June 22, 2021

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Baltimore Ravens, Lamar Jackson to talk contract,…

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Baltimore Ravens, Lamar Jackson to talk contract,...

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said Monday that the team could strike a long-term contract extension with quarterback Lamar Jackson this offseason, and he will speak to the reigning NFL MVP within the next 10 days.

Jackson completed his third NFL season, which is the time when Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson each received their big-money deals. Based on market value, Jackson likely will command at least $40 million per season on an extension.

Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Jackson is scheduled to earn $1.77 million this upcoming season, which currently ranks 25th among quarterbacks in base salary. He will make significantly more in 2022 if he plays under his fifth-year option.

“[He] certainly deserves a contract,” DeCosta said in his 45-minute end-of-season news conference. “He has played phenomenal football over the last couple of years. My intention is to keep him in Baltimore for many, many years.”

Jackson has won more games (30) than any other quarterback since taking over as Baltimore’s starter midway through the 2018 season and became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 30 regular-season victories (37 games). He’s also the first in league history to produce 5,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing in his first three NFL seasons.

But Jackson and the Ravens ranked last in the NFL in passing this season, which the team defends by pointing out Baltimore also had the fewest pass attempts this season. He also has not played at his best in the postseason, throwing three touchdowns and five interceptions in losing three of four times in the playoffs.

DeCosta believes Jackson is an asset in recruiting free agents, including wide receivers.

“Players want to play with Lamar Jackson,” DeCosta said. “I really do laugh at the notion that players don’t want to come here and play with Lamar because he’s one of the very best young players in the NFL.”

One of the biggest questions this offseason is whether Baltimore will add a proven No. 1 wide receiver for Jackson. Over the past decade, no Ravens wide receiver has caught more than 80 passes in a season. Last season, Baltimore’s wide receivers totaled 137 receptions (18 fewer than any other team) and 1,729 yards receiving (the only team that failed to reach 2,000 yards).

Last week, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wouldn’t beg a wide receiver to join the Ravens. On Monday, DeCosta said there hasn’t been an instance when the franchise has needed to do so.

“I’ll just call on a line from ‘The Godfather’ and make him an offer he can’t refuse,” DeCosta said jokingly when asked about luring top wide receivers to Baltimore. “I’ve never had a player yet say to me, ‘I don’t want to come to the Baltimore Ravens because you don’t throw the ball.’ It hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it will.”

DeCosta added that the Ravens can pinpoint many areas to improve the NFL’s 32nd-ranked passing attack, from bolstering the pass protection to reducing penalties.

“It’s not all about getting the ‘No. 1 receiver’ that everybody likes to talk about,” DeCosta said.

The Ravens will look to keep one of Jackson’s top targets around for the long-term, as well. Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews is entering the final year of his contract after totaling 156 catches and 2,105 yards receiving in his first three seasons. His 20 touchdown catches rank fourth among tight ends since 2018.

“Mark Andrews is one of the better tight ends in the NFL,” DeCosta said. “So we would be foolish to not want to try and keep him. Those discussions will start up at some point.”