No Agent – No Problem; Considering Caleb Williams

Apr 5, 2024

By Robert J. Romano, JD. LLM, St. John’s University, Senior Writer

Traversing both the contractual world and the legal ramifications that come with such within the sports world can be both sophisticated and convoluted. Certified sports agents within the various professional sports properties, although not required to be lawyers, are well-versed in the legalities surrounding player representation and work to ensure that a player’s employment contract, together with endorsement deals, and other agreements are legally sound to protect the best interests of their athlete clients. Sports agents within the NFL are required to obtain certification through the NFLPA. For an individual to become certified by the NFLPA, they must pass a thorough background check, have both an undergraduate and post-graduate degree (master’s or law), provide proof of at least 7 years of sufficient negotiating experience, attend a two-day seminar conducted under the auspices of the NFLPA, and upon completion of the seminar – pass a written examination.[1]

Such being said, however, as the NFL enters the 2024 rookie draft, two projected first rounders, University of Souter California quarterback Caleb Williams and Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., have announced that they are not going to hire certified NFL agents to represent them to negotiate their initial NFL contracts. Their position being that since rookie salaries are already “locked in” per the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, no real negotiating takes place and therefore the need for an agent’s services is not necessary. And with certified agents being allowed to charge up to 3% of the contract – not hiring one could equate to millions in savings for the athletes. For example, with the Chicago Bears having the first pick of the 2024 draft, the NFL’s CBA states that the contract value for such selection is approximately $38.5 million.[2] Not hiring an agent would save the first-round pick over $1.1 million.

Forgoing the services of a certified agent is not unprecedented within the NFL and in a league with more than 2,000 active and nonactive players, there are currently 17 acting as their own agent. This list includes such high-profile names as Bobby Wagner, DeAndre Hopkins and Jacoby Brissett.[3] The most famous of which, however, is current Baltimore Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson, who, after being drafted in 2018, refused to hire an agent, choosing to be represented by his mother instead. In May of 2023, after the expiration of his rookie contract, Jackson signed a five-year contract with the Ravens at an estimated value of $260 million. That deal includes $135 million in fully guaranteed money, a $72.5 million signing bonus, a no-trade clause and a provision preventing the Ravens from designating Jackson as a franchise or transition player when the deal expires after the 2027 season.[4] Note, 3% of $260 million equates to approximately $7.8 million – not a bad payday for Jackson’s mother.



[3] NFLPA.


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