As the preseason winds down, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s self-imposed Week 1 deadline to sign a contract extension creeps closer. In the eyes of Hall of Fame signal-caller and NFL analyst Steve Young, Jackson shouldn’t be in any rush to close a deal.
In an appearance Thursday night on ESPN, Young said that if the Ravens don’t develop a “sophisticated” passing offense around Jackson, the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player might be better served playing elsewhere.
“Lamar Jackson is a complete player that is [not being trained] in being a sophisticated passer,” Young said. “And now you’re asking, ‘Why isn’t he paid to be [Kansas City Chiefs star] Patrick Mahomes?’ Because they haven’t given him a chance to be Patrick Mahomes. So until they do, Lamar Jackson’s damned because of what the Ravens are doing, not because of Lamar Jackson.”
A change in scenery early in Young’s career served him well. After being drafted first overall in the 1984 NFL supplemental draft, he spent two disappointing seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before joining the San Francisco 49ers to serve as Joe Montana’s backup. Once he took over the full-time job in 1991, he became a star, earning two MVP awards, a Super Bowl MVP and seven Pro Bowl selections over the next decade.
While Jackson has had a record-setting start to his NFL career, including the most wins by a quarterback under the age of 25, Young believes Jackson isn’t being given a chance to reach his full potential while operating the Ravens’ run-heavy offense.
“I can’t wait for someone to train Lamar Jackson in a sophisticated passing game. I think he’d be the greatest player in the history of the game,” Young said. “But he keeps getting held back by the Ravens year after year because they keep doubling down on this [rushing] thing Lamar Jackson is great at. No question, he’s the best at that. But that’s not the championship football they need to play. That’s not what Lamar Jackson wants to be.”
That type of criticism is nothing new to Greg Roman, who’s served as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator since 2019, when Jackson became a full-time starter. Roman understands the scrutiny, but he said in June that it hasn’t shaken his belief in the offense’s direction.
“As a professional, we’re all our harshest critics, and I think we know the truth, and you just believe in that and keep trying to get better every day,” Roman said during organized team activities this offseason. “Don’t get set in your ways; just keep trying to adapt, evolve and adjust, and don’t worry about a thing.”
Robert Griffin III, the former star Washington quarterback who spent three seasons with Jackson in Baltimore, told Young and his fellow ESPN colleagues that Jackson shouldn’t settle for anything less than being the highest-paid quarterback in the league (The Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers tops the list with a $50.3 million average annual salary). Every day Jackson gets closer to free agency, Griffin said, he gains leverage in negotiations. But Griffin doesn’t think that’s going to drive Jackson out of Baltimore.
“I simply think this is negotiations,” Griffin said. “The Baltimore Ravens, they love Lamar Jackson. They love Lamar. Lamar loves Baltimore. The bottom line is, this is just negotiating power, and Lamar is willing to call their bluff. If they’re not offering what he wants, he’s willing to say, ‘All right, I’ll just play it out.’ He’s not going to do something that will turn that city against him, I can promise you that.”
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