DeMaurice Smith hasn’t seen anything quite compare to Lamar Jackson’s looming contract situation in nearly 15 years as executive director of the NFL Players Association.
Criticized NFL owners in statement on fully guaranteed contracts posted on the NFLPA website on Thursdaywriting that owners “hate fully guaranteed contacts [sic] because they are better for the players than for the owners”.
Smith continued: “As such, these contracts transfer control to the player, allow them to take full advantage of the agreement, and limit the control of the owner and the team.”
According to Smith, a pivotal moment in the history of guaranteed contracts in sports dates back to 1983, when Larry Bird signed a contract with the Celtics that accepted incentives, which appears in a New York Times article that year. outlined as the defining factor of the Moses Malone deal — and turned them into guaranteed payments.
Smith then questioned why a process similar to the one in the NBA, where Bird’s contract became a framework that still defines current deals, has yet to materialize in the NFL.
Kirk Cousins has helped shape the discourse with his guaranteed $84 million, three-year contract in 2018, making him, at the time, the first NFL quarterback to sign such a deal. agreement.
DeShaun Watson’s five-year, $230 million extension with the Browns, which was fully guaranteed, emerged as another example for Smith and the NFLPA in March 2022.
“The NFL Draft and the franchise tag system exist because the owners have colluded in the past to depress and restrict markets,” Smith said. “This time, they are criminally playing the game itself.”
Smith, who was elected executive director of the NFLPA in 2009, wrote that he also worries that quarterbacks are nearing the end of their rookie contracts, such as the Bengals’ Joe Burrow, the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ Justin Herbert. Chargers.
During a January interview on the “Pivot Podcast,” Smith echoed a similar tone, calling the situation for Jackson, who represents himself, a “pivotal moment” for NFL players.
“A fully guaranteed contract in Jackson’s case means that all quarterbacks with expiring rookie contracts will demand them (and should anyway) in the next cycle,” Smith wrote in his NFLPA post. “Make no mistake, what’s going on right now is their effort to block the same cycle that ushered in fully guaranteed contracts in other sports, and it’s exactly what we’re seeing in the NFL after Cousins’ contracts. and Watson. ”
The Ravens officially gave Jackson the non-exclusive franchise tag on March 7, and that kicked off a giveaway that oddly featured more teams that said they weren’t interested in Jackson, like the Falcons, Commanders, Dolphins, Panthers and Raiders, than those who were not interested in Jackson. were.
Other teams can trade Jackson, but the Ravens would have a chance to match any offer sheet.
But if Jackson can’t finalize a long-term deal with Baltimore or another team, the non-exclusive franchise tag number has been set at $32.4 million for the 2023 season.
In 12 games last season, Jackson threw for 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions, leading Baltimore to an 8-4 record on the field.
He suffered a sprained LCP in December, sidelining him for the remainder of the regular season and the Ravens’ loss to the Bengals in the AFC Wild Card round.