Lamar Jackson will continue to represent himself -- and at this point he should
It took a while, but Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson finally got his new contract. On Thursday, he said he plans to continue to represent himself. At this point, he definitely should. (If you keep reading, you’ll find the caveat to that comment.)
Despite the size of the contract he signed, Lamar didn’t get what he wanted -- and he definitely wanted as of last year the Deshaun Watson contract. In the end, however, Jackson got the next best thing to the Watson deal. And it was smart for Lamar to realize that, at some point, he had to take the best offer the Ravens would make.
Instead of Deshaun’s $230 million fully guaranteed at signing, Lamar got $135 million, with a practical guarantee of $156 million over three years. And with a guarantee that he’ll make from the Ravens, or someone else, $185 million over four years.
Lamar also got a promise from the Ravens that he won’t be tagged when the deal expires. Which will allow him to become a free agent with no restriction whatsoever by the Ravens, in 2028.
He’ll be 31 at the time. As quarterbacks go, that’s still spring-chicken territory.
So, yes, it’s a great contract. But it was always going to be a great contract.
Lost in the quest for Deshaun money was the fact that the Ravens were always willing to pay Lamar plenty. At the end of the day, they did. Why? Because what were they going to do without him?
Although there’s definitely an element of collusion when it comes to fully-guaranteed contracts, it’s far more likely that no other team pursued Lamar in March because they presumed the Ravens would match any offer he signed elsewhere. This reality would have allowed the Ravens to dig in a little more than they did. To their credit, and perhaps due to an acknowledgement and understanding that Lamar quite possibly would stay away from training camp and skip one or more regular-season games, the Ravens decided to get it done.
They basically gave Jackson the contract he should have accepted last September, with very real sweeteners. More fully guaranteed money at signing. More practical guarantees. More total money, by $10 million over five years.
Although things eventually worked out for Lamar without an agent, this does not mean things wouldn’t have been better for him if he’d had one. Here’s a list of the ways that having an agent could have/would have put him in better position.
First, he quite possibly would have been drafted higher than No. 32 overall. During the pre-draft process, agents who represent quarterbacks work to pump up their own clients, and to knock down other quarterbacks. The obvious goal is to get the client picked as high as possible.
Lamar had no one to play that game for him. As a result, there was no agent singing his praises to teams or to members of the media. There also was no agent poised to push back on the BS from the likes of Bill Polian that Lamar should change positions in the NFL.
While it’s impossible to know with certainty whether it hurt him, it surely didn’t help. And he surely should have gone higher than the last pick in the first round.
Second, Lamar does not have the catalog of endorsements that his accomplishments would justify. He could have (and perhaps should have) been the face of the Nike Jordan brand for football. That distinction instead went to Dak Prescott. There likely were other potential deals to be done for the man who became the NFL’s MVP in only his second season.
Third, Lamar should have gotten his second contract after three seasons. Like Josh Allen and Kyler Murray did. Allen earned more than $41 million more than Lamar in 2021 and 2022. That difference will never be made up. And while Lamar is making more now, Allen will be back at the table sooner for his third deal -- and he’ll surely emerge from those negotiations with a better contract than Lamar’s, barring a catastrophic injury between now and then.
Fourth, if Lamar truly wanted a Deshaun Watson deal, an agent could have engineered (as David Mulugheta did for Deshaun) a competitive trade process that possibly would have brought to the table a team that would have become sufficiently desperate to offer a fully-guaranteed contract.
Of course, Lamar would have had to kick-start the process by requesting a trade from the Ravens and meaning it, like Deshaun did. Without that kind of opening move, Lamar was never going to put another team in fully-guaranteed checkmate.
Fifth, once Lamar’s shot at limited free agency arrived, he needed someone to truly beat the bushes and conjure the kind of interest that would have resulted in an offer sheet even better than the money the Ravens gave him. If they would have matched another deal, make them match a massive one. And if they didn’t, Lamar would have changed teams.
In the grand scheme of contract negotiations, it doesn’t take much for an agent to justify his or her fee. At the maximum rate of three percent, it’s another $3 million for every $100 million in contract value. Lower rates can be negotiated -- and someone surely would have represented Lamar for less than three percent.
So while he ended up with plenty from the Ravens, Lamar quite likely would have had more over the short-term and the long-term. More on his first contract, by virtue of being drafted higher. More in endorsement money. More in the fourth and fifth years of his career, when he had not yet had a second deal. More in the contract he signed this week.
More than enough more to justify the fee he would have paid. More than enough to avoid the risk he assumed in 2021 and 2022 that he’d suffer the kind of injury that would keep that major contract from ever happening.
Again, it has all worked out well for him in the end. But the truth is that it likely would have worked out a lot better along the way, in more ways than one. The impressive contract he signed on Thursday does not change that.