OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson officially signed his five-year, $260 million contract Thursday, setting NFL records for signing bonus, three-year cash flow and average per season.
But Jackson revealed he has a more ambitious number in mind in this revamped Ravens offense.
“I want to throw for like 6,000 yards with the weapons we have,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I’m not an individual award-type guy or a stat watcher. I just want to do that because no one has ever done it and I feel like we have the weapons to do it.”
Jackson has never surpassed 3,200 yards passing in a season, but he’s clearly excited about Baltimore building the strongest wide receiver group of his career. The Ravens signed Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor in free agency and then drafted Zay Flowers with the No. 22 overall pick.
The final step for the Ravens’ passing attack was signing Jackson long term. According to a source, he set league highs in signing bonus ($72.5 million), most money in the first three years of a deal ($156 million) and average per season ($52 million). Jackson also received no-franchise-tag and no-trade clauses, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
The deal wrapped up 27 months of challenging negotiations between the Ravens and Jackson, who didn’t have an agent and represented himself. Jackson declined to talk about the trade request he made to Baltimore in early March, saying he wants to focus on following through on his draft-day promise to deliver a championship to the Ravens.
“I didn’t really care for other teams, I wanted to be here. I want to be a Raven,” Jackson said. “I said something in 2018 and I meant that. I wanted to get this done before my time [is] up and [I] branch off somewhere else. I really want to finish my career here and win a Super Bowl here.”
Jackson had long sought to exceed the $230 million in guaranteed money that quarterback Deshaun Watson received from the Cleveland Browns last year, according to sources. But the Ravens insisted Watson’s deal was an outlier and not a precedent.
A source said Jalen Hurts‘ deal, which included $179.5 million guaranteed, reinforced the market value for quarterbacks. There was also the possibility of Baltimore drafting a quarterback in the first round, which presumably would have ended contract talks with Jackson.
So, two days before the draft last week, Jackson texted Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta that he liked the language in the Ravens’ last contract proposal and thought they could get a deal done.
“I absolutely wanted to get it done because I was just tired of going back and forth about it,” Jackson said. “We’ve been doing it for years, but it was like the time had come. The numbers were right, and we were all satisfied.”
Jackson, 26, turned around the Ravens after he was the last pick of the first round in the 2018 draft, leading Baltimore to the playoffs in his first three seasons. He was the unanimous selection for NFL MVP in 2019, when he led the league in touchdown passes (36) and set the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback (1,206).
His career record of 45-16 (.738) is the fourth-best of any starting quarterback to debut in the Super Bowl era. Baltimore was 8-13 (.381) without him over the past five seasons.
While Ravens officials repeatedly remained optimistic that they would sign Jackson, they acknowledged the negotiations weighed heavily on the franchise.
“There was some dark days,” DeCosta said. “I mean I’m not going to lie to you and say every day was great, it’s been a long stretch. But we know Lamar, we know the kind of person he is and he’s a phenomenal football player. But you don’t make a phenomenal football player the highest-paid player in the league. You make a phenomenal football player who’s also a phenomenal person the highest-paid player in the league. And so, we had a lot of conviction that this was the right thing to do.”
DeCosta complimented Jackson in how he represented himself in negotiations, calling him “patient, demanding, honest and straightforward.” But there were extended periods when the sides didn’t talk.
“It wasn’t always easy,” DeCosta said. “I’d rather deal with Lamar Jackson the player, I think, but in the end, it was just Lamar and I talking, texting, emailing each other trying to get a deal done.”
Jackson is signed through 2027, but the sides might have to renegotiate the deal after the 2025 season when his salary-cap figures jump to $74.5 million. He plans to continue to represent himself in the future.
“I wouldn’t put my trust in anyone else but myself,” Jackson said.
Jackson still has more to achieve. He’s 1-3 in the playoffs, and he has regressed as a passer the past two seasons (33 touchdowns and 20 interceptions). Jackson has also missed 10 of Baltimore’s past 22 games because of injury, although he said he’s fully recovered from his season-ending knee injury as of a month ago.
But, after signing his record deal, he felt a sense of accomplishment in going from a highly scrutinized quarterback prospect in 2018 to the NFL’s highest-paid player today.
“That’s just proving myself right,” Jackson said. “It’s about believing in yourself at the end of the day. No matter what I went through, no matter when it looked like my back was against the wall, when people were doubting me even more than before, I just kept my faith with him and now we’re here.”