Quarterback Lamar Jackson continues to be one of the biggest puzzles of the 2018 draft, due in part to the fact that Jackson doesn’t have an agent. Because he doesn’t have an agent, some teams continue to have a hard time getting in touch with him to arrange pre-draft visits and/or workouts.
Per a league source, one team tried at least seven times to contact Jackson. The team in question wasn’t able to reach him, and the team as of earlier on Thursday had not heard back from him.
And make no mistake about it — Jackson has decided to go without an agent simply because he believes that there’s nothing for an agent to do when the time comes to negotiate a contract.
“I know coming in as a rookie, an agent doesn’t really negotiate anything,” Jackson told Jarrett Bell of USA Today. “You’re going to get the salary you’re going to get. I decided I don’t need him. He’s going to be taking a big cut out of my paycheck . . . and I feel I deserve it right now.”
It’s a horribly short-sighted and ill-informed decision, overlooking the fact that a good agent can get a player drafted higher than he otherwise would have been drafted, and paid more than he otherwise would have been paid. As part of this effort, a good agent can fend off the efforts of other agents to promote their own clients while knocking other players. (And, yes, that happens all the time.)
A good agent also can handle external threats to a player’s draft fortune. When Bill Polian was pushing the notion that Jackson should switch to receiver, a good agent could have tracked down Polian, explained to Polian that Jackson would not be moving to receiver, and politely asked Polian to knock it off. (And if politely didn’t work, a good agent would have handled the situation impolitely.)
Not surprisingly, Richard Sherman (whose decision to represent himself wasn’t an isolated lark but part of a crusade to wipe out agents altogether) supports Jackson’s decision, claiming that “in terms of improving his draft stock or the amount of money [Jackson] receives, there isn’t much they can do.” All due respect, that’s just not accurate — and it reveals that Sherman simply doesn’t understand what good agents do to help their clients get drafted as high as possible and, in turn, get paid as much as possible.
Here’s a quick summary of the things a good agent can do for a rookie, as posted previously in other PFT items regarding rookies choosing to go it alone.
First, despite the relative simplicity of the rookie wage scale, players selected in the first round need to be able to navigate certain nuances and hot spots in the draft order relevant to offset language, guaranteed pay, cash flow, and other structural devices.
Second, a good agent will get the rookie the best possible pre-draft training, ensuring that the player is ready for the various aspects of the pre-draft workouts that follow, and a good agent will cover those expenses.
Third, a good agent will prepare the player for the Wonderlic test, boosting his score to something higher than it otherwise would have been. (Whatever Jackson’s score was — and we’ll post none of them here — having a good agent wouldn’t have made it worse and likely would have made it better.)
Fourth, a good agent will advise the player on whether and to what extent to engage in Scouting Combine activities, and whether and to what extent to engage in pre-draft team visits and private workouts. A good agent will prepare the player regarding what to say and how to say it when meeting with teams. A good agent will serve as the buffer between the player and teams that may not be happy to hear that, for example, the player won’t be visiting the facility or throwing privately for its coaching staff.
Fifth, a good agent can help the player establish a network of mentors and advisors who will help prepare him for the draft and for life in the NFL. Recently, former NFL fullback Michael Robinson took to Twitter to plead with Jackson to get in touch with Robinson so that others with a skill set similar to Jackson’s can help him. If Jackson had an agent, Robinson and those hoping to help Jackson would quickly be able to connect with Jackson, through the agent.
Sixth, a good agent will study rosters and depth charts and coaching staffs and schemes, identifying the best destination for the player’s short-term and long-term interests and embark on a plan to get him there.
Seventh, a good agent will sell his client relentlessly, working scouts, coaches, owners, and media to make the players as desirable as possible.
Eighth, a good agent will try to thread the needle, getting the player in the best spot to thrive. For some players, it’s not about getting drafted as high as possible; it’s about getting drafted in the right spot. A good agent can help make that happen. By having no agent, the player is rolling the dice.
And what’s it really worth to avoid paying agent fees? In 2017, pick No. 15 received a $12.6 million contract, fully guaranteed. Pick No. 17 received a $11.596 million contract, fully guaranteed.
The total difference between No. 15 and No. 17: $1.004 million. The total fee paid by the 15th pick, at a maximum rate of three percent: $378,000.
So if an agent could get Jackson drafted by the Cardinals (who need a quarterback) at No. 15 instead of the Chargers (who need a quarterback) at No. 17, the contract value arising from two-spot difference would pay the entire fee, with more than $600,000 left over.
Sherman is going to continue to believe what he believes, for reasons that perhaps only he knows. The truth continues to be that good agents provide a valuable service to their clients. It’s abundantly clear that Jackson would have benefited from those services, and that those services may have paid for themselves, and then some.