At the end of Thursday night’s 27-22 comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had a simple message, courtesy of a fan.
“Pay ’Em Now.”
As Jackson headed down the Raymond James Stadium tunnel after the Ravens’ second straight victory, a fan threw a sign toward the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player with those words and Jackson’s No. 8 jersey written on it. Jackson picked it up and read the message before walking back out toward the crowd and holding it triumphantly above his head. He added his autograph and handed the sign back to the fan as the crowd cheered for the South Florida native in his return to his home state.
After a shaky start, Jackson put together one of his best performances of the season, completing 22 of 38 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 43 yards to hand future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady his first three-game losing streak since 2002. After going 19-for-30 for 144 yards in the first half, Jackson completed all eight of his attempts in the second, leading the Ravens back from a 10-3 deficit.
Jackson’s contract negotiations have been the subject of much scrutiny over the last two years. The No. 32 overall pick in the 2018 draft is playing under his fifth-year option worth $23.016 million this season after he and the Ravens failed to reach an agreement on a long-term contract extension before Jackson’s self-imposed Week 1 deadline. If he and the Ravens do not agree on an extension by March 7 of next year, Baltimore would need to use its franchise tag to keep him from becoming a free agent. Under an exclusive franchise tag, Jackson would likely be owed about $45 million in 2023.
The Cleveland Browns redefined the quarterback market earlier this year when they signed Deshaun Watson to a five-year, $230 million deal, fully guaranteed. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti commented on that deal when he spoke with Baltimore reporters at the end of March: “To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others.”
As Jackson sat down for his postgame interview on the field with Amazon Prime’s “Thursday Night Football” crew, the remaining Ravens fans chanted “Pay that man!” None of the commentators, including host Charissa Thompson, former tight end Tony Gonzalez, former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, former left tackle Andrew Whitworth and former cornerback Richard Sherman, asked Jackson directly about the sign, but Sherman said he wants to see Jackson eclipse Watson’s contract.
“What I really want to talk to you about is the sign you picked up. As someone who’s represented themselves, I want you to get all the money you deserve,” Sherman said. “I know you ain’t talking about it in season, so I ain’t gonna make you talk about it in season, but pay the man. Give him $231 million guaranteed.”
In response to a question from Whitworth about his passion for the game, Jackson credited the team for its belief in him. “I feel like any quarterback would want that from their organization, especially their coach, who you have to see every day,” he said.