What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
The Argument: The Baltimore Ravens’ level of interest in taking a long-term risk on Lamar Jackson is diminishing.
Now that the Baltimore Ravens season is over, let’s talk about the biggest decision that organization faces in the off-season. What are they going to with the Lamar Jackson contract situation?
There are some who can’t believe the Ravens haven’t locked up the former Heisman Trophy and NFL MVP winner. Before this season, Baltimore offered Jackson a six-year, $290 million deal which included $133 million in guaranteed money. Lamar Jackson opted for the “betting on himself” angle by turning down that deal.
Given the way both the Ravens’ and Jackson’s seasons ended, I’d say they came up “snake eyes.” If for no other reason, when a team offers their “franchise” quarterback nearly a third-of-a-billion dollars and he declines the deal, and that team does a limp-job just to get into the play-offs, that ‘s a “push” at best.
Let’s just cut through the crap here. You can turn on the device of your choosing and consume whichever level of bilge you want when it comes to sports media. But one thing they are consistently getting wrong is the real reason why the Baltimore Ravens aren’t ponying up on Lamar Jackson’s salary demands. It’s all about who has the most to lose.
Instead of looking at this logically, there’s a lot of blather about Ravens’ owner Steve Biscotti and his comments on how the Cleveland Browns guaranteeing so much money for Deshaun Watson was bad for business. Or, there’s a slew of speculation about how the Ravens’ just don’t want to spend the money. Frankly, nothing will make me less interested in an opinion than when it’s all about what somebody else’s decisions should be when it’s not their money.
Face it. That’s one thing the blow-hacks at places like the World-Wide Bottom Feeder known as ESPN can actually do. The armchair blow-hacks love to do it as well. That’s why you can feel free to toss in your own two cents on Baltimore’s apparent reluctance to drop millions on Lamar Jackson. The one thing the amateur general manager will have in common with the professional media sewage pump is they will invariably and completely miss the point.
The real reason for that miss is really rather simple; they aren’t looking at this logically. In all honesty, I understand how easy it is to get get lost in the fact that Lamar Jackson is a former league MVP, and he’s obviously a genuinely electrifying player. However, all that hides one undeniable fact,
Over the long-haul and for big, guaranteed money, he’s a bad risk.
The first problem is that guaranteed money. When you start talking about the $300 million neighborhood, this become less about a quarterback and more about a business partnership. One way to make a partnership volatile from the start is to make sure one part of that partnership has nothing to lose. The quarterback gets his no matter what, but what happens to the team if for whatever reason the deal goes south?
No matter how you slice it, $300 million has to come off the books somehow. More importantly, it has to fit under the NFL Salary Cap. The armchair GM’s love to ignore this, but that simply not an option (you can see all the gory details on salary cap implications here). The long story short here is that bad contracts can kill a team’s ability to build through free-agency. Why do you think the top of the NFL Draft is populated by a bunch of “usual suspects” who can’t figure this out?
Let’s say you’re one of those people who doesn’t want to be bothered with salary cap issues. Fine…try these “on the field” facts. Let’s talk about “running quarterbacks.”
To be even more specific, I don’t mean quarterbacks who leave the pocket for run-pass options or just good. old-fashioned rollouts. I’m talking about guys who by design carry the ball downfield like a running back.
For even more clarity, I’m also not talking about the guys who can run the ball, but are also tremendous pocket passers. Steve Young was a great runner early on, but up until the end of his NFL career he could stand in the pocket and fillet defenses all day long. Today’s equivalent is Josh Allen, who can make plays with his legs, but can also make throws no other quarterback in the league right now can.
FACT #1) “Running quarterbacks” don’t win.
Name one who has won a Super Bowl. Cam Newton is the only one who even got close.
FACT #2) “Running quarterbacks” don’t last.
As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I’ve had more than my fair share of “running quarterbacks.” The poster child is Randall Cunningham. Despite the fact he fits into my exclusion for guys who were also tremendous passers, there was no more better runner at the position up until Lamar Jackson. If Cunningham weren’t a gifted passer, his career would have been over after his blown-out knee in 1992.
Michael Vick would have never lasted for 13 seasons in the NFL if he didn’t have two years in the middle to heal up while he was in prison. Either way, both halves of his career were marked with injuries.
Vince Young ended his career as an Eagle in 2011, but for anybody paying attention, the career of the 2006 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year was effectively over in 2008 after a knee injury.
Now, there’s MVP candidate Jalen Hurts. He’s only on his second season as an NFL starter, but he’s got as many significant injuries.
Getting away from the Eagles, let’s go back to the aforementioned former MVP and 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton. Those early career awards and the fact that he was the one guy in this category who came the closest to hoisting a Lombardi Trophy make him the poster child for why NFL GM’s are always infatuated with guys like him…and also prove this fact. As of this writing, Cam Newton is 33 years old and his NFL career has already been over for a full season now. Out of the 32 NFL teams, 7 of them started the season with a quarterback 33 or older in 2022.
That’s almost 1 out of 4. That means longevity and experience matters in an NFL quarterback.
The harsh reality is Lamar Jackson is only 26 and already on his second leg injury which has caused him to miss significant playing time. Keep that in mind as you consider…
FACT #3) “Running quarterbacks” give up most of the league’s protection.
