The Washington Post

Watson’s guaranteed money complicate­s Jackson’s negotiatio­ns with the Ravens

- MARK MASKE

Lamar Jackson may or may not become the latest quarterbac­k to cash in this year with a megadeal of a contract extension.

The deadline for such an agreement between Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens may or may not be this weekend.

And the relevant precedent for Jackson’s contract may or may not be the fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract Deshaun Watson signed with the Browns in March in conjunctio­n with the trade that sent him from the Houston Texans to Cleveland.

Jackson’s negotiatio­ns with the Ravens represent one of the most significan­t subplots in the final days before the NFL’S regular season begins. The 2019 MVP is set to make just over $23 million this season under the Ravens’ fifth-year option in his rookie contract. He is eligible for unrestrict­ed free agency in the spring.

The Ravens could use the franchise player tag to retain Jackson, 25, beyond this season, but both sides would prefer the certainty and security of a longterm deal. The negotiatio­ns are complicate­d, however, by guaranteed money and by Jackson’s lack of an agent. Jackson has suggested he will cut off deliberati­ons by Sunday, when the Ravens open their season at the New York Jets.

There was pessimism Tuesday afternoon about the prospects of an extension being hammered out this week. One person familiar with the negotiatio­ns said it appeared likely that, barring a last-minute shift, Jackson would play this season under the one remaining year on his contract.

Watson’s fully guaranteed contract angered many team owners, especially given that the quarterbac­k faced allegation­s of sexual misconduct that led to him being suspended for the first 11 games of this season. “There are plenty of people in that room very unhappy about that contract,” a person familiar with the NFL’S inner workings said at an owners meeting last month in Bloomingto­n, Minn.

The two most recent major quarterbac­k deals have not been fully guaranteed. Kyler Murray’s five-year, $230.5 million extension with the Arizona Cardinals, completed in July, includes $160 million in guaranteed money. Last week’s five-year, $245 million extension for Russell Wilson with the Denver Broncos includes $165 million in guaranteed money.

That makes for some interestin­g decisions for Jackson. He represents himself in negotiatio­ns, with help from his mother and input from the NFL Players Associatio­n.

Jackson probably could land a deal with the Ravens in line with Murray’s and Wilson’s contracts. If he is adamant about getting a fully guaranteed contract, like Watson’s, he risks going into the season — and perhaps through the season — without a new deal. This week’s negotiatin­g deadline is artificial, of course. But without an agent involved, it might be wise for both sides to put negotiatio­ns aside during the season and focus on the on-field tasks at hand.

“My interactio­ns with Lamar have been all football,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said at a news conference Monday. “He’s been focused and locked in on that 100 percent from a football standpoint.”

The most interested observers of all of this might be Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers. They become eligible for contract extensions after this season.

Donald’s non-discipline

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is expected to be in the Los Angeles Rams’ lineup for the NFL’S season-opening game Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills in Inglewood, Calif. — even after his helmet-swinging participat­ion in a brawl with the Bengals during a joint practice last month.

The league left the decision on any disciplina­ry action to the Rams, based on the policy that teams — not the NFL — are responsibl­e for players’ behavior during practices, even joint practices. The Rams said they would handle the matter internally and declined further comment, never specifying whether the three-time NFL defensive player of the year was fined for his role in the incident. He was not suspended.

The episode will prompt the league and the NFLPA to rethink their handling of discipline based on players’ actions during joint practices. The NFL “absolutely” will consider taking control of that, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday, adding that the issue is “already on the winter agenda.” The league could include such incidents in the framework of discipline imposed for on-field actions during games. If that becomes the case, the NFL would determine any penalties, and players could appeal sanctions to one of the appeals officers appointed by the NFL and the NFLPA.

No Labor Day games

The NFL has opened its season with a Thursday night game since 2002. It has avoided playing games on Labor Day weekend for more than two decades, believing that the unofficial end to summer and the public’s vacation plans are not favorable to television viewership.

Now that the NFL has adopted a 17-game regular season and shortened the preseason to three games per team, there is a longer break between teams’ preseason finales and regular season openers. But asked whether there are any thoughts of returning to scheduling even a game or two on Labor Day weekend, one person familiar with the NFL’S planning said, “None.”

Covid issues

Coronaviru­s concerns are far from prominent for the NFL as the season arrives. The protocols that the league and union implemente­d over the previous two seasons have been suspended since March. But it’s worth keeping in mind that symptomati­c players, coaches and team staffers remain subject to testing and five-day isolation periods for positive results. Murray, Minnesota Vikings quarterbac­k Kirk Cousins and Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll missed time during training camp and the preseason following positive tests.

Garoppolo’s deal

Yes, quarterbac­k Jimmy Garoppolo’s reworked contract cleared the way for the San Francisco 49ers to keep him as the backup to new starter Trey Lance. Garoppolo agreed to a revised deal that guarantees him $6.5 million this season, with bonuses and incentives that could push its value close to $16 million.

But the contract also could make it easier for the 49ers to trade Garoppolo at some point. There were no takers during the offseason, with Garoppolo coming off shoulder surgery and set to make $25.6 million. But now, if there’s an injury, a team might be interested. With a notrade clause in the deal, Garoppolo has the ability to determine his destinatio­n.

Steelers QBS

It was predictabl­e when the Pittsburgh Steelers signed quarterbac­k Mitchell Trubisky that the No. 2 pick in 2017 would replace the retired Ben Roethlisbe­rger as Pittsburgh’s starter. The Steelers made that official, sort of, Monday when they released their depth chart and announced Trubisky would be a team captain, and Coach Mike Tomlin reiterated Trubisky’s status Tuesday.

“We’re just really comfortabl­e with what Mitch has shown us,” Tomlin said at his weekly news conference.

But the superb preseason play of rookie Kenny Pickett, the only quarterbac­k selected in the opening round of this year’s draft, has given Tomlin a seemingly viable alternativ­e if Trubisky falters. The Steelers listed Pickett as their No. 3 quarterbac­k, behind Mason Rudolph, in Monday’s depth chart, then switched that in a revised version Tuesday to identify Pickett as the primary backup.

“It’s good to come to decisions based on what people are doing,” Tomlin said of the preseason quarterbac­k competitio­n, “as opposed to what people are not doing.”

 ?? Nick WASS/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Ravens quarterbac­k Lamar Jackson is representi­ng himself in contract extension talks with Baltimore.
Nick WASS/ASSOCIATED PRESS Ravens quarterbac­k Lamar Jackson is representi­ng himself in contract extension talks with Baltimore.

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