- The Baltimore Ravens traded up in the NFL Draft on Thursday to take Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
- Jackson may not only be a good fit with the Ravens, taking him in the first round comes with a contractual advantage.
- The Ravens can extend a fifth-year contract option to Jackson, keeping him cost-controlled longer and allowing them to build a team around him before he’s up for a new deal.
The Baltimore Ravens were active in the NFL draft on Thursday, twice trading down, then paying a haul to land the 32nd and final pick of the first round.
Their final move of the night was sending a second-rounder, third-rounder, and 2019 second-rounder to the Philadelphia Eagles and using the 32nd pick to draft Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Though Jackson wasn’t ranked as highly as Baker Mayfield (drafted first overall), Sam Darnold (third), Josh Allen (seventh), or Josh Rosen (10th), he was widely considered a first-round pick and had fallen all the way to the end of the first round. The Ravens wisely chose to move up to get him.
The pick has some obvious logic. Joe Flacco is in the last guaranteed year of his deal and hasn’t produced his finest seasons the last two years. At 33, his time as the Ravens’ starter may be ending.
Additionally, the Ravens also possess two coaches in Marty Mornhinweg and Greg Roman who have worked with dual-threat quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick, respectively. They could help develop Jackson’s passing game, which was the most significant ding on his record entering the draft.
But the Ravens’ decision to trade up for Jackson also comes with a big contract advantage – the fifth-year option. First-round draft picks have fifth-year contract options that teams can pick up or decline. If the player’s option is picked up and he is on the team at the start of the league year, his salary becomes fully guaranteed.
That fifth-year option is a benefit when it comes to quarterbacks. Not only does it give the Ravens an extra year to develop Jackson, but he is more cost-controlled than other picks. Quarterbacks on their rookie contracts are extremely valuable because their cap hits are significantly less than usual for the position. We’ve already seen teams like the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles benefit from this because Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are star quarterbacks still making relatively little money compared to other QBs. The Seattle Seahawks enjoyed the same benefit with Russell Wilson.
Likewise, the guarantees for Jackson are significantly less than some other first-round quarterbacks because of his draft position:
Baker Mayfield Projected Guarantee: $32.5 million.
Lamar Jackson Projected Guarantee: $9.5 million.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 27, 2018
The Ravens also paid a high price for Jackson. Two second-rounders and a third-rounder is a significant haul for a quarterback, particularly one who may not play this season (though the third-rounder was one they acquired from the Tennessee Titans when they traded back). The Ravens have other holes to fill and fewer picks with which to fill them.