Here’s the coup de grâce. The NFL bends over backwards to protect quarterbacks, and the vast majority of that protection comes in the pocket. Every football fan in America knows this, and can likely cite at least one example of their favorite team getting hosed and/or benefitting from a “roughing the passer” penalty that stemmed from the league’s nannying of quarterbacks.
In the pocket, defensive players are not allowed to hit quarterbacks high, they’re not allowed to hit quarterbacks low, and they’re not allowed to hit quarterbacks more two nanoseconds after the ball has been thrown. Worse yet, NFL refs are trained to throw the flag whenever there’s even the slightest doubt if something should be a penalty in this area.
But all those protections come in the pocket. That means guys who by design become ball-carriers and give up those protections only increase their chances of getting hurt. Football is a rough game; players including protected quarterbacks get hurt all the time. Of all the teams that made the playoffs in 2022, how many got all 17 starts out of their QB1? 5 out of 14. Those odds carry across the rest of the league; in other words if you are an NFL GM, the odds are dangerously close to 50-50 your #1 quarterback is going to get hurt.
That means signing a quarterback and putting that quarterback on the field is an exercise in risk management. There are certainly no guarantees when it comes to injuries. But guys like Tom Brady and Drew Brees suffered inquires in the early parts of their careers; injuries which probably would have been career-changing if not career-ending were they “running quarterbacks.” Being a pocket passer means not having to rely on your time in the 40-yard dash to keep playing plus there’s all those aforementioned protections enjoyed by quarterbacks in the pocket.
Here’s the bottom line. For all his athletic abilities, Lamar Jackson is not a top-flight passer. Even his most ardent supporters describe his passing game with terms like “making improvements” or “shows all the signs of untapped potential.” The problem with “untapped potential” is there always a risk it never gets tapped.
See, there’s that pesky term “risk” again.
Adding that risk to all the others I’ve already mentioned means that in a game where there’s no guarantees, the idea of guaranteeing $300 million to a guy who is already showing the signs of the being the next “running quarterback” whose career gets cut short because he exacerbates all the risks is in and of itself a bad risk.
In short, I wouldn’t put my money on it.
Change my mind.
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I disagree that Jackson can’t pass the ball. When given the time, and the wide receiver corps that he really hasn’t had, he can shred with the best of them.
That being said, no one would ever consider him a pocket passer because he’s quick as hell to make a run for it when that thing collapses. And he still can, for now.
The history with Lamar and the Ravens goes pretty deep. He was the guy they pegged all along in that draft. He was the one they wanted. He was the player they designed their entire team around. He is, their guy.
Now that it’s pony up time, they have a decision to make. And you’re dead-on, balls accurate. Throw into the mix that Lamar’s agent is, I believe, still his mom and who’s going to have your best interest at stake more than that. I’m surprised she hasn’t gone in and slapped ownership upside the head already.
Drew Rosenhaus would have sold this kid to the wolves for a quick buck but throw in the fact that family is going to ensure Lamar gets the very best deal and we have the Ravens in quandary.
If they lock up Lamar, and he blows out his knee the first year of the deal or is unable to finish a season as we’ve seen from him pretty much the last two, then the franchise is handcuffed for the length of the contract.
Football’s a gamble, kid. Personally, I think this team, while leery to sign the deal, will get it done. He’s meant too much to the franchise.
They might end up regretting it. But at least they’ll be able to go to bed at night with a clean conscience, which is more than can be said for 31 other NFL teams.
This is all dead-on stuff as well, with one exception. I didn’t say he can’t pass. I said he’s not a great passer. Stat me all you want, but the fact remains he’s not good enough in the pocket to come back from down two scores in a play-off game. We’ve seen that more than once.
Here’s what’s going to happen. The Ravens will end up franchise tagging Jackson for somewhere around $35 million for one year…which will be that proverbial “prove it” deal. Then we get to have this debate again next year…unless his legs are in worse shape than anybody is admitting (which has a real shot at being true.)
In light of Allen’s Bills beatdown, I’ll have my thoughts on the “running quarterback” up shortly at that blog site around the corner.
Oh, and Jackson’s passing touchdowns the last four years? 36, 26, 16 and 17 respectively.
Well…hanging what happened to the Bills last night on Josh Allen is only partially fair. Sure, he clocked out about the middle of the second quarter, but by then it was obvious to me Buffalo wasn’t going to win. As long as you’ve known me, you know that I preach three things when it comes to team that win in playoffs:
1) Control the line of scrimmage.
2) Be able to run the ball between the tackles
3) Get 1st downs when you need them.
It was clear by the middle of the 1st quarter than Buffalo had no ability to do any of those things. Frankly, #2 has been their chronic flaw…which is exactly why you can’t let your running game rely on your quarterback. Yes, Josh Allen did a fold-job, but he wasn’t on the Bills defense which was getting shoved all over the field by a Bengal offensive line comprised of three back-ups.
I knew you might throw stats at me, but the ones you cite are the cardinal sign of what’s going to happen with Jackson. The law of diminishing returns is in play. and it’s what drove what happened Everybody ooohed and ahhhed at Newton’s MVP season, then we all watched the injury-driven decline.
Oh…I almost forgot. Did you catch Patrick Mahomes’ demonstration on Saturday about how this league is constructed for pocket-passers?
I did not. Do share please.
See the 2nde half of the Jags game he played on one ankle.
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