By Esther Levin
It happened at around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27. The weather was a bit chilly, but the heat was running steady inside the advising office at CCBC Essex.
Professor Jeremy Caplan was working with a student, while periodically glancing down at his phone. The NFL draft was merely hours away, and he didn’t want to miss one single update, as the avid football enthusiast that he was. That is when he got a text.
He stared at the sender’s name in confusion. It was from his best friend. “He never texts me during the day,” Caplan mused. Overcome with curiosity, he opened the message. Written in all caps, it read “Did you hear who the Ravens re-signed?” And then notifications started flooding in.
The Baltimore Ravens agreed to a 5-year, $260 million contract extension with quarterback Lamar Jackson. According to ESPN, the deal “includes $185 million in guaranteed money, …and is worth $52 million per year”. This makes him the highest paid player in the National Football League.
Prior to this deal, there was a lot of controversy surrounding Jackson’s future in the NFL. “This has been the most dramatic offseason that I can remember in the history of the franchise,” said Caplan. “For the past few months, it has been hard to watch ESPN or any other network as there were too many stories and opinions about the contract situation for any real fan to handle.”
It all started on March 27, when Jackson tweeted that he intended to leave the Ravens. “As of March 2nd, I requested a trade from the Ravens organization for which the Ravens has not been interested in meeting my value”.
Just moments later, at the NFL annual meeting in Phoenix, coach John Harbaugh was asked to address the trade request. Reporters were crouched down around him, their press passes dangling from their necks, eagerly awaiting his response. Harbaugh leaned towards the microphone with one side of his mouth lifted into a smile.
“I’m excited, thinking about Lamar all the time,” he said to the press. “Thinking about him as our quarterback. We’re building our offense around that idea.” Harbaugh’s confidence may have seemed misplaced at the time, but now it is clear that he was willing to do whatever it took to keep Jackson on his team.
It was announced through Twitter. The team posted a video that showed Jackson in the car, wearing a black tee and a gold chain. Light green shorts were visible through the reflection of his tinted sunglasses.
In the video, he acknowledged that there had been a lot of rumors regarding his future. Then, he pulled out a football. The Ravens logo was featured on the underside of it. “For the next five years, there’s a lot of flock going on!” he said excitedly.
Many Ravens fans were thrilled by the news. “I personally always wanted us to pay and re-sign Lamar so when my phone started blowing up on Thursday, I was both surprised and happy it was finally done,” Caplan said. “I feel good about the extension and hope that we can be in the mix for a Super Bowl over the next 5 years.”
Naftali Levin, a lifelong supporter of the team, had a similar response to Caplan. Levin said that he was “relieved it was over” and that he hopes to see Jackson become Superbowl MVP in the future.
Jackson has held this MVP title once before, in 2019. All 50 votes were in his favor, which has only ever happened with Tom Brady in 2010.
Jackson walked on to the Adrienne Arsht Center stage wearing a bright orange suit and a purple dress shirt. Paul Rudd presented him with the trophy. When he turned to face the audience, his eyes sparkled with pride. It was a moment that he will never forget.
Although this was an outstanding achievement, some Ravens’ fans wonder if he might already be past his prime. “The other side (those who are not happy about Jackson’s contract extension) says that he was the MVP four years ago, and he hasn’t done anything really that crazy since,” said Menachem Rothenberg, a supporter of Jackson.
Rothenberg does not agree with this opinion, and thinks that the contract extension is a “genius deal.” He also mentioned that Jackson will have an additional advantage this coming season. “There’s also a new offensive scheme this year because they got a new offensive coordinator (Todd Monken), and they have more receivers. He’s never really had good receivers.”
On the other hand, some people are completely opposed to the new deal. “I think that the $260 million contract is a terrible decision,” said Kyle Stateler. “Jackson has made it clear that he has no loyalty to the Ravens team, and I can only imagine that will create some friction with his teammates.” This is a concern that many fans have.
Another argument that can be made against the deal is that Jackson is a great player, but his history with injuries makes him a less valuable asset to the Ravens. “He never plays a full season. (He is) always hurt, so no, I don’t think he’s worth (the) money,” said Marc Schild, a devoted sports enthusiast and a fan of the New York Giants.
“I was aggravated by it (the contract) because I didn’t think he deserved it after over-exaggerating his injury at the end of last season,” said Bayla Glickman.
Regardless of various opinions, football fans around the country are all ready and eager to see what the 2023 NFL season brings for Jackson and the Ravens.
Training camps will open during the second half of July.
“The pressure is now on the team and coaching staff to live up to all the hype that has replaced the drama from the previous few months,” Caplan concluded.