Patrick Mahomes getting paid now could benefit Lamar Jackson down the road
Just when we thought the dead period of the NFL offseason just before training camps open up at the end of the month was set to begin, the football and sports world got some jolts of exciting content in the form or pair of new contracts for a pair of former league MVPs.
First was the announcement of former Carolina Panther and 2015 league MVP Cam Newton signing with the once thought to be downtrodden New England Patriots to come in and compete to fill the massive void left by Tom Brady who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.
As great as that has been to hear and talk about for the last week, sports talk shows will be breaking down and discussing the ripples and ramifications of the blockbuster deal that reigning Superbowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs signed their franchise quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, to on Monday afternoon.
They inked the MVP of the 2018 season and Superbowl 54 to a record-setting 10-year contract worth a whopping $503 million with $477 guarantee escalators which gives Mahomes the ability to have outs if the mechanisms are not exercised, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.
It is the richest deal in not only NFL but in sports history which shouldn’t be that surprising considering the blazing start that Chiefs’ star signal-caller has had to his career compounded by the ever-growing salary demands of his the position that he plays which is the most important in all of the sports, the quarterback.
What does any of this have to do with the Baltimore Ravens and how will it benefit them, in the long run, you might be asking right now? Let me explain
The Ravens have their own generational talent at the position in Lamar Jackson who is coming off arguably the best individual overall season from a quarterback in league history. He electrified both the NFL and sports landscapes and galvanized a franchise and city that had started to become viewed as an afterthought in the realm of championship contenders before his ascension into the starter midway through his rookie season.
In just his first full season as the starter, Jackson became just the second-ever player voted league MVP unanimously, a feat not even Mahomes achieved in his MVP season, after leading the league in passing touchdowns with 36 and finishing sixth in the league in rushing yards with 1,206 which also broke the single-season record for the position. He spearheaded a revolutionary run-based offense that broke records and finished with and league-best and franchise-best 14-2 regular-season record.
The Ravens appeared poised for a deep run in the postseason prior to their stunning upset loss at the hands of the Tennessee Titans where Jackson didn’t play his best game but was the only reason that the Ravens had a shot late. Heading into the playoffs and throughout the regular season while Mahomes was battling injuries Jackson was challenging him for the mantle of the face and future of the league as he redefined the quarterback position as a whole with his dynamic dual-threat skill set.
This year’s Ravens team appears even more loaded with talent than last year’s squad with the return of several young cornerstone players as well as the addition of some incredible veteran and rookie talent. Baltimore has Jackson under contract for the next three years, assuming they exercise his fifth-year option, which means they have him locked up through the 2022 season.
While the contract talks between the Dallas Cowboys and their franchise-tagged quarterback Dak Prescott have dominated headlines this offseason, the Mahomes signing takes the cake and is the new gold standard for which all other players at the position will be shooting for but won’t have a strong enough argument to warrant that high of an annual salary. The ripple effect from this deal on the quarterback market going forward has the potential to be game-changing and beneficial to teams like the Ravens and so many others who have young ascending talent at the position.
The going rate for a franchise and upper echelon to stopgap starters has risen exponentially over the last decade with the market getting reset seemingly every year by the ‘next man up’ for a new contract that is slated to hit the open market even if their play doesn’t reflect or warrant being paid such a huge figure. The thought or potential nightmare of having uncertainty and instability at the most vital position has forced given these players and their representatives most of the leverage in contract talks and has forced them to overpay for average to slight a tick above average players to be their main man under center.
However, Mahomes’ contract could stop the rapid proliferation of quarterback salaries that has gotten out of hand ever since the Ravens signed Joe Flacco to a record-setting contract following a sensational postseason in 2012 that he capped off with a Superbowl victory in 2012. His was the first domino to fall set off a chain reaction that has resulted in career backups like Chase Daniels and Mike Glennon to get inked to deals that pay them over $10 million annually.
The Ravens’ hesitancy and procrastination in paying Flacco who was ‘average Joe’ in the regular season but channeled his inner Joe Montana in the postseason wound up hamstringing them financially as soon as the ink dried because they struggled to retain many of the homegrown players that could’ve helped them make it back to the mountain top.
Unlike with Flacco, they have a transcendent talent at the position with Jackson who might have the only and strongest leg to stand on when it comes to matching or surpassing Mahomes’ deal when his time to get paid comes. However, Jackson doesn’t strike me as the type that desires to break the bank or become the highest-paid player in sports history. He seems more like the type that wants to be the most memorable and venerated player in sports history that is known more for their historic feats in their respective arena rather than how much money he made over the course of his career.
