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Lamar Jackson may not replicate his 2019 season, but he can expand his game in 2020

Lamar Jackson may not replicate his 2019 season, but he can expand his game in 2020

Lamar Jackson's 2019 season was nothing short of brilliant. Statistically, his success in both the running and passing game was something few have achieved. On the field, he was a walking highlight reel every single week. That effort made him the easy choice for Most Valuable Player.

Yet, that campaign is now in the past and has a bitter taste with the Ravens exiting early from the playoffs. Jackson's 2019 success has quickly turned into lofty expectations for 2020. Repeating as the MVP of the league is no easy task, but putting the hardware aside, is it reasonable to believe that Jackson can find similar success in his third season as a pro?

NFL Network's Steve Wyche believes so, but it may not be a mirror image of 2019. As both Jackson and the rest of the NFL continue to grow, things are bound to change.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be replication because I think Greg Roman and this offensive continue to evolve," Wyche told NBC Sports Washington.

The main reason Roman's system will reach new levels in 2020 is simply because it has to. Jackson's and the Ravens' success on offense undoubtedly put the rest of the league on notice. As innovative as the dynamic was in Baltimore, defenses will not spend time scheming against it. 

"Defenses are going to change their coverages and things like that when they play the Ravens," Wyche said. 

Wyche likens the adjustment Jackson will see in 2020 to what happened to Colin Kaepernick when he burst on to the scene with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012. With Roman calling the plays for Kaepernick, the two created an RPO offense that professional defenses weren't prepared for. 

Great at first, coordinators were able to then find ways to stop Kaepernick from torching them. The offense was still effective, but there was now a defense to combat it. That example may make Jackson's 2020 season seem grave, but Wyche doesn't seem the quarterback being completely stopped.

Instead, Jackson will just have to continue to adapt at the position. If defenses are now going to harp on his ground game and try to keep him in the pocket, he'll need to learn how to hurt teams through the air more consistently and read opposing schemes at a higher level. 2019 demonstrated Jackson's improvement in arm accuracy, and that will now need to continue this season because it is where defenses will be vulnerable. 

"We saw Lamar expand his game as a passer. A lot of it with the between the hash marks type-of route, a lot of tight end stuff," Wyche said. "That’s going to open up, that field is going to open a little bit for him."

“I think he's just going to expand overall as a quarterback. His knowledge of opposing defenses, his knowledge of opposing personnel is going to continue to get better," Wyche added.

Though Baltimore and Jackson will need to evolve in 2020, it doesn't mean last season's success on the ground will be thrown away. The Ravens will continue to use their ground attack to their advantage, and Jackson will be a part of it. His speed, athleticism and dual-threat ability is something that will never be restricted.

“I think he’s going to continue to run, they’re not going to take away a strength from him," Wyche said.

In addition, Jackson's backfield counterparts will be able to help him move the ball on offense. Mark Ingram leads a running back group that now has a strong secondary option in J.K. Dobbins out of Ohio State. If defenses work to try and stop the two of them and Jackson option-runs, receivers will be open. If they don't stack the box, the ground game will continue to beat defenses down.

It's a pick your poison going against the Ravens' offense.

“Some of the pieces they added in the offseason. You get J.K. Dobbins to go with Mark Ingram," Wyche said. "That’s only going to help set up the play-action pass game because they’re going to be able to run the ball like crazy.”

Jackson's 2019 MVP season was truly one of a kind. Even if the quarterback continues to make jaws drop in the future, it will never be a mirror image of that campaign. He and the rest of Baltimore's potent offense have a major target on their back, as defenses around the NFL will make it their goal to stop them. 

Adjustments will be needed, but Wyche believes that if anyone can do it, it's Jackson.

"Teams are going to be coming for the Ravens. They always do, but they’re going to be coming for them a little bit differently," Wyche said. "So it’s going to be more of a challenge, but I think his experience will allow him to evolve. 

“He’s a natural leader, I think he’s just going to continue to grow.”

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How does Patrick Mahomes' mega-extension impact the Ravens and Lamar Jackson?

How does Patrick Mahomes' mega-extension impact the Ravens and Lamar Jackson?

