On the first Sunday of the regular season, ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen reported that Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson rejected a contract offer that would have paid him $133 million fully guaranteed at signing. Very recently, ESPN analyst Ryan Clark reported the same thing.
Here’s what we said in September, since it still applies: “The reporting has some gaps that make a full assessment of the offer impossible. What would the first-year cash flow have been? How much of the contract would have been guaranteed for injury? How much of the injury guarantee would have converted to a full guarantee in March 2023, since there’s no way they would have cut him after only one year, given whatever they would have been paying him in 2022?”
It’s impossible to fully evaluate a deal without knowing the full value of it. Every payment, every guarantee, every vesting deadline, every incentive, every escalator, every de-escalator, every workout bonus, every roster bonus, every option bonus, every per-game roster bonus, and every other device by which money would flow from team to play.
It’s also irrelevant at this point. Circumstances have changed. Jackson’s rookie contract is over. He finished the season with an injury that caused him to miss more than a few games, for the second straight year.
Also, other long-term, big-money quarterback deals (such as the ones given to Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray) possibly have become cautionary tales.
Will the Ravens make the same offer now? Will they offer more? Will they offer less?
Are they content to let Lamar test the market under the non-exclusive franchise tag? Would they match someone else’s offer? Would they be willing to take a pair of first-round picks instead? Would they trade him for something less than two ones?
These are the important questions now. Hearing again (and likely again) that he was offered $133 million fully guaranteed at signing means nothing in isolation, and it means even less given the passage of time.
So unless Lamar or the NFL Players Association or the Ravens are willing to disclose the full contents of any offers that have been made, it’s impossible for anyone to call a deal good or bad, fair or unfair, satisfactory or unsatisfactory. While that won’t stop people from reporting incomplete facts about the negotiations, past or present, those who see the information should remember that there’s no way to judge the full deal without knowing (spoiler alert) the full deal.