It’s unclear whether the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson would have gotten a contract negotiated if the Browns hadn’t given quarterback Deshaun Watson a fully-guaranteed, $230 million, five-year deal. It’s fairly clear that the Watson contract played a huge role in keeping the Ravens and Jackson from getting something done.
It’s generally believed that Jackson wanted a fully-guaranteed contract, primarily since Watson got one. It’s not an unreasonable position for Jackson to take. He won a league MVP award. Watson didn’t. Jackson has been a model citizen for the Ravens away from the field. Watson, to put it mildly, has not. If Watson deserves five years with a full guarantee, Jackson does, too.
Conversely, it’s not unreasonable for the Ravens to refuse to do it. Subsequent contracts (such as the Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson deals) suggest that the Watson contract was an aberration. Indeed, the planets lined up perfectly for Watson. Off-field issues notwithstanding, he: (1) forced a trade from Houston; (2) managed to get four teams to the table in an effort to land his services; (3) eliminated the Browns from consideration after they’d burned the bridge with Baker Mayfield; and (4) witnessed a desperate Browns franchise make Watson an offer he couldn’t refuse, in the form of a fully-guaranteed deal.
Jackson, unless he jostles to be traded after the 2023 season, won’t be able to create the same kind of rush for his services. Even if he does, one of the teams pursuing him will have to be sufficiently desperate to offer the kind of contract that will trigger derision and disapproval from the rest of the league.