There is risk all around. I like the profile of Lamar even at massive prices over the alternatives. I think the only way to reach a different conclusion when considering everything is if you've got a fundamental flaw in your decision-making. In your case, I think you have completely incorrect assumptions about how probable it is to find the next QB, both for finding someone who's merely capable and especially someone who is down right good. And then if you do find that guy, you've got the same exact decision in a few years so the upside even if you get lucky and find a guy is very narrow.
It'd be like if we were talking about going for it on 4th and 6 and you said "well it's a good decision because I've got a 75% chance of converting". If you did have a 75% chance of converting, then yeah, it's probably a reasonable decision to go for it. But you don't. The conversion rate is way lower than that. You're reaching the wrong conclusion because you have a flaw in your decision-making because of the bad inputs. You still might convert on that 4th and 6th, is the thing. It's not impossible. But it's just not as likely as you think it is.
So, there are a couple of mistakes in the opinions you are ascribing to me here.
1. I don't think it's necessarily easy to find a good quarterback in the draft. However, I do think that it's easier to find a good quarterback in the draft than it is to get out from under a crippling contract. I would go one step further, and say that I think it's easier to build a Super Bowl contender with a league-average quarterback on a reasonable contract than is to build a contender with a somewhat above-average quarterback on a crippling contract. The Ravens have never had an elite quarterback, yet have won two Superbowls. A few years ago the Eagles won with Nick Foles. If you're going to pay a quarterback Superstar, bank-breaking money, he absolutely has to be able to elevate everyone around him to a championship-caliber level for at least the majority of the contract. Manning, Brees, and Mahomes are all examples of this kind of quarterback.
It is possible Lamar can do that. However, I have questions about if he will. "Questions" is the operative word here.
2. I don't think it's necessarily good analysis to look at the entire first round for whether a quarterback will hit or miss. If you're trading Lamar, you're getting a top-five pick one way or another, either by getting one straight up from the team you're doing business with, or leveraging the haul of first-round picks that you get into a top-five pick from someone else.
I feel the odds of getting a good to great quarterback in the first five picks are about 50%. That's about as good as any odds in football. Those odds come with far fewer financial restrictions than signing Lamar to a contract that will make it very difficult to put supporting pieces around him.
3. I will admit that the last four or five games have raised many of these doubts in my mind, but not necessarily because of Lamar's poor play on the surface. Rather, I'm afraid that they may be a harbinger of things to come should he be signed to the mega deal he's going to want.
My concerns are as follows:
- He's going to run less. That is already happening. When he runs less, the offense is much more predictable, and he is far less dynamic. I don't know what kind of quarterback he's going to be without his legs, and neither does anyone else.
- We are seeing how well he plays when the quality of the team around him is reduced. To be fair to him, it is probably worse now then it would be even when he's making the money he wants to make, but it may not be by that much. They are going to have to rely largely on the draft to restock the offensive line, as well as the defense. So far, their offensive line picks have been major disappointments, and their picks on defense have been merely adequate. The prevailing wisdom has always been that Lamar makes the offensive line better, but that has not been the case this year. If the drafting in those departments remains average or worse, maybe this is the kind of Supporting Cast we're going to have to get used to should he sign that big contract.
- The Blitz. Maybe it's stupid of me to be so worried about this, but they have had four games to prepare for teams throwing blitzes at them, and for 4 games their offense has been dismal. That will be all teams attempt to do until they prove they can beat it. This undoubtedly is in part due to a poor offensive line, but again, how much can we rely on the line improving here, and beyond? Stanley may never be the same. They have not shown an ability to restock through the middle rounds of the draft. It's not as easy as just saying they'll fix it when they get healthy. Is it possible they can get it together? Of course, but it's another question I have.
Again, I want to stress that these concerns don't mean I think they should absolutely not sign him. These are all reasons that I want both the team and Lamar to wait until after his fifth year before deciding on a contract extension. If Lamar decides he wants to hold out, I think it is less risky to trade him and move on then take on all of these questions on top of a 45 million dollar a year contract for between three and five years. For what it's worth, I think it is very likely that they would re-sign him rather than trade him, but that doesn't mean it's the right decision.
What I hope happens is that he plays next year, answers these questions convincingly, and earns every penny of a big deal that will be beneficial for both sides. However, should that ideal scenario not come to pass, I don't think the Ravens should feel as though their hands are tied and have no other alternative but to sign him and pray.