The Baltimore Ravens have exercised the fifth-year option in Lamar Jackson's contract.

It was a no-brainer decision for the Ravens, who selected Jackson 32nd overall in the 2018 draft.

Since then he has gone on to establish himself as one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL, his dual-threat skill set helping him win the MVP award in 2019.

He has a 30-7 record as a starter and has guided the Ravens to three successive postseason appearances.

Picking up the option will see Jackson paid just over $23million in 2022, though the two parties are in talks over a contract extension.

Jackson has 7,085 passing yards and 68 touchdowns through the air in his three seasons in the NFL. He has thrown 18 interceptions in that time.

In addition, Jackson has compiled 2,906 yards and 19 touchdowns as a runner, with his yards per carry average of 6.03 since 2018 the best in the NFL.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has no doubt about his team's quarterback plans for the future, guaranteeing they will pick up Lamar Jackson's contract option.

There has been speculation over Jackson's future in Baltimore, where he was named the NFL's MVP in 2019 – the year after Baltimore selected him with the final pick in the first round of the draft.

Baltimore's delay in making a move on Jackson's contract led to reports claiming the Ravens might draft a quarterback and allow the star QB to depart following this season, rather than pay the $23million option for 22.

But on Tuesday, Harbaugh ensured the Ravens will pick up Jackson's fifth-year option by the May 3 deadline. 

"His fifth-year option will be picked up. Guarantee it," Harbaugh said on The Rich Eisen Show. 

"He's definitely going to be our quarterback. That's the plan, absolutely."

Jackson, who will make $1.8m this season – the final year of his rookie contract – was a unanimous choice as the NFL's Most Valuable Player two years ago.

His performance slipped a bit in 2020 but he remains the NFL's premier dual-threat quarterback, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and scoring seven touchdowns on the ground in each of the past two seasons in addition to his work in the passing game. 

Jackson has won more games (30) than any other quarterback since taking over as Baltimore's starter midway through the 2018 season and became the fastest QB in NFL history to reach 30 regular-season victories (37 games).

He is also the first in league history to produce 5,000 passing yard and 2,500 rushing yards in his first three NFL seasons.

Jackson had 242 completions for 2,757 yards – at 64.4 per cent – 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 15 appearances for the Ravens last season.

In total, Jackson has tallied 606 completions, 7,085 yards, 68 touchdowns and 18 interceptions since entering the league.

That all-around excellence has Harbaugh excited to continue building around the 24-year-old. 

"The thing he talks about all the time is, he wants to win a Super Bowl, then go from there. That's the kind of mindset you want to have," Harbaugh added. "I think he's a very unique guy. He's a guy that's different in a lot of ways than any quarterback, probably, that's ever played. 

"No two players are exactly the same, but Lamar is somebody that breaks the mould a little bit, and he does it in a way a lot of people didn't anticipate.

"They didn't see this coming. They didn't think a quarterback would play in this style. They talked about him playing other positions and all that. 

"He's very determined, and we're very determined, to prove those people wrong, and also to kind of pave a new path here and show what's possible with a different type of a skill set." 

Baltimore Ravens star and reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson "deserves" a new deal, insisted general manager Eric DeCosta.

Jackson is entering the final year of his rookie contract after his third NFL campaign came to an end at the hands of the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round.

The 24-year-old quarterback is set to command a lucrative contract after Kansas City Chiefs counterpart Patrick Mahomes and Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson each signed big-money deals.

"There is certainly a chance of that [discussing contract]. I will be talking to Lamar probably in the next 10 days or so," DeCosta told reporters on Monday.

"He's down in Florida. We've got a great relationship. He's got a great relationship with this organisation. He's a very easy person to talk to and certainly deserves a contract.

"He has played phenomenal football over the last couple of years. Our intention, and my intention, is to keep him in Baltimore for many, many years."

But the coronavirus pandemic means long-term contracts will be more challenging, with DeCosta adding: "With the salary cap there are some unique challenges this year. The cap could be $175million, it could be $185m, we don't really know yet."

Jackson has won more games (30) than any other quarterback since taking over as Baltimore's starter midway through the 2018 season and became the fastest QB in NFL history to reach 30 regular-season victories (37 games).

He is also the first in league history to produce 5,000 passing yard and 2,500 rushing yards in his first three NFL seasons.

Jackson had 242 completions for 2,757 yards – at 64.4 per cent – 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 15 appearances for the Ravens this season.

In total, Jackson has tallied 606 completions, 7,085 yards, 68 touchdowns and 18 interceptions since entering the league.

"A couple of years ago, when I was doing my first press conference, we said we would try to do more deals, we would try to sign our players," DeCosta said.

