Jalen Hurts’ deal probably won’t mean a whole lot to the Lamar Jackson situation

As always when analyzing the ongoing contract stalemate between the Baltimore Ravens and star quarterback Lamar Jackson, it makes sense to add the caveat that there is plenty about the negotiations that we don’t know.

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has repeatedly declined to provide details of the team’s offers to Jackson, and there have been several over the past eight months with different structures. Jackson has rebuked on social media a few reports about what the Ravens have offered him, but his responses have not painted a clear picture of what kind of deal was on the table and what he’s actually seeking in a contract extension. His ironclad inner circle hasn’t divulged that information, either.

So what those not directly involved with the negotiations have is an incomplete view of the situation. That has led to two distinct camps forming: one that feels the Ravens have disrespected the former league MVP and not paid him what he’s worth, and the other that believes Jackson, who is representing himself, has botched the negotiations and already turned down offers that were fair and reasonable. In the ongoing argument between the factions, nuance is often ignored.

Meanwhile, other quarterback deals that have been signed over the past year continue to provide fodder for the two camps. The latest referendum of the situation came Monday when the Philadelphia Eagles agreed to a reported five-year, $255 million extension with quarterback Jalen Hurts, making him the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL in terms of average annual value. According to reports, Hurts’ new deal includes just over $179 million in guaranteed money.

Not long after the details of Hurts’ contract became public, the talk outside Philadelphia shifted to what this means for the other standout quarterbacks who are in line for extensions. That’s Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals, Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers and, of course, Jackson, whose contract stalemate with the Ravens has been one of the biggest stories in the NFL for months.

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It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison between the 26-year-old Jackson and the 24-year-old Hurts. A 2020 second-round pick, Hurts was entering the fourth and final year of his rookie deal. Because he was not taken in the first round, there was no fifth-year option at the Eagles’ disposal. Before Monday’s extension, Hurts was primed to make $4.2 million in base salary for the 2023 season.

Jackson, a first-round pick in 2018, played the 2022 season under the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. He was given the non-exclusive $32.4 million franchise tag earlier this offseason, but he’s yet to sign it or find a compromise with Baltimore on a potential contract extension.

In general, quarterback deals tend to impact other quarterback deals, with one getting done customarily providing a starting point for the next franchise quarterback negotiation. As folks are fond of saying, the market has now been set and deals for the next wave of star quarterbacks are only going up.

However, Monday’s development with Hurts may not impact the Jackson situation at all, at least from Jackson’s perspective. Jackson has indicated in the past that he’s not focused on what other quarterbacks have gotten. The Ravens being willing to better the deals that Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson signed last offseason certainly didn’t resonate with Jackson or an extension would have been done by now.

It does appear, though, that the Cleveland Browns’ five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million deal with Deshaun Watson, signed last March, matters to the Ravens star. Initially, the belief was Jackson was insisting on a fully guaranteed deal from the Ravens, who have had zero interest in accommodating that wish on a long-term scale. In recent months, though, there has been more talk about how Jackson just wants to eclipse the $230 million in guaranteed money that Watson received, even if his entire deal isn’t fully guaranteed.

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Either way, this Hurts deal doesn’t help his bargaining stance. Perhaps, Burrow or Herbert changes things, but each quarterback deal that follows that isn’t fully guaranteed makes it less likely that these types of deals are going to become commonplace anytime soon. Hurts’ deal not flirting with the $230 million guaranteed that Watson got also supports the Ravens’ stance that the Watson contract was an obvious outlier rather than a market-setting pact.

Maybe Jackson’s camp digests the Hurts deal, realizes the market for the quarterback has not been what anybody expected and decides that its best play is to get something done with Baltimore, even if that means making some compromises. That, however, would be a significant departure from how the Ravens dug in on these negotiations and steadfastly stuck to their beliefs on what Jackson is worth.

As it is, the one Ravens offer to Jackson that became public, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, was in September when the team offered the quarterback a five-year, $250 million extension that included $133 million guaranteed at signing, injury guarantees that upped the ante to $175 million and another “springing” guarantee that was worth an additional $25 million. That would have brought the total guarantees to $200 million, a number Jackson disputed. Schefter and Mortensen reported that they viewed a copy of the actual contract offer.

On the surface, the Ravens’ reported offer compares favorably to Hurts’ new deal. Hurts’ contract eclipsed the Jackson offer by $5 million in total value and by about $4 million in injury guarantees. However, Jackson could have had about $23 million more guaranteed at signing and potentially more in total guarantees. Any way you look at it, the deal that Hurts got and the one that Jackson turned down are similar.

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That fact should probably silence some of the talk that Baltimore lowballed Jackson and wasn’t interested in giving him top-of-the-quarterback-market money. It’s Jackson’s prerogative to want more and to be willing to play hardball in order to get it. It’s also not to say that Jackson shouldn’t want more money than Hurts. Timing, though, can mean everything.

Hurts is coming off a tour de force season in leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl. In the seven months since he turned down the offer from the Ravens, Jackson had a difficult 2022 season, starting off fast, going through some midseason struggles and then getting hurt and missing Baltimore’s most important games down the stretch for a second straight year. Because Jackson was assessed a non-exclusive franchise tag, he’s been allowed to shop his services around the league in an attempt to get the contract he seeks. His market has proved tepid at best, and there’s been no indication that an offer sheet from another team is forthcoming.

That hasn’t helped his bargaining stance with the Ravens — and Hurts’ deal probably won’t either.

(Photo: Courtney Culbreath / Getty Images)

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