Lamar Jackson Wins MVP Again, Proving Players Still Have Control Over Their Careers

Any NFL team could've had the incredibly skilled quarterback last season

Quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens during a 2023 game. On Thursday he was awarded his second league MVP award.
Lamar Jackson is providing a roadmap for other NFL players (well, at least other NFL stars).
Rob Carr/Getty

Last spring, the Baltimore Ravens attached a non-exclusive franchise tag to their quarterback Lamar Jackson, making the one-time league MVP available to any NFL team. All they had to do was offer him a contract and, if the Ravens didn’t match the terms, send the Ravens two first-round draft picks or some other compensation package accepted by Jackson’s team.

Jackson and the Ravens reached this impasse because the two parties couldn’t come to an agreement on a new contract. The Ravens believed Jackson — who, sans an agent, represented himself throughout the years-long negotiations — overvalued his talents. Should he eventually test free agency, team leadership thought Jackson would find out the hard way he wasn’t as good as he thought he was. Jackson, on the other hand, remained confident and, seeing his services weren’t as coveted in Baltimore as he would’ve liked, publicly asked for a trade.

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But the Ravens never found a suitor for a swap. Facing a possible sit-out on the part of their starting quarterback during a season where the franchise had Super Bowl aspirations, the Ravens finally buckled in late April and made Jackson the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL.

Then, Jackson went out and became a two-time league MVP — this year’s win announced Thursday night at the NFL Honors ceremony — leading the Ravens to the AFC’s top playoff seed and one victory short of a Super Bowl appearance. In a time where NFL players often appear to have little say in the direction of their careers, Jackson showed otherwise, and in the process embarrassed pretty much every team in the league, including his own to some degree.

His course of action — mapped out himself, with a little help from his mother — was about the best he could’ve taken, handicapped in a landscape of non-guaranteed contracts given to players who put their health in grave danger every time they step on a football field. It’s a lesson to other players — at least the ones with the most sizable impacts on game scores — to stand up for themselves when nobody else will. Maybe the next superstar who’s not nearly getting his due won’t face so much resistance.

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