He respects and admires Tom Brady and even said that he wants to be for the Ravens what Brady was for the Patriots in the sense that he wants to build a dynasty by winning multiple Superbowls. In order to do that he’ll have to accept less than market value and settle in on an annual salary slightly below or significantly lower than Mahomes if he wishes to keep the band together for as long as they can.
Brady finally broke the bank this offseason after two decades of taking one hometown discount after another because he knew that the more pieces of the salary cap pie that was set aside for him meant that there would be less to construct and maintain the championship ready rosters that he guided to a record nine Superbowl appearances and six victories.
With his triumph over the San Francisco 49ers back in February, Mahomes became the first quarterback in NFL history to win a league MVP and a Superbowl title before the age of 25. Jackson is only 23 years old and doesn’t turn 25 until January of 2022 so if the Ravens take care of business and reach the pinnacle of football, he’ll join his rival as the second.
In theory, if the rest of the league accepts and is content with the fact that no quarterback deserves to be paid more or even on par with Mahomes until they have achieved what he has achieved in a similar time frame and their own unique fashion, then there won’t be another rapid spike in annual salary for the position for at least a decade as long as he stays healthy and on his current trajectory.
Jackson appears to be on a similar path of success early in his career minus the playoff wins as of right now and he is doing in a way that no other quarterback, not even Mahomes nor his childhood idol Michael Vick has been able to do at the NFL level with the damage that he can inflict on defenses both his arm and legs. He’ll be eligible to negotiate and sign a new contract after this upcoming season has concluded and if he does indeed deliver on his draft day promise of bringing a Superbowl to Baltimore then the Mahomes’ mega-deal will like to be the benchmark that they could work off of but not try to blow out of the water.
The only wrench that could be thrown into this ideal situation to keep quarterback salaries in check is until the next truly transcendent talent of the next generation comes along is if a team does the incredibly irresponsible and rewards their franchise quarterback with an even bigger contract. It wouldn’t necessarily have to match Mahomes’ deal in length but if it matched or toped it in terms of average annual salary on a shorter deal, it would be just as insane.
Two such teams that have young polarizing talents at the position up for new deals in the next year or two both reside in lone star state in the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans. The Cowboys have been on record over the years stating that they don’t want to be market setters or reward players that holdout with new contracts but time and time again the Jones family ultimately caves in and Dak Prescott is the next man up.
As for the Texans, their head coach is also their general manager and fails to grasp the concept of the value and whose lack of a front office inclined brain results in his players gaining all of the leverage and naming an astronomical asking price like the one that offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil got this offseason that blew the roof off the of the market price for his position and put the Ravens in a possibly precarious position in their ongoing contract negations with their All-Pro tackle Ronnie Stanley who set to became an unrestricted free agent after this season and could garner the highest paying nonquarterback contract in the league. They have the contract of two-time Pro Bowler DeShaun Watson looming very soon and given Bill Obrien’s propensity for grossly overpaying players at pivotal positions, they’re the perfect candidate to upset the new applecart.
Heading into his second season at the helm of the Ravens’ front office in the role of general manager, Eric DeCosta has already shown the aggressiveness and foresight to lock up several key young starters and contributors before they are slated to hit the open market in an effort to stay out of a bidding war while they were waiting to get Flacco’s contract off the books and free up some much-needed cap space. Extensions are always the smarter approach compared to inking a whole new deal because it smooths and spreads out the cap charge of the players deal over several years lowers the annual salary to a more manageable number via signing bonuses and other mechanisms.
Mahomes signed a new deal coming off his third season with two left in his rookie deal, making it a 12-year commitment and frees up some immediate cap space to extend some of the other top talents in their roster like Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones. DeCosta might try to iron out something similar to Jackson who is heading into his third season so that they’ll be able to hold on to guys like Stanley and fellow Pro Bowlers Matthew Judon and Marlon Humphrey who contract addressed soon as well.
One thing is for sure, while the Chiefs signing Mahomes to a new deal means that he’ll likely be Jackson’s top rival for supremacy in the AFC for years to come, it also helps the Ravens and the 30 other teams around the league finally draw a line in the quarterback salary sand that shouldn’t be crossed anytime soon.