On Tuesday, the Ravens inked linebacker Roquan Smith to a groundbreaking contract that will keep Smith in Baltimore for the next five years. Is quarterback Lamar Jackson next in line?
Smith’s five-year, $100 million dollar contract extension was met with shock and bewilderment across the league with many fans thinking the same question: Why didn’t the Ravens prioritize signing their franchise quarterback instead?
Jackson himself didn’t seem bothered by the move and gave kudos to “Uncle Ro” for securing his bag, posting a celebratory message on Twitter.
The Ravens have historically paid big bucks to fortify their defense, and they clearly regard Smith as an era-defining playmaker who has the potential to elevate the team in the same way linebacker legend Ray Lewis did years ago.
Paying Smith does not mean the Ravens are throwing away a future with Lamar Jackson, however. Baltimore doesn’t necessarily need to pick one or the other. They can have both as long as the franchise plays its cards right.
With Smith signed through 2027, the foundation of this Ravens team appears to be set in stone for the next several years: Marlon Humphrey, Ronnie Stanley, and Mark Andrews all represent integral members of the roster signed through 2025 and beyond.
Ravens should have the cap space to re-sign Lamar Jackson this offseason
Lamar Jackson is the obvious missing piece, and contrary to some sentiments, the Smith deal doesn’t really affect the Ravens’ ability to sign Jackson this offseason.
If anything, it gives Baltimore a better chance at keeping him since the franchise tag is still available.
The details of Smith’s mega-deal have yet to be announced, but one should assume that the Ravens were smart enough to spread out Smith’s cap hit over the next five years.
In most cases, the first year cap hit on a long-term contract is relatively low, which means the Ravens should have enough room for Jackson when the time comes to extend him.
In a worst-case scenario, the Ravens will still have the franchise tag available to place on Jackson if the two sides don’t agree to a deal before the free-agent market opens.
Smith and Jackson posed as the team’s top two pending free agents in 2023, and now that the Ravens have successfully extended Smith, the team actually has a bit more flexibility in future negotiations with their star quarterback.
Jackson remains his own agent and could be looking for a deal in the same ballpark as Cleveland Brown’s Deshaun Watson’s fully guaranteed contract.
Whether the Ravens will acquiesce to his demands or place the franchise tag on him is a whole different story altogether.