Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke called Trevor Lawrence the team's long-term quarterback in late January and also said that a contract extension would get done at the right time. The right time could be at any point before the Jaguars open training camp in the latter part of July as negotiations are ongoing. That would be ideal, according to Lawrence, 2021's first overall pick.

Lawrence is under contract for two more seasons worth $31,341,293 because the Jaguars exercised a fully guaranteed $25.664 million fifth-year option with him for 2025. He is scheduled to make $5,677,293 in 2024 on an $11,707,018 salary cap number.

Lawrence surely has his sights set at the top of the NFL pay-scale market given how quarterbacks selected first overall who signed contract extensions with two years remaining on rookie contracts have been treated in recent years. Kyler Murray, the first overall pick in 2019, signed a five-year, $230.5 million contract extension (worth up to $238 million through salary escalators), averaging $46.1 million per year, with the Arizona Cardinals in July 2022 at the start of training camp to become the NFL's second-highest-paid player. Murray, 2019's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, was coming off a terrible performance in the one playoff game of his professional career, a lopsided loss to the eventual Super Bowl LVI champion Los Angeles Rams, when he signed his extension. 

The league's second-highest-paid player is Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff. He received a four-year, $212 million extension (worth up to $216 million through salary escalators), averaging $53 million per year in the middle of May. Goff's deal contains $170,611,832 in guarantees where $113,611,832 was fully guaranteed at signing. The $113,611,832 includes an NFL-record $73 million signing bonus.

Joe Burrow, the first overall pick in 2020, vaulted to the top of the NFL salary hierarchy when he signed a five-year, $275 million extension, averaging $55 million per year, with the Cincinnati Bengals last September right before the start of the 2023 regular season. Burrow's deal is worth up to $281.25 million thanks to $1.25 million of annual incentives in the extension years (2025 through 2029). He has $219.01 million of salary guarantees in which $146.51 million was fully guaranteed at signing.

Burrow put himself in the league's best-quarterback conversation with his consistent play over the 2021 and 2022 seasons. For instance, he led the NFL with a 70.4 completion percentage while throwing for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns to post a 108.3 passer rating in 2021. The Bengals ended a 31-year postseason victory drought before losing to the Rams in Super Bowl LVI. He followed that up in 2022 by throwing for 4,475 yards with a career-high 35 touchdown passes. The five playoff wins over those two seasons with Burrow under center were as many as the Bengals had in their first 52 seasons.

Burrow replaced fellow 2020 first-round pick Justin Herbert as the NFL's highest-paid player. Herbert, 2020's sixth overall pick, signed a five-year, $262.5 million extension (worth up to $265 million thanks to salary escalators), averaging $52.5 million per year, last July when training camp opened.

Herbert's deal has $193,738,375 in guarantees, of which $133,738,375 is fully guaranteed at signing. The total amount that can become guaranteed is $218,738,375. That's because $25 million of Herbert's unsecured $47 million 2028 base salary is guaranteed for injury on the third day of the 2026 league year (mid-March 2026). The $25 million becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2027 league year (mid-March 2027).

Herbert is arguably the league's most prolific passer at the start of a career. He threw for a rookie-record 31 touchdowns and 4,336 yards (second-most for a rookie) in 2020 to garner NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Herbert's 14,089 passing yards are the most in a quarterback's first three NFL seasons and his 94 touchdown passes are the second most during the first three years.

Putting Lawrence in this salary stratosphere would be exceeding $53 million per year at a minimum and potentially more than $55 million per year on a five-year extension. Outside of Goff, the existing members of the $50 million-per-year club have signed five-year deals or five-year extensions. The Jaguars would be guaranteeing a minimum of $200 million to Lawrence where in the neighborhood of $150 million would be fully guaranteed at signing.

It would be understandable if the Jaguars are hesitant about making this type of commitment because Lawrence, who turns 25 in October, isn't nearly as accomplished as Burrow or Herbert through three NFL seasons. Lawrence regressed last season after turning a corner in 2022 when he completed 66.3% of passes for 4,113 yards (ninth in the NFL) with 25 touchdowns (ninth in the NFL) and eight interceptions for a 95.2 passer rating (eighth in the NFL). The Jaguars won the AFC South with a 9-8 record before erasing a 27-point halftime deficit during a 31-30 victory over the Chargers (and Herbert) in an AFC wild-card playoff game.

Lawrence's passer rating dropped to 88.5 and his interceptions increased to 14 in 2023. The 14 interceptions were tied for fourth-most last season. The Jaguars imploded down the stretch, losing five of the last six games to miss the playoffs after being in control of the AFC South with an 8-3 record. Lawrence battled through a multitude of injuries last season (knee in Week 6, ankle in Week 13, concussion in Week 15 and shoulder in Week 16) but only missed one game. 

Ball security has been Lawrence's Achilles' heel. He has 60 career turnovers (39 interceptions and 21 fumbles lost) in his three NFL seasons.

A compromise for the parties could be following in another first overall pick's footsteps when he extended his rookie contract with two years remaining. Matthew Stafford, the first overall pick in 2009, signed a three-year, $53 million extension, averaging $17,666,667 per year, in 2013. The deal made Stafford the NFL's sixth-highest-paid player upon signing. 

There are some parallels with Lawrence and Stafford early in their careers. Stafford was coming off a 2012 season that didn't measure up to his 2011 campaign in which he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdown passes. Although Stafford set an NFL record with 727 pass attempts and was second in the league with 4,967 passing yards, he only threw 20 touchdown passes in 2012. His passer rating also dropped from 97.2 (fifth in the NFL) to 79.8 (22nd in the NFL) and his completion percentage declined to 59.8% from 63.4%, which was a career high at the time. Additionally, the Lions lost their final eight games to post a 4-12 record with 21 of 22 starters returning from a 2011 playoff team.

Becoming the league's sixth-highest-paid player on a three-year extension would put Lawrence between the $51 million per year Jalen Hurts received on a five-year extension from the Philadelphia Eagles last April and the $46,338,889 per year in Patrick Mahomes' renegotiated nine-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. New money wasn't added to the deal Mahomes signed during the early part of last season since he had eight more years left on his contract. He is still under contract through the 2031 season. Money was redistributed from the latter years so his contract is no longer extremely backloaded.

A modernized version of Stafford's three-year extension would have between $80 million and $85 million fully guaranteed at signing. The overall guarantees would be in the $125 million to $130 million range. Lawrence's overall guarantees would fall short of the $146.51 million, $135 million and $133,738,375 fully guaranteed at signing Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Herbert have in their respective contracts.

The shorter-term deal would give Lawrence a level of security that he currently doesn't have. He would also be able to reap the benefit of changing market conditions as a 28-year-old in 2028, his contract year, with a real breakout season over the next four years.

Realistically, there's probably a better chance of the Jaguars caving to Lawrence's demands where he becomes the NFL's second-highest paid, if not the highest-paid player, on a five-year extension before the regular season starts than signing him to a three-year extension. The Jaguars don't have a rich quarterback history in their 30-year existence. The closest thing to a franchise quarterback was Mark Brunell, who was the starter for Jacksonville's first eight seasons in the NFL (1995-2002). None of Jacksonville's quarterbacks have possessed Lawrence's talent.

Generally, the longer a team waits to lock up a core Pro Bowl-caliber player, the more costly it is. That would be the case with Lawrence in 2025 if he had a bounce-back 2024 season. The Jaguars would likely be faced with the prospect of paying Lawrence $60 million per year or more next year provided he had a true breakout season in 2024.