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Like Lamar Jackson, We Can All Benefit From Effective Representation

September 14, 2022

Morgan T. Dilks

Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s widely known among fans of Baltimore sports that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens failed to agree to terms of a new contract by Mr. Jackson’s self-imposed deadline last week. The result of the failure to reach an agreement is that Mr. Jackson will be playing out the remainder of his rookie contract for $24.35 million this season.  While that seems like an awful lot of money to me, the truth is that based on the market in which Mr. Jackson operates, he’s significantly underpaid. The failure to reach an agreement is widely believed to be attributable to Mr. Jackson seeking a contract that is fully guaranteed at signing (very few NFL contracts are). Such an agreement would be commensurate with the one the Cleveland Browns entered into with DeShaun Watson for $230 million fully guaranteed at signing. It is notable that Mr. Watson is a less-accomplished quarterback, who at the time was defending himself against 24 lawsuits for sexual misconduct (for which he is currently serving an 11-game suspension).

In my opinion, a significant cause for the failure to reach an agreement stems from the simple fact that Mr. Jackson was not represented by an agent.  It was reported that he received advice from the NFL Players Association, the union which represents all players in the collective bargaining process, but not specifically in contract negotiations. I firmly believe that a good agent, with Mr. Jackson’s interests in mind, could have gotten a deal done.  

A sports agent’s responsibilities to his or her client are not altogether different from an attorney’s responsibilities to his or her client.  We both serve two important roles for our clients: namely, the role of advocate and the role of adviser.  

As an advocate, our responsibility to our clients is to put on our “game face” and argue our clients’ positions effectively and, when appropriate, aggressively.  Our job is to look out for our clients’ interests and secure the best possible outcome that can be achieved under the circumstances presented.  This is the outward facing role of an attorney, an important function, and the role most frequently associated with our profession.

Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

And yet, depending on the case, the often-overlooked role of adviser can be even more important. As an adviser, attorneys put on their “coach hat” and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of our clients’ cases, while weighing the pros and cons of the options we have before us.  It is our job to take a step back and objectively assess the facts of our clients’ positions, and to advise how to best proceed from a neutral and detached perspective.  In some cases, we advise clients that we can afford to push our position harder.  In others, we inform clients of the risks associated with particular choices.

Mr. Jackson is no stranger to advancing the ball; he’s a one-man highlight reel.  Advancing a complex contract negotiation on your own behalf is a different sport.  While an individual may be capable of advocating on his or her own behalf, it is impossible for that person to advise themselves from a neutral and detached perspective.

An effective representative for Mr. Jackson may have counseled Mr. Jackson that several of his lesser-accomplished contemporaries will earn more money in their careers overall simply because they signed their second contracts sooner.  An effective representative for Mr. Jackson may have identified that most franchise quarterback contracts end up paying every last cent to the player because franchise quarterbacks are rarely cut. An effective representative may have identified that the reported $133 million that was offered by the Ravens as fully guaranteed money between 2022 and 2024 exceeds what Mr. Jackson will earn in those years, if the Ravens are forced to use the franchise tag on him in 2023 and 2024, by roughly $8 million.  Ultimately, an effective representative for Mr. Jackson may have been able to sell the best offer from the Ravens to his client by showing that the alternative to the Ravens’ best offer was far less valuable and significantly riskier than the Ravens’ best offer.

The role of an attorney is more art than science.  Achieving strong outcomes for our clients relies upon effective application of the role of advocate and adviser.  If you find yourself in a position where you would benefit from the experience of an advocate and an adviser, give us a call.

That’s directed to you, too, Mr. Jackson!

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