Late for Work 12/2: Pundit Says Lamar Jackson Has Already Earned His Contract Extension

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QB Lamar Jackson

Pundit Says Lamar Jackson Has Earned Contract Extension

Perhaps due to Lamar Jackson's uncharacteristically uneven play in recent weeks and career-high four interceptions Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, a reader asked Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer if he thinks the Ravens will extend Jackson and whether he's worth it.

"Yes, I think the Ravens will pay him after the season and pay him near the top of the quarterback market, and I think Jackson's earned it," Breer wrote.

It seems absurd to suggest the Ravens wouldn't pay a 24-year-old generational talent who already has a unanimous league MVP award on his resume, but as we all know, Jackson often gets held to a different standard than other star quarterbacks.

Jackson has a higher winning percentage, completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio than fellow 2018 first-round pick Josh Allen, who signed a six-year extension worth a reported $258 million with the Buffalo Bills in the offseason.

Those who are unsure about whether the Ravens should sign Jackson to a long-term deal often question if he'll be able to hold up physically because of how often he runs.

Breer pointed out that Jackson has only missed three games in his NFL career — two because of illness and one because the Ravens were resting him after they had locked up the No. 1 seed.

"So at this point, he's missed zero games due to wear-and-tear," Breer wrote. "That, of course, doesn't mean he'll hold up this way forever. But he's got great ability to avoid taking clean shots from defenders (an ability that kept the great Barry Sanders going into his second decade as an NFL player), and he's evolving as a passer to where you'd think he, and the Ravens, may progressively lean a little less on him as a runner over time."

As to whether Jackson deserves to be one of the highest-paid players in the sport, Breer said Jackson's value to the team has never been more apparent than this season.

"The Ravens have lost their starting left tackle and their top two running backs, and worked through a long list of injuries in their receiver room earlier in the year, and Jackson's the guy that's held the whole operation together," Breer wrote. "How's it worked out? Baltimore is fourth in the NFL in total offense and second in rush offense, and holds the AFC's No. 1 seed.

"So yes, he's worth it. Especially since, beyond the on-field value, he represents just about everything John Harbaugh, Eric DeCosta and all the guys in Baltimore want in their players. You can feel good about paying him."

Components Are in Place for Ravens' Offense to Surge Like It Did in 2020

Over the past three games, the Ravens' offense has averaged 14 points and 302 yards. However, there's reason to believe the unit is about to get back on track.

The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer noted that the Ravens' offense was in a similar state at this point last season surging.

"On Dec. 2, 2020, a unit crippled by the coronavirus — quarterback Lamar Jackson's absence, especially — finished with 219 total yards in a Wednesday afternoon loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers," Shaffer wrote. "A week before that, a more representative Ravens attack had settled for field goal after field goal against a depleted Tennessee Titans defense in an overtime loss. A week before that, the Ravens had averaged a season-low 4.2 yards per play against the Indianapolis Colts in a gutsy win.

"But in Week 13, Jackson returned, and the running game revved up, and the winning didn't stop until over a month later. Over a six-game streak, including a wild-card-round victory over the Titans, the Ravens averaged 425.6 yards and 34.3 points per game. So for as much as the team's offense has struggled in recent weeks, the lows of 2021 have not quite reached the lows of 2020. Which means the highs of the Ravens' next six weeks might yet eclipse those of last year's surge, too."

Shaffer listed several reasons for optimism about the Ravens' offense, including the fact that there are no "defensive juggernauts" on the team's remaining schedule; the Ravens have had a recent stretch of improved first-down totals and time of possession; and the unit is getting healthier.

"The component pieces are there for [Offensive Coordinator Greg] Roman and Harbaugh; they just need to come together," Shaffer wrote. "As Jackson described the experience of watching his four interceptions against Cleveland, he seemed not to recognize the player he saw on film. That's what this week's practices would be for: rediscovery and rejuvenation."

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio: Patrick Queen's Play Sunday Night Was Ray Lewis-Like

Despite the offense's struggles, the Ravens have won two of their past three games thanks in large part to improved play on defense.

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio said on Glenn Clark Radio that he believes Ravens' defense is strong enough to carry the team when the offense sputters. Paolantonio, who called the Ravens-Browns game Sunday night for ESPN Radio, was especially impressed with linebacker Patrick Queen.

"Patrick Queen turned in one of the most courageous performances [Sunday night] that I've seen this year or in recent times," Paolantonio said. "Coming out with that rib injury, doubled over in pain. Then comes back onto the field and has a major impact on the outcome of the football game.

"How about him jumping the play on the Browns' first drive? It was a la Ray Lewis."

Mark Andrews Inspires 10-Year-Old Boy With Type 1 Diabetes

Mark Andrews is making as big an impact off the field as he is on it. The Pro Bowl tight end, who has been a Type 1 diabetic since childhood, is inspiring others diagnosed with the chronic condition at a young age.

"Type 1 diabetes is a 24/7 fight, and for a young kid to see someone performing at the highest level, I think that's encouraging," Andrews told ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "That's a big moment."

A 10-year-old named Rhys Kinney is one such youngster who has been inspired by Andrews. Kinney caught Andrews' attention by holding up a sign with purple lettering that read "T1D" as Andrews was walking off the field in Chicago on Nov. 21 after finishing pregame warmups.

Andrews gave Kinney a fist bump and told him: "Anything you want to do is possible."

"Rhys and [his father] Brett reached out to the Ravens a few weeks before they traveled to the road game against the Bears, and they soon received a letter," Hensley wrote. "Andrews wrote to Rhys and explained diabetes made him the person he is today, and that he should view the disease as a benefit, not a hindrance. Andrews said he was forced to grow up very quickly because of his condition. At an early age, he learned how to count the carbs he would consume and calculate the correct insulin dosage he would inject into his body. Andrews said it pushed him to respect his body and his health.

"Rhys was determined to meet Andrews in Chicago, and the Ravens told the Kinneys the best way to make it happen was to make a sign. So Rhys went to work. The sign had 'T1D' on one side and 'Mark 89 Andrews' on the other. To make sure Rhys, wearing his Andrews jersey, was perfectly positioned, his father got tickets by the tunnel where Ravens players entered and left the field."

After the game, Andrews gave Kinney his gloves.

"The amount of kindness that Mark showed my family, and the effect that he had on my son cannot be overemphasized," Brett Kinney said. "He really changed my son's life. He'll remember this forever."

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