$100 Million Apart? | How ESPN has botched reporting on Lamar’s contract

Nov 27, 2022; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs to the sidelines against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2022; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs to the sidelines against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Yesterday morning a very informative podcast dropped by The Vault, a podcast dedicated specifically to covering the Baltimore Ravens, entitled ESPN Has Been MESSY With Its Handling of Lamar Jackson’s Contract Coverage. Co-host Sarah Ellison breaks down the timeline of just how inconsistent the reporting has been on the alleged contract offer from the Baltimore Ravens that Lamar Jackson declined back in September 2022.

On September 11, 2022, Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter and Senior NFL Insider Chris Mortensen tag-teamed an article for ESPN documenting the news that Lamar Jackson declined a five-year contract extension, worth over $250 million dollars with $133 million fully guaranteed at signing.

Based on those numbers alone, the contract offer included a higher number of guaranteed monies, in total, than any other current NFL quarterback, including Kyler Murray who agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Arizona Cardinals in July 2022, worth $230.5 million dollars with $160 million dollars guaranteed over the length of the contract, not fully guaranteed at signing.

That is right where the rub is and the confusion begins in ESPN’s reporting on Lamar’s contract offer. If Lamar Jackson would have agreed to that offer, he would have received $133 million dollars as soon as his ink touched the paper AND he would have earned the second highest salary per year, trailing only Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

A contract valued at over $250 million dollars would typically satisfy anybody, one would think, but not in this particular case. Once Deshaun Watson received a five-year contract from the Baltimore Ravens’ division rival Cleveland Browns in March 2022, worth $230 million dollars fully guaranteed, it really spiked the quarterback market.

Particularly in Lamar’s case because he is one of the most electrifying quarterbacks in the league at the moment. So, this is where things start to go haywire and unravel all across the ESPN network of reporters.

Following the news of the Schefter and Mortensen report, NFL reporter for ESPN Dianna Russini asked Lamar Jackson at a post-game press conference, following a 24-9 win over the New York Jets, about his decision to decline the contract. He confirmed that he did indeed turn the contract offer down, and even mentioned that there were more guarantees in the contract that weren’t reported. Those guarantees would not have been included in the $133 million dollars fully guaranteed at signing, but would extend over the length of the contract.

Then, she proceeded to tweet this out later that same day,

The consistency in what she tweeted and what she asked verbally seems to be two very completely different numbers and has caused some confusion, most notably caught by The Vault’s Sarah Ellison. It’s still unclear why she seemingly picked $160 million dollars guaranteed out of a hat because it sounded good, but nonetheless that is what happened.

Four days later, Russini appeared on ESPN’s Get Up and expounded on her Q&A with Lamar and confirms that she did ask him whether or not Baltimore offered him a five-year deal, worth $250 million dollars fully guaranteed, even though it was never reported that the Ravens front office had done that.

Jackson confirmed that they hadn’t offered that contract, but per her interview on Get Up, Russini notes that he gave her a look like “if they had offered me that contract, I would have signed it.”

What is particularly interesting is that during her appearance on Get Up on September 15, 2022, the original contract details were displayed on the screen for the watching audience to see and it matched up with the original report by Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen.

However, the continued reporting on the situation got lost somewhere in the weeds. Fast forward to January 17, 2023 on ESPN’s Get Up, Marcus Spears informed the panel of a text he received from Chris Mortensen clarifying the terms of Lamar’s offer from the Ravens and it confirmed what was said in the original article to a point.

Except the misinformation begins when Ryan Clark hosts the Executive Director of the NFLPA DeMaurice Smith on his podcast entitled Pivot three days later on January 20, 2023. Clark informed the masses of audience listeners both through his podcast and via Twitter that Lamar’s contract offer was $133 million dollars guaranteed throughout the length of the contract, rather than as a fully guaranteed number awarded on the day of signing.

The highly-revered reputation of ESPN would typically allow a sort of thing like this to go unnoticed because the blatant misconstruing of the terms of Lamar Jackson’s contract isn’t a detail that would crumble such a network. But, it does put both Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens in unfair waters due to the confidentiality that they are supposed to have in an incredibly important conversation such as a contract extension.

Capping off the contract coverage saga was Jeremy Fowler reporting just a few days ago that Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens were still $100 million dollars apart in contract negotiations. But, this report came without any new evidence of contract negotiations between the two parties.

What is unclear in this reporting is whether or not he is referencing total guaranteed monies per the length of the contract or fully guaranteed monies available on signing day. What Lamar is asking for is a contract comparable to, or most likely greater than Deshaun Watson’s fully guaranteed contract. But what this reporting is lending readers to is guaranteed monies per the length of the contract, which is not the reason why contract negotiations stalled.

So, the question becomes: will the higher-ups in the network care to clear up this mass mismanagement of information all across the network? Probably not. But, as far as the confidentiality between Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens go, they deserve their privacy in a situation this seriously.