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Late for Work 3/21: Lamar Jackson's Contract Extension 'Only Growing' With Recent QB Paydays

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson runs the ball against the Minnesota Vikings on November 7, 2021 at M&T Bank Stadium.

How Does Deshaun Watson's Contract Affect Lamar Jackson and the Ravens?

The AFC North landscape shifted greatly over the past week of free agency. No move had a greater impact than quarterback Deshaun Watson joining the Cleveland Browns. A part of why Watson waived his no-trade agreement with the Houston Texans was due to the record-breaking contract the Browns extended: a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal.

According to Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed, "this will certainly impact what Jackson will want when his time inevitably does come."

"Based on individual and team accomplishments alone as a starter, Jackson is more decorated than Watson," Reed wrote. "Though Watson has one more Pro Bowl nod than Jackson, Jackson has more career wins (37 to 28), including a 2-0 head-to-head record, more career rushing yards and touchdowns, and a league MVP award. All the concrete facts listed above are viable bargaining chips that Jackson and his team can use to drive up his asking price whenever he does decide the time for a new deal is right."

Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried also sees the Watson deal impacting the Ravens' negotiations with Jackson.

"You'd better believe Jackson will be looking for something at least remotely similar [to Watson's deal] in the near future," Fried wrote. "Will it be a $230 million contract that's fully guaranteed? Probably not. But with every record-setting contract agreed to, Jackson's leverage and subsequent price only increases."

The masses believe the price only goes up with time, but Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi welcomes it.

"It's an extremely challenging situation for [GM Eric] DeCosta. But the prudent thing to do is to just let it play out," Lombardi wrote. "That seems to be what Lamar wants, so just let it happen. Let him prove that he's worth $235M+ in guaranteed money. Since that is likely the starting point for negotiations thanks to the insanity of the Cleveland Browns, it's time to let Lamar earn it. If he goes out and puts up a season like he did in 2019, pay the man! That said, if his demands get too outrageous, the Ravens have the franchise tag card to play at their disposal. He can play under the tag or DeCosta can trade him."

Ravens Could Still Land Za'Darius Smith

Last week saw a two-part story unfold between the Ravens and linebacker Za'Darius Smith as they were reportedly set to reunite, only for the deal to fall through. But Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio speculates there may be a third act between the parties after Smith remained unsigned through the weekend.

"Many have assumed that Smith had something else in hand. He didn't," Florio wrote. "He remains a free agent, with no obvious or apparent deals. And the money in free agency already is drying up. It'll be interesting to see whether Smith goes back to the Ravens at some point, seeking the deals away from which he walked. It also will be interesting to see whether the Ravens would put those deals back on the table."

Florio also reported the Ravens initially agreed to Smith and his agents' revised terms after other linebackers signed noteworthy contracts in the hours following his first agreement.

"Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Smith and the Ravens had agreed on a contract per the basic terms (four years, $35 million), with incentives that would have pushed the total value to $50 million. Then, the player decided to back out," Florio wrote. "Smith and his agent then proposed a different deal to the Ravens. The Ravens accepted the revised terms. They were then told that Smith would make a decision the next day. The next day, Smith and his agent proposed a dramatically different deal. The Ravens passed, and that was that."

There hasn't been any new links between the two since the split, but the Ravens still have a need for a player like Smith at edge rusher, and Smith is still available and looking for a new contract. Baltimore has signed defensive tackle Michael Pierce since then, however.

Updated Needs Cite Cornerback as Ravens' Position of Need

As the dust settles from the first wave of free agency, media has updated each team's needs. For the Ravens, Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport sees cornerback being the top item for Baltimore.

"While some glaring needs have been addressed, there are other[s] bubbling just beneath the surface," Davenport wrote. "The return of Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey will certainly help at cornerback, but after watching injuries devastate the position last year, depth at that spot would be welcome."

There are more than enough good cornerbacks still available in free agency that could help the Ravens, but it all depends on if there is mutual interest and if so, at what price? The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec named a few players the Ravens could find mutual interest in at a reasonable figure.

A.J. Bouye

"They'll likely draft one early, but the Ravens are reminded every year that they can never have enough corners. A former Pro Bowl selection, Bouye has had issues staying healthy in recent years. Still, his addition would allow the Ravens to use Humphrey in the slot."

Bryce Callahan/Kyle Fuller

"The release of Tavon Young leaves the Ravens without an established nickel corner. Callahan and Fuller, both former Denver Broncos, could fill that void. Callahan's primary issue has been health, but when he's been on the field, he's been extremely effective. Fuller, a Baltimore native and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has been extremely durable. Either of them could fall into the Ravens' 'right player, right price' theory."

If the Ravens don't improve the position in free agency, they could address cornerback in the draft, and more specifically in the first round where they currently hold the No. 14-overall pick. A couple recent mock drafts have the Ravens selecting LSU's Derek Stingley Jr., including CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson and 247 Sports’ Brad Crawford.

Surprise From Media After Bradley Bozeman's Contract Revealed

On Friday it was announced that former Ravens center Bradley Bozeman was signing a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. More details of Bozeman's contract have been released and it's caused some intrigue among the media.

According to Zrebiec, the Ravens made Bozeman a contract extension offer in December that was turned down. Zrebiec tweeted that the Ravens did not make another offer before the start of free agency.

Quick Hits

  • On The Rich Eisen Show, Ray Lewis said he "never even thought about leaving when it came to free agency."

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