"We've done that, and I'm proud of that. A lot of the credit for that really does go to [senior vice-president of football operations] Pat Moriarty and [director of football administration] Nick Matteo. It's something that evolves over time. These types of things just don't happen arbitrarily.

"We want to keep our good young players. We want our fans to be able to reap the enjoyment of these players over time, if we can. We will continue to engage in talks with all of our good young players."

Lamar Jackson got his playoff win last week, but six days on from their revenge over the Tennessee Titans, the Baltimore Ravens were left to reflect on a year in which they will feel they fell short of expectations.

Their season came to a meek end on Saturday with a 17-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round, the Ravens bowing out at that stage for the second successive season.

Baltimore's offense failed to really get going and the turning point in a close contest came when Jackson tossed a red-zone interception to Bills defensive back Taron Jackson.

The 2019 MVP's namesake promptly returned it 101 yards for a Bills touchdown that left the Ravens with what proved an insurmountable deficit.

Jackson then left a chastening game with a concussion, and wide receiver Willie Snead afterwards gave a frank assessment of how the Ravens' signal-caller will respond to this setback.

"I just think he’ll look back at the whole season — not just this game, the whole season — and he'll make those adjustments that he needs to do to be an elite quarterback; an even more elite quarterback," Snead said.

"He is an elite runner, an elite passer, but there are steps he can take, better strides that he can take, and he knows that. That's the competitor in him to want to get better each and every offseason, to fix the little things that his game needs improvement on and continue to get better as a passer.

"I think if he knuckles down on that part of his game and really reaches his full potential in that area, then the sky is the limit for Lamar, man. It's just a matter of time. So, it's really on him. I think this game is going to be a wake-up call for him, hopefully this offseason. So, we'll see what he does next year."

Yet there is a case to be made that it is Baltimore's front office that needs the wake-up call, with key issues on the offensive side of the ball exposed once more by the Bills.

If the Ravens are to climb the mountain with Jackson, they must address two key problem areas.

Interior issues

Jackson's concussion was suffered as he scrambled to recover a snap way over his head from center Patrick Mekari.

Mekari was off target with four snaps in a dismal performance indicative of the Ravens' struggles on the interior of the offensive line following the retirement of future Hall of Fame guard Marshal Yanda.

Yanda has understandably proved tough to replace, and the numbers reflect that.

Jackson was pressured on 16.2 per cent of his dropbacks in 2019 as the Ravens compiled a league-best 14-2 record.

In the 2020 regular season, that number rose to 21.4 per cent, and Jackson and backup Tyler Huntley were pressured on 36.6 per cent of dropbacks against the Bills, according to the NFL's NextGen Stats.

There has been a clear drop-off in Jackson's protection, which has been compounded by a lack of difference-making options at wide receiver.

Wideout woes

The Ravens did invest a first-round pick in a wide receiver in Marquise Brown in 2018. 

Brown made strides in 2020 but the fact tight end Mark Andrews led the team with 50.1 receiving yards per game is illustrative of the lack of a consistent impact from the wideouts.

Snead, an experienced slot receiver set for free agency this offseason, led the Ravens in percentage of catches that went for a first down with 69.7 and yards after catch per reception with 5.9.

The latter stat is particularly telling. So many of the league's best offenses boast playmakers who can make things happen with the ball in their hands but the Ravens, with Snead a potential departure, are severely lacking in that regard, Brown having averaged just 4.3 YAC per reception.

To his credit, speedster Brown was the Ravens' best receiver in terms of plays of 25 yards or more (nine) and touchdowns (eight).

Yet 2019 third-round pick Miles Boykin has delivered only sporadic spurts of production, and while Devin Duvernay showed signs of promise, he and fellow 2020 selection James Proche will need to become significantly bigger parts of the offense if the Ravens do not add to their receiving corps in the offseason.

Even if Snead stays, the Ravens require a more dynamic wideout who can take over the chain-moving burden and provide Baltimore with a legitimate YAC threat in 2021.

Jackson is not without his flaws, as his crushing turnover showed. However, too often in 2020 he had the look of a quarterback not properly protected by the heart of his line and not properly supported by his receivers.

If the Ravens are to make the most of his incredible dual-threat skill set, that has to change.

The Buffalo Bills booked their spot in the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1994 thanks to a 17-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Not since reaching Super Bowl XXVII had the Bills featured in the AFC title decider, but second-seeded Buffalo ended that 27-year drought after downing the Ravens on Saturday.

The Bills used a 14-0 third quarter to progress in the NFL playoffs as the Ravens – seeded fifth – were held scoreless in the second half in windy Buffalo.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen finished 23-of-37 passing for 206 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, while he was sacked twice.

