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Will L. Jackson's big bet on himself pay off?

Lamar Jackson. Photo by Joe Glorioso/All-Pro Reels via Flcikr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Joe Glorioso | All-Pro Reels
Lamar Jackson. Photo by Joe Glorioso/All-Pro Reels via Flcikr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Let’s be clear right off the bat: Lamar Jackson is not a bettor. That kind of thing is frowned upon in the NFL and actually cost Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley at least a year of his career.

But let’s also be clear that Jackson is making the biggest gamble of his young career by not signing a new deal with the Ravens.

Jackson, who threw for three touchdowns Sunday to start his fifth season in a 24-9 win over the New York Jets, could not reach agreement on a contract prior to the game, Thus, Jackson will presumably play this season, the last of his rookie contract, making a sizable and potentially life-altering wager on himself.

The bet the former league MVP and Heisman Trophy quarterback is making is that he can play well enough to earn a new contract that will take care of him and his progeny for generations to come.

Jackson, who will make $23 million this season, believes he deserves to be paid in the upper echelon of signal callers.

And the Ravens agree. Team owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh all agree that Jackson should get a sizable pay bump and are willing to make it happen.

Where the two sides likely differ is on the length of the contract and how much of the money is guaranteed. Four years ago, quarterback Kirk Cousins left Washington for Minnesota as a free agent, signing an $84 million deal, all fully guaranteed.

It was the first fully guaranteed contract in NFL history, but the trend didn’t catch on. Quarterback Deshaun Watson of Cleveland received a fully guaranteed contract in the offseason and it’s his five-year $230 million deal that is thought to be the source of Jackson’s consternation.

Watson, who came to the Browns from Houston in the offseason, received a guaranteed contract during a storm over whether he sexually harassed multiple women from whom he received massages.

Despite the controversy, Watson got the contract. A number of owners, including Bisciotti, lamented what the Browns did, knowing what it might lead to. And here we are. Jackson, who acts as his own agent, reportedly turned down a five-year extension of over $250 million with about $133 million guaranteed as he wants a fully guaranteed deal.

As we said here recently, the Ravens would be foolish to give it to him now, absent more consistent passing results and playoff success.

Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, the Ravens can hold on to Jackson by invoking a franchise tag over each of the next two seasons.

In that case, they would have to pay him the average of the top five quarterbacks in the league, which would likely come to about $45 million a season.

The irony here is that the last player of note to gamble on himself as Jackson is, is his predecessor Joe Flacco, who passed on a contract offer before the 2012 season.

That’s when he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title. It’s a sure bet Ravens’ fans would settle for that outcome with Lamar Jackson this year.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.