Baltimore Ravens pay Roquan Smith, not Lamar Jackson

Baltimore Ravens pay Roquan Smith, not Lamar Jackson

Roquan Smith was paidImage: Getty Images

Whatever happens with Lamar Jackson’s contract, don’t blame him for not having an agent, especially after Roquan Smith’s new deal.

Lamar Jackson has been a Raven in Baltimore for five seasons, while Roquan Smith has been one for two months. The 2019 NFL MVP had every reason to be upset with the news that broke on Tuesday, but instead, he chose to be a supportive teammate.

After it was announced that the Ravens made Smith the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in the NFL, Jackson called him out on Twitter. Since Smith was traded to the Ravens in early November, Ravens players have nicknamed the 25-year-old “Uncle Ro.” So Jackson made sure to give “Unc” his props to get all the money he wanted.

The Ravens gave Smith money that the Chicago Bears — the team that drafted him with the eighth overall pick — weren’t willing to pay. The Bears have been cutting payroll since Ryan Poles (No. 2) took over as general manager from Ryan Pace. He shed most of the Bears’ expensive contracts and is currently trying to get through a difficult reset as quickly as possible.

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In Jackson’s search for a new contract, one criticism leveled at him is that he is his own agent. The Ravens even tried to put the brunt of the negotiation battles on him last spring, when general manager Eric DeCosta said at the scouting combine, “We’re going to work with Lamar’s urgency.”

Well, Smith represents himself, and he’s never attended a Ravens training camp, but the franchise made him the highest-paid player at his position days before a playoff game. All the while, the Ravens still have holes on their roster to fill at pass rusher and wide receiver.

The Ravens’ best offensive player — by far — in the franchise’s 27-year history wants to be paid like the best players at his position. If Jackson’s desire is to take the fully guaranteed $200 million contract that the Cleveland Browns foolishly gave Deshaun Watson, the Ravens would be smart not to offer it to him. Just because the Browns did something stupid doesn’t mean they have to follow suit.

However, since the Ravens will fully guarantee an inside linebacker $45 million, the reported $133 million guaranteed at signing was reported to be their best offer for Jackson now is especially weak. It was weak before Smith was on the team, and now it’s laughable. The Arizona Cardinals guaranteed Kyler Murray $160 million when they gave him an extension before the start of this season, and that franchise is a train wreck. Jackson has reached the playoffs in three of his four NFL seasons to go along with that MVP. A season-ending injury has kept him from playing late in a second straight regular season, but unlike in 2021, the Ravens are in the playoffs.

The trade for Smith cost the Ravens two draft picks, but also filled a need. According to DVOA, the Ravens have been the third best defense in the NFL since he has been on their roster. However, without Jackson, not only is Smith signing a bad investment, but the team risks becoming as bad as it was when he was first traded from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996.

The original Cleveland Browns currently have their best starting quarterback since Otto Graham. Jackson is one of the most unique talents to ever enter the NFL, and he chose to play this season without the long-term extension that most of his peers have received.

He’s playing well, but the Ravens made a player — who has yet to play in a playoff game in that franchise’s uniform — the highest paid at his position. The way Jackson handled the situation yesterday, if the Ravens’ greatest offensive player ever leaves the franchise, they only have themselves to blame for the lack of respect they’ve shown.

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