What Does Patrick Mahomes' Mega-Deal Mean for Ravens and Lamar Jackson?
It's often been said that Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes have been on a similar career arc, as both became Week 1 starters in their second seasons and won the league MVP award. Mahomes won the Super Bowl in his third season and many believe Jackson is capable of the same.
When Mahomes and the Chiefs agreed yesterday on a 10-year contract extension reportedly worth $503 million – the richest contract in sports history and one that will keep Mahomes in Kansas City for the next 12 seasons – the immediate question on the minds of Baltimore football fans was: What does this mean for Jackson and the Ravens?
The short answer is it's too early to tell.
As noted in yesterday's Late for Work, Jackson's current contract is arguably the best bargain in the NFL, as he enters the season as the 30th-highest paid quarterback. Obviously, that will change dramatically in the near future, but a time frame for working out a contract extension, how many years a new deal will be for, and how much it will cost all remains to be seen.
What Jackson does for an encore after his MVP season will likely be a major contributing factor.
"As far as how much Jackson will make, it's unjust to put him in the same ballpark as Mahomes at this time – the Chiefs passer has had arguably the best two years to begin his career as a starter of any quarterback in NFL history," NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux wrote. "But, if the Ravens quarterback follows up his incredible 2019 season with an even better 2020, Jackson certainly could have an argument to command a deal similar to the Chiefs' QB just agreed to."
Regarding when the Ravens would look to get a new deal done with Jackson, there are two schools of thought. One is to follow the example of the Chiefs (among others) and do it after Jackson's third season.
"For Jackson, next offseason is likely the time the quarterback will sign an extension, similarly to how Mahomes did on Monday," Cadeaux wrote. "In recent years, we've seen Jared Goff and Carson Wentz also sign lucrative extensions following their third professional season. But as the salary cap continues to change, and now with Mahomes' record deal, the reality is that Jackson's future contract numbers are a guessing game.
"Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson and Dallas Cowboys signal-caller Dak Prescott are both due for extensions, and each could happen before Jackson signs a new deal. Those future deals will likely only increase what Jackson, who has an already more impressive resume than both of them, can command."
Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler wrote: "This time next year the Ravens could feel pressure to follow the Chiefs. Kansas City just made precedent. No matter what the numbers add up to, the Chiefs have forever changed how top-level quarterbacks are paid early in their career. There will be ripples of this decision that impact other NFL teams and the Ravens are the only team who has a player even comparable to Mahomes.
"Getting the big deal out of the way does have some advantages. The Ravens don't have to get into contract negotiations now, but let's be honest, they aren't far away. It will be compelling to see how many years the Ravens offer to Jackson when they want to extend his contract. It will be the ultimate chance to put their money where their mouth is in regards to the sustainability of this offense."
On the other hand, the longer the Ravens continue to pay Jackson on his rookie contract, the more flexibility they have to surround him with quality talent.
"The Chiefs have their Lombardi Trophy already. The Ravens are still trying to get there with Jackson and there is plenty of incentive to be patient and take advantage of his rookie contract," Schisler wrote. "[General Manager Eric] DeCosta and [Head Coach] John Harbaugh have never been afraid to make their own path."
Stephen A. Smith Compares Jackson to Tim Tebow
While a number of pundits continue to compare Jackson to Mahomes, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith compared the Ravens quarterback to Tim Tebow.
When explaining why he doesn't believe Jackson is one of the top two quarterbacks in the NFL, Smith said: "There was a guy that ran the football very effectively. Matter of fact as a quarterback, [he] led a team to one of if not the top-rated running attacks in football. That would happen to be Tim Tebow when he was with the Denver Broncos. But what did I repeatedly say about [Tebow]? He couldn't throw the football on an NFL level."
Smith conceded that Jackson "improved exponentially" as a passer last season, when he led the league in touchdown passes and had a 66.1 completion percentage, but he still believes Jackson isn't on the same level as Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Watson and Drew Brees.
