Kyler Murray’s new deal impacts Cleveland Browns, AFC North
Lamar Jackson vs Deshaun Watson’s cap hit
So what about Lamar Jackson? If Kyler Murray is pulling down $50 million a year, Lamar Jackson is worth at least as much.
Jackson is a former league MVP, and he’s still only 25 years old. Murray’s precedent is great for the Browns because the less money the Ravens have to spend on players, the happier our lives will be. This writer has lauded Jackson since his rookie season, calling him the greatest dual-threat quarterback in NFL history since he hit the scene in 2018.
However, he has the worst agent in NFL history, namely himself. Perhaps Jackson the competitor doesn’t feel worthy of a huge contract until he wins the Super Bowl, which is a horrible attitude from the standpoint of an agent. Jackson, the player needs to fire Jackson, the agent, and hire someone else.
If he forces the Ravens to franchise tag him, they’ll pay an estimated $31.5 million in 2023. Conversely, if he were to sign a long-term deal, the Ravens would get a first-year discount, similar to the discount the Browns received with Deshaun Watson. That is, year five dollars (2023) would be in the teens, and the major charges would kick in starting in 2024. The net is that if Jackson doesn’t sign a long-term deal, their 2023 salary cap will take an additional hit of roughly $15 million.
If and when Jackson signs the long-term deal, he will presumably achieve parity with Watson in 2024 at the $50 million per year level. Since he’s starting a year later than Watson and assuming the cap is inflating by 10 percent per year (due to increasing revenue, expansion of fantasy football and gambling revenue, and possible inflation of the US economy), we might guess that Jackson’s deal would be 10 percent higher than Watson’s or $253 million over five years.
If you believe 28 years’ worth of data, the Purple Birds would be in great shape to contend in year one of that contract, but would be much less likely to win the Super Bowl in years two through four. If the Ravens really take that as gospel truth, they would find some way to trade Jackson away rather than overpay.
But do they have the stomach to buck the league-wide trend? Probably the public fallout would be too much to bear and the path of least resistance is to go ahead and overpay like the others.
Thus both the Browns and Ravens would be feeling a similar pinch in 2024. It might not have happened the same way without Kyler Murray’s deal to validate a new normal. But until some team actually repudiates a star quarterback and then goes out and wins the Super Bowl with defense and ball-control offense, teams like the Browns and Ravens will structure their roster around a megabucks quarterback.
But what about the Cincinnati Bengals? They might be ready to roar with a quarterback still on his rookie contract.