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has agreed to a massive 10-year mega-extension with the Kansas City Chiefs, a deal that ESPN's Adam Schefter has classified as the "richest in NFL history."

In Kansas City, fans rejoiced. The best quarterback in the NFL is under contract for their favorite team for the next 12 seasons.

But in Baltimore? Ravens fans likely immediately thought about Lamar Jackson and the potential deal he could command next offseason.

Jackson is entering his third NFL season and currently is in a similar position to where Mahomes was just a year prior. While they have different playing styles, the career arc through each of their first two seasons has plenty of similarities.

Both quarterbacks sat for the majority of their rookie seasons before becoming their respective team's starter the following year. In each of their first full seasons as the starting quarterback, Mahomes and Jackson led their respective squads to the No. 1 seed in the AFC while earning NFL MVP honors along the way. Both of them even graced the cover of Madden following their MVP seasons, too.

What Jackson does as a curtain call for his incredible 2019 campaign will certainly impact his future contract. Mahomes parlayed his MVP season in 2018 to a Super Bowl title and MVP last year, which confirmed Kansas City's belief in the need to invest in the QB long-term.

Baltimore is expected to be one of the NFL's best teams once again this fall, and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has publicly stated he expects Jackson to make a leap as a passer in 2020.

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As far as how much Jackson will make, it's unjust to put him in the same ballpark as Mahomes at this time -- the Chiefs passer has had arguably the best two years to begin his career as a starter than any quarterback in NFL history.

But, if the Ravens quarterback follows up his incredible 2019 season with an even better 2020, Jackson certainly could have an argument to command a deal similar to the Chiefs' QB just agreed to.

Entering the NFL, much of the knack on Jackson had to do with his arm. Well, the Ravens quarterback led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes a season ago, while also breaking the single-season rushing yards record by a quarterback. Sure, Jackson may not have the arm talent that Mahomes has, but there are also things the Ravens QB can do that the Chiefs passer simply cannot.

For Jackson, next offseason is likely the time the quarterback will sign an extension, similarly to how Mahomes did on Monday. In recent years, we've seen Jared Goff and Carson Wentz also sign lucrative extensions following their third professional season.

But as the salary cap continues to change, and now with Mahomes' record deal, the reality is that Jackson's future contract numbers are a guessing game.

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson and Dallas Cowboys signal-caller Dak Prescott are both due for extensions, and each could happen before Jackson signs a new deal. Those future deals will likely only increase what Jackson, who has an already more impressive resume than both of them, can command.

What Jackson does as an encore to his MVP season will be crucial in contract negotiations next summer. If Jackson regresses slightly but still turns in a solid season, a deal like Goff's (four years, $110 million) or Wentz's (four-years, $107 million) could be two baselines to follow. Yet, if he improves upon his great 2019 year, Mahomes has set the bar for what the Ravens QB can ask for.

Regardless, Jackson's future deal in Baltimore won't be cheap. But, as the quarterback has proven thus far in his career, it will be worth it. Remember, good quarterbacks win Super Bowls, not cheap ones.

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QB Patrick Mahomes agrees to 10-year extension with Chiefs

QB Patrick Mahomes agrees to 10-year extension with Chiefs

The first two years of Patrick Mahomes being the Kansas City Chiefs starting quarterback could not have gone any better.

Now, he's getting rewarded for it.

Mahomes has agreed to an incredible 10-year extension to remain with the franchise through the 2031 season, the team confirmed on Monday. ESPN's Adam Schefter was first to report the news.

The deal with worth $503 million with $140 million guaranteed, which is the richest deal in NFL history.

Mahomes' extension surpasses Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson's annual figure north of $35 million per season. According to Schefter, Mahomes will earn $450 million over that span with a $140 million injury guarantee. For comparison, that is more than MLB's stars Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole and Nolan Arenado have signed in recent years -- in a sport without a salary cap.

The quarterback enters his fourth NFL season in 2020, coming off his first Super Bowl title where he was named the game MVP. Mahomes threw for a league-best 50 touchdowns in 2018, where he earned MVP honors in his first year as a starter. 

Through three seasons, Mahomes is 24-7 as a starter with 9,412 passing yards, 76 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions. He's totaled 500 rushing yards and four touchdowns with his legs, too.

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