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Why a Ravens Extension of Lamar Jackson Isn’t Good for the Steelers



Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson vs Steelers OLB T.J. Watt
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is chased by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt at Heinz Field, Oct. 6, 2019 -- ED THOMPSON

When Lamar Jackson reported to Ravens minicamp Monday, it was the first major sign that the former NFL MVP quarterback would be available to play in 2022.

Jackson enters the 2022 season on his fifth-year extension of his rookie contract. All indications of his contract negotiations had indicated he hadn’t come to the table for any offers by the Ravens. But now that he’s at minicamp, it’s more of a certainty he will sign an extension soon.

But that’s led to the question as to whether Jackson’s potential extension would be good or bad for the Steelers. When 93.7 the Fan posed that question Tuesday, over 1,000 voters chimed in and the overwhelming majority chose that it would be good for the Steelers.

Jackson’s record against the Steelers does suggest Mike Tomlin’s defense knows how to handle his skillset. Over three starts he has a 1-2 record, with a completion percentage of 59.57, 634 passing yards, with four touchdown passes and six interceptions. Jackson had also been sacked 16 times, lost two of six fumbles without a single rushing touchdown.

If anything, it appears the Steelers do have good hold on how to face Jackson. His only win as a starter came in overtime against Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges’ first NFL appearance. Since 2019, the Steelers have swept the Ravens in back-to-back seasons.

But Steelers fans might not see the forest for the trees if they look to closely to Jackson’s record against Pittsburgh.  Jackson may have not been a destructive force against the Steelers on the field, but his time with the Ravens has been much bigger than that.

Since he became the starter in the back-end of the 2019 season, Jackson has a 37-12 record and a 75.5 winning percentage. Jackson a’s 6.3 touchdown percentage is also the fourth-best rate of all quarterbacks with 20 or more starts between 2018-2021. He also averaged 63.3 rushing yards per game, the highest such average among quarterbacks during that time.

But Jackson’s impact goes well beyond his stats. In 2018, Jackson took over a 4-5 Ravens team that looked out of the playoff race. He went 6-1 that season and led the Ravens to their first AFC North title since their 2012 Super Bowl season. It was public knowledge that barring such a turnaround the Ravens and John Harbaugh would part ways after the season.

Without Jackson, the Ravens not only would’ve lost Harbaugh, but most likely the AFC North as well in 2018 and 2019 during Jackson’s MVP season. Those were both seasons the Ravens were the only AFC North team in the way of the Steelers winning the division and an earned playoff birth. Had Jackson not become a major factor for the Ravens, the Steelers would most likely still be on an eight-year playoff streak.

Even without winning the AFC North in 2020, the Ravens still made the playoffs thanks to Jackson. While wins aren’t always a quarterback stat, Jacksons contributions as the team’s quarterback carried the Ravens’ offense by adding a dimension to it that other teams didn’t possess.

If the Ravens retain Jackson for the long term, the only way it could benefit the Steelers is if costs an absurd contract. The Ravens made such a mistake when they gave Flacco a contract worth $120 million over six years. Flacco had earned the money, but his contract limited how much talent the Ravens could assemble around him, leading to only a single playoff season between the 2012 Super Bowl and Jackson’s rookie season in 2018.

But a deal that averages $20 million per year would be a steal for a franchise quarterback in today’s salary cap. A deal that might be considered ridiculous for Jackson could be one that averages more than Aaron Rodgers’ $50.2 million per year rate of his latest contract.

Other than that, an extension of Jackson by the Ravens would only keep the Ravens’ best weapon in Harbaugh’s resurgent years. Even if the Steelers continue to play well against Jackson, his presence would still make the Ravens a playoff contender and potential obstacle for the Steelers in the coming seasons.

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