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How should Ravens QB Lamar Jackson handle his newfound popularity? One NFL agent has some advice. | COMMENTARY

During this NFL offseason, it’s not a question of who wants Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, but who doesn’t?

The requests for endorsements and commercial appearances started building up during the 2019 regular season, when Jackson emerged as one of the league’s hottest players, and has only increased since he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in early February.

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If Jackson thought he had a busy offseason last year, it’s bound to get crazier this time. Besides being the MVP, Jackson is young, charismatic, humble, energetic and the ideal candidate for selling merchandise.

And that’s a major concern for the Ravens. Sometimes young stars can get lost or big-headed. Or both.

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“You’re always concerned about the people they hang around,” said longtime Baltimore resident Tony Agnone, who is entering his 40th season as an NFL player agent. “You’re wondering if he has set his goals, what type of advice he is getting and who is in his ear? With the money he is making on the field, you want to maximize that part, yet at the same time, allow him to do the things he needs and wants to do this offseason.

“You need a gatekeeper and I am sure that’s his mom [Felicia Jones]. You see the inexperience of young players when they come in and they often end up overextending themselves. In this league, someone always has a great sales pitch.”

Agnone would know. He represented former Giants star and Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan when he was with New York from 1993 to 2007. Strahan was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and twice led the NFL in sacks. In 2001, he was NFL Defensive Player of the Year and later became an NFL commentator for Fox Sports.

Strahan loved the Big Apple, and the Big Apple loved Strahan.

Jackson is going through a similar romance. In 2019, his second season, Jackson threw 36 touchdown passes and ran for seven scores. He rushed for 1,206 yards and threw for 3,127. Since Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis retired in 2012, Jackson has become the Ravens’ biggest star.

“Right now, he is gullible, super gullible,” Agnone said. “That’s why his mother is being smart in trying to protect him. Everybody is coming at him to do this or do that. You want your child to have success, but kind of hope it comes a little later so they know what to do.

“Strahan, in New York, was something in itself. The thing I learned from that experience was that at the end of the year, we always came up with a checklist and what we wanted to accomplish that year. One of those things early on was that Michael wanted to go into broadcasting, so we connected with companies like Fox.”

According to several team officials, Jackson has been patient with the endorsement offers he’s received. Agnone says it’s good to be selective. Strahan’s representatives sought long-term opportunities that either benefited a charity or made money.

Agnone also suggested that Jackson might want to work with several local companies in Baltimore, as well as some in Louisville, where he played in college. Agnone likes what Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has done with insurance company State Farm.

“We turned down some tremendous companies,” he said. “You have to come up with a checklist, because this can come at you quickly, and before you know it, you are making appearances in places you don’t want to be in.

“Rodgers did State Farm a long time ago and he is still associated with State Farm. Now [Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and Super Bowl MVP] Patrick Mahomes is taking over at State Farm. You want a long-term commitment from a good company. Those down-and-dirty commercials don’t always work well.”

Jackson’s offseason will be under scrutiny. He might have won the Heisman Trophy and been a national contender in college, but the NFL is bigger, bolder and a lot more money is involved.

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There’s pressure on the field, and sometimes as much off it.

“You have to have someone you can sit down with and say why this makes sense, or why this one doesn’t,” Agnone said. “There are always people coming out of the woodworks telling you that they have a great deal for you. Then you have to ask, ‘What is this appearance for and what do I get out of the deal?’ You have to ask those questions all the time.”

Jackson also has to get better on the field. A major part of his success last season was because the Ravens built an offense around his elusiveness. But he still has to improve his passing accuracy.

“Regardless of his stats or games won last season, no one cares anymore,” Agnone said. “It’s all about the future. He has to learn to deal with success now, yet stay focused on the future. Michael used to say, ‘As long as I keep doing what I am doing on the field, the rest will take care of itself.’ ”

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