Lamar Jackson is still playing on a rookie contract and could be preparing to do something possibly never seen before in NFL history. According to Ian Rapoport, the quarterback could be positioning himself to play out his rookie contract, weather the franchise tags that come after, and test the free-agent market several years down the line.
That appears to be somewhat speculative by Rapoport, but the news that set up that assertion is backed up by the Ravens. The Ravens and Jackson are reportedly waiting to make a move. Specifically, the Ravens are waiting on Jackson to make a move first. The quarterback hasn't made a move, so the Ravens are content to wait it out.
Ian Rapoport said there wasn't a "sense of urgency" on Jackson's side to get the ball rolling on his new deal. This keeps the door open for a potential marathon to free agency. Assuming the quarterback doesn't implode between now and then, he could reach untold numbers at the end of the rainbow.
Lamar Jackson is looking for the Leprechaun
As it stands, to reach free agency, the quarterback will need to play through 2022 on his rookie deal and a fifth-year option. Then, in 2023, the team would likely franchise tag the quarterback. In 2024, he would get franchise tagged again. In 2025, he would be a free agent and able to choose the highest bidder.
Heading into 2022, according to Spotrac, the quarterback is expected to make $20 million more than in 2021. In 2023, he's expected to make more than $25 million, according to an estimate using numbers from Spotrac. The following year, he would be in a position to make even more money, as average quarterback salaries continue to rise year after year.
In 2025, he will be a free agent and, assuming he doesn't struggle along the way, he will be 28 years old as a franchise quarterback in free agency. If it all works out like it has the potential to, the quarterback could be setting himself up handsomely over the next few years.
His salary will continue to increase, so he will continue to elevate his lifestyle and feel upgrades year over year. Meanwhile, in 2025, he'll get an even bigger bonus. At 28 years old, any team in the NFL could have him for a decade. As such, teams like the New York Giants, Washington Commanders, and New York Jets could essentially bid for a winning lottery ticket.
If that happens, Jackson could win in the end. However, there are plenty of pitfalls between now and then. Instead of a one-year prove-it deal, this strategy essentially imbues multiple one-year prove-it deals in sequence. If he fails at any moment, the team could cut ties and his value will diminish as a result. It's a big risk, but could prove to be trend setting if it works.
Conventionally, quarterbacks will get a new contract after their first good year in the NFL. Jackson has elected to wait, using his bottom line as an experiment. He's a trendsetter on the field, so one can only wonder if he can do the same off of it.