Taken by the Baltimore Ravens at No. 32 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Lamar Jackson signed a standard rookie contract before his rookie season without the use of an agent.
Three seasons later with a trio of postseason appearances, a playoff win and an MVP award under his belt, the 24-year-old quarterback is eligible for an extension and is likely to sign the richest contract in franchise history.
And, as of now, it appears Jackson will once again attempt to strike a deal with the Ravens without an NFLPA-certified agent.
Though high-profile players like elite linebacker Bobby Wagner and stud wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins have worked out huge contracts without the help of an agent, it is rare for star NFL players to negotiate contracts, let alone megadeals, without counsel.
In Jackson’s case, he may not be without counsel as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that his mother, who is already his business partner, is serving as his de-facto agent in the negotiation process.
Per Rapsheet, Jackson is seeing “eyebrows raised from the agent community and from players as well because his mother is doing it. The stakes are incredibly high because if you lock yourself into a bad deal you’d be costing yourself tens of millions of dollars.”
Contradicting Rapoport, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk reports that Jackson’s mother is “not involved” in negotiations with the Ravens despite widespread reports and assumptions.
“She may be advising him, but she’s not negotiating with the Ravens,” Florio writes. “Different theories have made the rounds about the person(s) advising Lamar Jackson. One agent believes former NFL player Abe Elam is involved. (Elam’s brother, Matt, was a first-round pick of the Ravens in 2013 and did not use an agent.) There’s also a chance Lamar is using a sports agency that doesn’t do football deals. Jackson has advisers. He’s had advisers for all of his business ventures. He simply doesn’t have a traditional NFLPA-certified agent.”
The downside of that, clearly, is that Jackson could end up costing himself money by misreading the market and signing for less than he’s worth or agreeing to terms that ultimately prove unfavorable for him in the latter years of his extension.
Jackson is probably not going to be offered the 10-year, $450 million extension Patrick Mahomes signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, but a contract similar to the four-year, $160 million extension Dak Prescott got from the Dallas Cowboys could be on the table.
Former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who now works for ESPN, told The Baltimore Sun Jackson deserves “to be paid in that $38 million- to $40 million-a-year market.”
“You want to make sure that they’re treated fairly, and they get a deal that’s appropriate,” Tannenbaum told the paper of negotiations with players who represent themselves. “That’s what’s hard. It has to be a deal that works for both sides. Optics are always part of a deal. We know that, but more so when you don’t have an agent.”
For now, Jackson doesn’t. Like football, that is a dangerous game to be playing for a star QB.