturbing nature of it.

Purple fever returns full force next Sunday for chapter two of Lamar Jackson’s “I’m-betting-on-myself” tour with an afternoon home opener against the Miami Dolphins, who looked impressive in their 20-7 opening day win over the Patriots.

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