"I got Lamar Jackson in the top five," Smith said. "But 0-2 in the postseason, still having to throw the ball more effectively, all of those things come into play as a reason why I wouldn't give him the top two."
Where Jackson ranks among the elite quarterbacks in the league is debatable, but the "hot take" of comparing the second unanimous league MVP in history to Tebow is absurd.
For his three-year career, Tebow had a 47.9 completion percentage with 17 touchdown passes and nine interceptions in 361 attempts. Jackson has a 63.7 completion percentage with 42 touchdown passes and nine interceptions in 571 attempts.
As for Jackson being 0-2 in the playoffs, Smith's colleague, former Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, offered perspective.
"There are lots of quarterbacks that don't make it to the playoffs in their first two seasons," Foxworth said. "I understand that being critical of him for not getting to that next level in the playoffs is fair I guess, but I think we also need to accept how great he's been in a season and a half. It projects to be even better than those guys you mentioned."
Will the Ravens Keep Three Quarterbacks on 53-Man Roster?
Just because the Ravens having the reigning MVP at quarterback doesn't mean there isn't some intrigue surrounding the position.
Will Baltimore keep three quarterbacks on the roster for the third consecutive season? If they do, who will be the primary backup and who will be the odd man out?
Veteran Robert Griffin III is the clear favorite to again be the Ravens' No. 2 quarterback. Griffin, who is entering the final season of his deal with the Ravens, has made it clear that he still wants to be a starter somewhere, so the 30-year-old former No. 2-overall pick enters training camp with plenty of incentive to make a statement.
Trace McSorley earned a roster spot last season with a strong preseason at quarterback after being drafted in the sixth round out of Penn State. Tyler Huntley, who signed this offseason as an undrafted free agent, completed 73.1 percent of his passes last season at Utah for 3,092 yards with 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also ran for five touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
"[McSorley and Huntley] were standouts in college and carry the athleticism necessary to run an offense the Ravens designed for a mobile quarterback," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "Either one could push Griffin for the second-string job or at least secure a spot on the roster with an impressive showing in training camp, but the margin for error is slim. … It's just difficult at this point in the offseason to assume anyone beats out Griffin as a backup quarterback."
Kasinitz predicted that Griffin will win the No. 2 job and either McSorley or Huntley will be placed on the practice squad. The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, however, believes there's a strong chance the Ravens keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.
"The odds of the Ravens keeping three quarterbacks on their regular-season roster figure to have increased dramatically with the uncertainty involving COVID-19. It's a position that you can't be shorthanded at, not just for games, but also for practices," Zrebiec wrote. "If a quarterback tests positive, the last thing you'd want to have to do is sign a guy off the street or off another team's practice squad and have to teach him the offense on a tight timeframe.
"Keeping three on the active roster and another on the practice squad is probably the best-case scenario. It also would allow the Ravens to spend another year developing Trace McSorley or undrafted free agent Tyler Huntley. There's no guarantee that either of the quarterbacks would clear waivers although an abbreviated preseason would seemingly make it tough for a quarterback to get enough game reps to convince another team that he's worthy of a waiver claim and active roster spot."
Ravens' Offensive Line Is Ranked Fifth Best in NFL
Despite the retirement of eight-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, the Ravens still have one of the best offensive lines in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, which placed the unit at No. 5 in its offensive line rankings heading into the season.
The Ravens' high ranking is due in large part to the return of All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley and Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
"Stanley continued his progression, leading all tackles with a 92.8 pass-blocking grade while allowing only 10 pressures on 543 attempts," PFF's Steve Palazzolo wrote. "Stanley also ranked first in pass-blocking grade on true pass sets and had the lowest percentage of negatively graded plays in the run game. He has firmly established himself as one of the league's best.
"Brown isn't as nimble as Stanley, but he's gotten the job done since the Ravens drafted him in the third round in 2018. Brown engulfs linebackers and moves linemen at the point of attack."
- The Ravens were mentioned twice on CBS Sports' list of the top eight NFL rivalries of the 2000s. Ravens-Steelers was No. 2 and Ravens-Titans was No. 7.