Ravens star Lamar Jackson was 14 of 24 for 162 yards, no touchdowns and an interception before he was ruled out with concussion against the Bills.

The Ravens were made to pay for their inefficient kicking in the opening quarter, which saw Justin Tucker miss two field goals.

Tucker was 11-of-11 on field-goal attempts inside 50 yards in his postseason career, but he was 0-2 on such field goals against Buffalo.

Buffalo's Tyler Bass also missed a field goal, but he managed to convert a 28-yard attempt to give the Bills a 3-0 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

Tucker made no mistake from 34 yards to level the scores at half-time before the Bills took control in the third quarter.

Allen threw a three-yard pass to star team-mate Stefon Diggs with less than 10 minutes to play and Taron Johnson all but ended Baltimore's hopes with a dazzling 101-yard interception return during the closing stages of the period.

Reigning MVP Jackson was ruled out of the fourth quarter due to concussion after taking a hit from Bills defensive end Trent Murphy on the final play of the third period.

 

Turning point – Bills pull away in third

The Bills and Ravens could not be separated until the game was blown open in the third quarter.

Allen and Diggs combined for the showdown's first TD before Johnson's electric run essentially sealed Baltimore's fate in front of 6,700 fans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson matches record

Buffalo's Johnson tied the record for longest intercepted return touchdown in a playoff game, according to NFL Research. Green Bay Packers defensive end George Teague also returned an interception 101 yards for a TD against the Detroit Lions in 1993.

Per Stats Perform, the Bills-Ravens game became the first postseason game where there were three missed field goals in the first half since the 1992 AFC Championship Game between the Bills and Denver Broncos.

What's next?

Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs or Cleveland Browns are next up for the Bills in the AFC Championship Game on January 24.

The Ravens, meanwhile, will have a busy offseason following back-to-back exits in the Divisional Round.

The Wild Card Round was, well, wild.

The Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns ended long postseason droughts, while the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Ravens impressed as they produced upset results on the road.

Meanwhile, Tom Brady made sure the Tampa Bay Buccaneers progressed, securing a showdown with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints that will be an all-NFC South battle between starting quarterbacks with a combined age is 85.

As for the Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning Super Bowl champions - along with NFC top seeds the Green Bay Packers - prepare to return to action after a well-earned bye week.

A four-game schedule has all the potential for another bumper weekend of NFL action, with fans watching on to found out who will be the final four left standing in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers - Saturday, 4.35pm (all times Eastern)

- The Rams are the only current NFC team with an all-time winning record against the Packers (46-45-2), but they have lost five of the previous six and 11 of the past 15 meetings. Green Bay, meanwhile, earned the No.1 seed in the conference for just the third time in their history.

- Aaron Rodgers posted the second-highest passer rating in NFL history this season (121.5), trailing only his own 122.5 in 2011, when he was voted the league's MVP. Rodgers had six games with four or more touchdown passes and zero interceptions, tying the most in a season all-time (Peyton Manning in 2013). In Rodgers' playoff career, the Packers are 8-1 when he does not throw an interception - but 2-7 when he does.

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills - Saturday, 8.15pm

- Baltimore (191.9) and Tennessee (168.1) finished first and second in the NFL in rushing yards per game in the regular season, but the Ravens out-rushed the Titans 236-51 last week to progress. Lamar Jackson ran for 136 of them, the third most ever by a quarterback in a playoff game.

- Josh Allen completed 26 of 35 passes in the Wild Card win over the Indianapolis Colts (74.0 per cent), the highest completion percentage by a Bills starting QB in a playoff game. Allen also became the fifth player in NFL history with a passing TD, a rushing TD and a receiving TD in the playoffs, joining Freeman McNeil, Kordell Stewart, Julian Edelman and Nick Foles.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday, 3.05pm

- This is the first postseason game between the teams. The Chiefs have won the past three meetings, most recently on November 4, 2018 (37-21). In fact, Cleveland have not beaten Kansas City since December 2012, while they have triumphed at Arrowhead only once in the past 32 seasons (December 2009).

- Against the Steelers, Baker Mayfield became the seventh player in league history to throw at least three TD passes without an interception in his postseason debut. Only one other player has done this in the previous 15 years (Alex Smith in 2011). He goes up against Patrick Mahomes, who has accounted for 16 total touchdowns – 13 TD passes and three rushing scores – in five postseason outings.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints - Sunday, 6.40pm

- This will be the 59th all-time meeting of these franchises, albeit the first in the postseason. The Saints have won five straight in the rivalry, outscoring the Bucs by a combined 165-81 during that streak.

