Is Injury Risk a Factor in Lamar Jackson Contract Negotiations?
Even though Lamar Jackson has never missed a game with the Ravens due to injury (he couldn't play in one game last year because he had COVID-19), and only missed one game in three years at Louisville, the question of whether he can stay healthy is often raised because of his style of play.
With a contract extension in the works for the Ravens quarterback, is injury risk a factor?
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer believes it is. Of the three quarterbacks from the 2018 draft class who are extension candidates — Jackson, Buffalo's Josh Allen and Cleveland's Baker Mayfield — Breer predicted Allen will end up with the largest contract, followed by Jackson and then Mayfield.
"My feeling is that the Bills are most solid on Allen being a better player in five years than he is right now, and Allen was an MVP candidate, so I think he gets a standard top-of-the-market quarterback deal ($40 million-plus per)," Breer wrote. "With Jackson, just because of the injury risk related to how he plays, the Ravens will seek to protect themselves. And I think Cleveland will be measured in doing a deal with Mayfield's camp."
The Ravens have made it clear that they want Jackson to be their quarterback for years to come, and it was reported a couple weeks ago that negotiations are going smoothly.
As for the injury factor, Jackson has been more durable than Houston's Deshaun Watson, who signed a four-year, $156 million extension last year.
Which of the three quarterbacks is the first to complete a deal and the fact that Jackson does not have a traditional agent will likely affect how the dominoes fall, Breer wrote.
"If Jackson goes first, without a traditional agent, he'll either set the bar for the other two, or be dismissed by the others because he's going at this unconventionally," Breer wrote. "If Mayfield goes first, his deal will likely be framed as the floor for the other two, since they've accomplished more. And if Allen goes first, then it might simplify the other negotiations."
Five Most Intriguing Ravens for 2021
The Baltimore Sun named the 10 most intriguing people in the Ravens organization for 2021. Here are some excerpts on the top five:
C Bradley Bozeman
"He started all 16 games for a second straight year and was one of two linemen (the departed Orlando Brown Jr. being the other) who did not fall apart in the Ravens' playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills. Bozeman's days of anonymous competence are over, however, because the Ravens will ask him to provide an upgrade at center. … He'll be scrutinized, but if he does the job, he could make himself one of the Ravens' most important extension priorities, right behind Jackson and tight end Mark Andrews."
ILB Patrick Queen
"We did see Queen struggle to hold his ground in run defense and fall prey to the manipulations of veteran quarterbacks. We also saw him improve late in the season and use his speed to excellent effect as a playmaker in space. Year 2 will be big for him as he tries to build on the good from his rookie season while leaving youthful miscues behind."
RB J.K. Dobbins
"We go into 2021 knowing the Ravens will count on Dobbins and [Gus] Edwards as their running back tandem for the next several years, but they need Dobbins to round out his game by becoming a consistent pass-catching threat. It was a dimension Ingram gave them in 2019 that they lacked in 2020. Not since Rice have they had a real all-around star at the position. Dobbins has the tools to get there."
DT Justin Madubuike
"With his quickness off the ball, he could become the interior pass rusher the Ravens have lacked in recent seasons. He's not a mountain who will swallow multiple blockers a la Brandon Williams; he's a playmaker. Veteran teammates Derek Wolfe and Calais Campbell have predicted a big leap from Madubuike in 2021. The Ravens need that kind of breakout from him as they look to the future of a position group dominated by graybeards."
CB Marlon Humphrey
"The intrigue with Humphrey has little to do with his play, which we know will be excellent whether he lines up outside or in the slot. It's about him becoming the central figure around whom the defense is built, spiritually and schematically. Defensive leaders — from [C.J.] Mosley to Terrell Suggs to Eric Weddle to Matthew Judon — have filed out the door in recent years. Though a few veteran stars remain, Humphrey is the guy who's expected to be here in five years and eventually join [Ray]Lewis and Ed Reed in the Ring of Honor. He's acknowledged this responsibility, and it will be fascinating to watch him take it on."
Andrews Is No. 4 in ESPN's Tight End Rankings
Andrews has been one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL over the past two seasons, and talent evaluators and his peers have taken notice.
He was ranked the No. 4 tight end in the league in an ESPN survey of more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players. That's two spots higher than he was on last year's survey.
"He's got that big catch radius that just swallows up the ball," an NFC exec said. "He's a primary option. Was not a good blocker coming out, but he can be competitive there. He's at least improved."
Andrews, whose 17 touchdowns the past two seasons is first among tight ends, had 37 first-down catches in 2020, while 17.2% of his receptions went for 20-plus yards, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Andrews trailed only San Francisco's George Kittle, Kansas City's Travis Kelce and Las Vegas' Darren Waller in the rankings. Interestingly, Andrews was ranked as high as No. 1 and as low as No. 11.
Jackson and John Harbaugh Ranked Among Top 5 QB/Head Coach Duos
Speaking of rankings, Jackson and Head Coach John Harbaugh are No. 5 on CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr's list of the best quarterback/head coaches duos for 2021.
"Both Jackson and Harbaugh have accomplished so much in just under two-and-a-half seasons [together] that it makes the pair one of the best in the league," Kerr wrote. "Harbaugh and Jackson can easily crack the top three on this list with a postseason run. We're still waiting for them to take the next step in a competitive AFC."
Kerr noted that Jackson's 30 wins since Week 11 of the 2018 season are the most among all NFL starting quarterbacks in the span, and he is also the fastest quarterback in league history to reach 30 regular-season victories (accomplishing the feat in just 37 starts).
"Harbaugh deserves plenty of credit for his development," Kerr wrote. "Harbaugh is 140-86 (.620 win percentage) in his career, becoming just one of 10 head coaches in NFL history to make the postseason nine times in his first 13 NFL seasons. His eight playoff wins on the road are the most in NFL history (which he accomplished last season). He also has won Super Bowl XLVII and is one of the best coaches in the game."
- Seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson told The Ringer that if he could steal one attribute from an NFL quarterback it would be Jackson's speed.
- Free-agent rusher Justin Houston has often been linked to the Ravens, but NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund said the Atlanta Falcons are the best fit for the veteran.