Lying, tampering and compromise: NFL agents sound off on Lamar Jackson mess

“Don’t believe what any teams are saying about their interest in Lamar Jackson right now. There is a lot of shit going on in our football business. This is the business of liars.”

That was one of the first thoughts that came out of the seasoned NFL agent’s tongue on Wednesday when he was asked to go through the script: If Lamar Jackson hired you the day after Deshawn Watson signed a fully guaranteed contract with the Cleveland Browns in March . 2022, how would you handle the last year of negotiations between the Baltimore Ravens and their quarterback? And more importantly, what would you do this month after the Ravens applied a non-exclusive franchise tag to a former league MVP, allowing Jackson to solicit a contract offer from another team?

We pitched the script to three high-profile NFL agents. They all have extensive experience negotiating big starting quarterback deals or introducing star players under the franchise tag. All three have experience with both. Everyone has a strong opinion about the protracted contract renewal negotiations between Jackson and the Ravens, which have dragged on for two years and now may end up in the hands of whichever team (if any) decides to renew his contract in the coming days.

While there are different versions of what happened between Jackson and the Ravens over the course of their contract negotiations, two realities do not seem to be in dispute: Watson’s deal with the Browns heavily influenced negotiations between Baltimore and his franchise. defender; and that the lack of an experienced agent between the two sides led to some predictable obstacles along the way.

With that in mind, we asked three agents to share their thoughts on four key aspects of Jackson’s current situation.

Beginning with …

Contract with Deshaun Watson and subsequent value discrepancy

All three agents agreed that one piece of information that has been repeatedly flagged as a problem in the negotiations is undeniably true: the Deshaun Watson deal is a wedge between the two sides.

Unlike most deals with elite quarterbacks, which reset negotiation expectations at relatively expected increments, Watson’s deal with the Browns was an outlier never seen before in the league, breaking norms about guarantees and structure. For elite quarterbacks moving forward, this will be the yardstick for future trades. For the teams, this will be seen as an absurd outlier from a desperate franchise.

By September, when the Ravens reportedly closed a $250 million deal with $133 million guaranteed, it was already considered a potentially insurmountable hurdle.

“As far as Lamar is concerned, if they did a $250 million deal over five years but only guaranteed $130 million, that’s their opinion of him,” one agent said. “Then the nuance would be in the details of the negotiations. Can we cut a year off the deal so he becomes a free agent faster? Can we get a “no franchise” tag and a “no transition” tag? [clause]? We are talking about mechanisms that allow him to earn even more money and soon enter the market again. There are always ways to skin a cat with an agent. … But when it comes to how Lamar sized himself up, what we think of as his agent doesn’t mean a damn thing. What you think in the media doesn’t mean shit. What other players think doesn’t mean shit. The player evaluates himself in a certain way, and sometimes this is the only thing he can see. After all, that’s what he’s blinded by. Lamar doesn’t need other people’s opinions or views on his value. He made it clear for five years.”

Another agent added: “The last thing you want to do in a situation like this is to corner the team where you are so far apart that you are basically just saying no and asking them to negotiate against themselves. The owners will not react well to this. Especially if you repeatedly ask them to do so. And with the players in negotiations, their ego is important. You never want them to feel like they are eating a sandwich during the process. This makes them feel bad about the negotiations and the work they did as players. There must be some flexibility in this process.

“If you corner the owner or the team tries to force the player to eat like a *** sandwich, in those situations everything will be shut down. We have to go through the process of determining what each side is willing to do. budge – both the team and your player. If the answer is nothing on both sides, then it will break. Has anyone moved forward in this situation? Did only one side move? Whatever happens, flexibility on the part of the team or Lamar or both, otherwise they would have made more progress than they did.”

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 01: Lamar Jackson #8 of
Lamar Jackson has missed nine games, including one in the playoffs, in his last two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

How an agent could be helpful with a franchise tag

At some point, the agent recognizes a gap that cannot be bridged. The difference between the guaranteed $250 million and the guaranteed $133 million is a big enough difference that it is unlikely to be bridged. The agents all agreed that once it became apparent that both sides weren’t making significant progress by February, that should have initiated preparations for every potential franchise tag. A particularly non-exclusive tag because it would provide an opportunity to enter the Jackson market by judging outside interest.

This is an important point in the process, where all the agents pointed out the obvious: their services and experience would be extremely useful to Jackson in the NFL scouting organization, because that’s when they would quietly interact with other teams to sort out his potential options. .

“You’re interfering,” one of the agents said. “You meet with any number of teams and interfere like a bastard. Teams that need a quarterback and are interested will say, “OK, what do we do? I’m all ears. Yes, we want it. What are we to do now? Indeed it is the key [with Jackson’s non-exclusive tag]. This is where the problem is created by the absence of an agent. All these things are covert channel deals made by people who know how to do it.

“You have to start with a general group that is interested in Lamar, then that group will decrease because some do not want to fulfill the contract, some do not want to refuse trade compensation, and some the player does not want. want to live in a certain place or play for a certain team. By the end of that, you have a small group that you know you can do something with. Once it’s tagged, you’re on your way.”

“Such a deal turns into a one-on-one personal conversation with the owners,” added another agent. “In particular, the owners and only those in power in the building. In most situations, it doesn’t involve a professional director or even a general manager—it’s about talking to the people who make the final decision. That’s why when you talk about a contract of this level, you can only really hire seven, eight or ten people. [agents] who can make such a deal. Few have owners on speed dial, or go to meetings with owners, or dine with these owners in their private clubs, or sit with them on their yachts. There are only a few agents who have the seriousness to sit with them and talk about the type of people and players they get in these kinds of deals. Lamar is an incredible kid. You need an agent who can pass it on [to an owner] in such situation”.

A third agent added that there is an educational element to the non-exclusive tag that sometimes needs to be conveyed to players who haven’t gone through the process yet. It’s not just that a player can only sign one offer sheet, but sometimes there are situations where teams don’t renew a contract simply because they’re sure it will be signed.

“I would talk to Lamar about the reality of what’s to come,” the agent said. “Firstly, I would tell him that it is very difficult to get the club to give me an offer sheet as a non-exclusive franchise player because it becomes extremely public. Second, the teams convince themselves that the Ravens will just get through it and they don’t want to do the work for the other team. And then thirdly, the team that signs the offer sheet takes it into account in their pay cap for the week. [during the period of time when the Ravens can decide whether to match it]. Some teams just don’t want to do it.”

Is there a conspiracy against Lamar Jackson?

When the Browns traded for Watson and completed his $230.5 million fully guaranteed five-year extension, it didn’t take long for critics to slam the moment as an act of desperation. Oddly enough, some of the same critics pointed to Lamar Jackson and said it must have been an act of collusion when the teams didn’t immediately announce their intentions to generously gift him with a fully guaranteed deal – or assumed ahead of time that they wouldn’t pursue him anytime soon. time. All. It’s curious to criticize the Watson deal, but also the teams that didn’t follow in its footsteps.

All three agents had different opinions about the league and whether there was overt collusion after Watson’s deal. But all three agreed on a few points that have to do with Jackson’s viability when it comes to a fully guaranteed deal. Among them: some of the teams that preemptively bowed out of interest in Jackson are likely to be lying; other teams are not interested in Jackson because of the risk of guaranteeing a large amount of money to a quarterback with a history of injuries; and Jackson doesn’t have the leverage or freedom that helped pave the way to the league’s previous fully guaranteed quarterback…


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