- Brady's two touchdown passes against the Washington Football Team moved his career postseason total to 75, while the victory was his 31st in 42 career playoff starts. In the entire NFL, only five teams have as many as 31 postseason wins in their history. Brady (341) and Saints QB Brees (303) rank first and third respectively in career starts among quarterbacks, regular season and playoffs combined.

John Harbaugh ranked Baltimore's win over the Tennessee Titans as his best ever after the Ravens rallied to record their first postseason triumph since 2014.

Baltimore trailed 10-0 after the first quarter but scored 20 of the next 23 points in the playoff contest, including rushing touchdowns from Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins.

The 20-13 result was particularly sweet for quarterback Jackson, as the reigning NFL MVP had suffered defeats in his previous two playoff appearances with the franchise.

Having recovered from a 6-5 record just to seal a Wild Card spot, Harbaugh reflected on a memorable result that keeps alive hopes of a Super Bowl appearance this year.

"I'm going to tell you right now this is the best win. In perspective, it's going to be top five for sure, but right now, for me, this is the best win ever," the Ravens head coach told the media.

"Not just because of what was at stake, but because of the guys, because of what it meant to the team. What it meant to all of our guys.

"This may be the best win I've ever been associated with. Defensive effort - it was disciplined, it was eyes on your luggage, it was finishing, it was running to the ball, it was tackling.

"I thought our defensive line did a phenomenal job against their very good offensive line. We got them stopped a lot of times before they got started.

"It's a team effort across the board, it always is."

Harbaugh revealed the Ravens had given a game ball to Jackson, who finished the game with 179 yards passing and a further 136 on the ground.

He threw an interception early in the game that set up a Titans field goal but recovered from the setback, including producing a stunning 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that helped make it 10-10 at the half.

"It's the best run I've seen by a quarterback," Harbaugh said. "It just got us back in the game. We needed points at that point."

Baltimore outrushed their opponents by 236 yards to 51 - the 185-yard differential is the fourth biggest by a road team in a playoff game.

"It feels good. I knew we had the capability of doing that," Jackson - whose touchdown was the second-longest rushing score by a quarterback in NFL playoff history - told the media.

"There will always be naysayers, no matter what. It's one game at a time - I appreciate the win, a hard-fought team victory, because they played great as well."

Lamar Jackson ended his wait for a playoff win as he helped the Baltimore Ravens rally from an early deficit to beat the Tennessee Titans 20-13 in the Wild Card round. 

Tennessee had won three of the previous four meetings between the teams – including a 28-12 triumph in the postseason last year – and looked on course to prevail again when they moved 10-0 ahead in the first quarter. 

Ryan Tannehill capped a 10-play, 70-yard drive with a touchdown pass to A.J. Brown that opened the scoring, with the Titans adding a Stephen Gostkowski field goal that came after a Jackson interception. 

However, the Ravens regrouped after a sluggish start and, crucially, shut down the threat of Titans running back Derrick Henry. 

A Justin Tucker field goal provided their first points before Jackson made amends for his earlier turnover with a stunning 48-yard touchdown run. 

J.K. Dobbins went in from close range to give Baltimore the lead for the first time and while a Gostkowski field goal cut the deficit to four points, the Titans were simply never able to get closer. 

Baltimore restricted Henry – the NFL's leading rusher in the 2020 season – to a mere 40 yards on 18 carries, while Tennessee managed only 12 first downs in total on offense. 

Tucker's second field goal of the contest opened up a seven-point cushion and the Ravens emphatically ended a late drive from their opponents when Marcus Peters intercepted a tipped Tannehill pass.


Turning point – Jackson shows his value

Baltimore's quarterback could no doubt feel the pressure when he was picked off early, considering his 0-2 career record in the postseason.

Yet Jackson displayed just why he is the reigning NFL MVP with his touchdown before half-time, the second-longest rushing score by a QB in playoff history. 

Henry stifled, Ravens run free 

'King' Henry had 2,027 yards in the regular season, including three games where he topped 200 yards or more, yet was completely locked up here. Such was his lack of impact, Tennessee opted not to even go for it in a fourth-and-short situation in the fourth quarter when trailing. 

In contrast, the Ravens had 236 yards on the ground as a team. Dobbins scored for the seventh game in a row but it was Jackson who contributed the most, going for 136 yards on 16 carries. 

What's next? 

The Ravens - who were 6-5 at one stage in early December - will wait to see where they travel next, depending on the result of the game between Pittsburgh and Cleveland later on Sunday. Still, they will face a daunting trip no matter what, either taking on the Kansas City Chiefs or the Buffalo Bills in the next round.  

As for Tennessee, there will be a horrible feeling of history repeating. They had won the AFC South for the first time since 2008 – a campaign that ended with a 13-10 defeat to Baltimore in the playoffs. 

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