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Lamar Jackson has been an unanimous MVP winner, defeated Patrick Mahomes, and won a playoff game, however, on Tuesday afternoon, a non-exclusive franchise tag was placed on the electrifyingly elusive quarterback.
The Baltimore Ravens made the move official by using the tag just before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline. Baltimore and Jackson, who is representing himself along with his mother, have been unable to reach a long-term deal since he became eligible for a contract extension over two years ago.
Sources told ESPN that Jackson wants a fully guaranteed deal like the one accepted by Deshaun Watson last year by the Cleveland Browns, which guaranteed $230 million.
Jackson was offered a multi-year contract by the Ravens last off-season, however, he turned the deal down, which was said to be worth less than Watson’s. It is reported Jackson is currently seeking to become the highest paid player in the NFL.
As Baltimore dangles its future by The Wire, Lamar Jackson may be a Raven nevermore
Jackson’s rare ability to dazzle audiences and defeat opponents has quickly made him a favorite not only in Baltimore, but around the entire league.
Though an NFL quarterback representing themselves is admittedly atypical, it is difficult to believe any other White quarterback, given the same on-field achievements, would have to leap through the same hoops as the acrobatic Jackson.
Across social media speculation continues to swirl about Jackson’s future, given he’s arguably the best quarterback currently not signed to a long-term deal.
In the NFL, “distraction” double standards are Black & White
In the last two NFL seasons, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers openly flaunted his political beliefs, behaved adversarial toward the media and Packers front office, regularly blamed teammates in-game, and openly discussed consuming psychedelics on a podcast unaffiliated with his team. Yet, somehow none of that stopped the New York Jets from flying to California to meet with Rodgers on Tuesday in hopes of landing the flighty QB.
In comparison, Jackson refused to talk about contract negotiations throughout the last season in order to limit distractions and focus solely on the team.
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen signed a lucrative extension, which kicked in after the 2022-23 season. According to BET MGM, the six-year contract will pay Allen $258 million, which includes $150 million guaranteed and an average salary of slightly more than $43 million per season.
Neither Allen nor Jackson have advanced to the Super Bowl, however, Josh was presented with a contract well before the midnight hour. Allen has also yet to win MVP, let alone unanimously.
While Jackson’s impact on winning was clearly felt during a knee injury which kept him sidelined for weeks last season, as of Tuesday afternoon, the nonexclusive tag means Jackson can now engage in contract talks with other teams.
If he signs an offer sheet with another team, Baltimore has the right to match the offer to keep him or take two first-round picks as compensation.
According to ESPN, the nonexclusive tag — which will pay Jackson $32 million this season — is less expensive than the exclusive one (projected at $45 million), which would have allowed the Ravens to control his rights this year.
The NFL’s history says a lot about its present
The good ol’ boys culture of the NFL has historically allowed owners and coaches to prohibit “certain types” of Black quarterbacks in recent decades, but before that, the league banned Black players altogether in its early inception.
The recently deceased Jerry Richardson once asked newly drafted Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton, “Did you get crazy after the draft and go out and get any tattoos or piercings?”, according to an article in the Charlotte Observer. “Do I have to check you for anything?”
Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian once said Lamar Jackson was better suited to be a wide receiver in the NFL than a quarterback, furthering the antiquated stereotype that Black athletes are better instinctual performers rather than methodical thinkers.
Though Jackson is credentialed beyond comparison without any public scandal to date, on Tuesday afternoon five NFL teams reportedly passed on Action Jackson, one of which was the flailing Carolina Panthers.
Though Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year, $450 million contract during the 2020 offseason as the biggest contract by total value in NFL history, he is not Lamar Jackson.
Jackson walks and talks with a swagger unlike his other buttoned-up QB peers, and he has never attempted to “go along to get along” in order to garner celebrity access or commercial opportunities.
Because of his unapologetic appearance, effortless ebonics, and cemented stereotypes from people far outside of his hometown of Pompano Beach, Florida, some NFL teams will likely miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime superstar. However, their vehement rejection is the very reason Jackson supporters admire his uncompromising authenticity, which earned him ninth overall in NFL player merchandise sales in 2021.
After elevating a mediocre roster of talent in Baltimore for years, Jackson has often had to do more with less.
Considering he is 49-21 since entering the NFL in 2018, his 70% win rate proves the name on the back of his jersey can carry any team on the front.