SBJ/August 26 - September 1, 2002/Labor Agents

Agents Sullivan, Condon battle over Chargers' not signing Jammer

Two of the most powerful NFL agents are slinging mud at each other over why the San Diego Chargers have failed to sign Quentin Jammer, the fifth pick taken in this year's NFL draft.

The situation, which pits Octagon football director Mike Sullivan against IMG Football President Tom Condon, has been the talk of agent circles since July but recently became public, and personal.

Condon has led a division that represented more first-round NFL picks (16) than any other company in the last four years. But Sullivan, whose business was acquired by Octagon in 2000, represented more first-rounders (four) than any other company in the 2002 NFL draft, including No. 1 pick David Carr.

Sullivan, who represents Jammer, says a contract that Condon negotiated for LaDain-ian Tomlinson, the Chargers' first-round pick in 2001, who was also the fifth pick overall, is the reason he can't get Jammer signed.

The Chargers "feel they got a substantially below-market deal for the first three years for Tomlinson and appear to be looking for a way to avoid paying a fair-market deal for Quentin," Sullivan said. The Chargers wouldn't comment.

But Condon says Tomlinson got a great deal and Sullivan just doesn't understand it. The contract makes Tomlinson, on an average, per year, the seventh-highest-paid running back in the NFL and was 61 percent higher guaranteed money than the previous No. 5 pick, running back Jamal Lewis.

"Mike Sullivan hasn't had a great deal of experience in the first round and it showed in his David Carr contract, and it is again apparent in the Quentin Jammer negotiation," Condon said.

Sullivan shot back, "I am not surprised that Tom does not recognize what a good contract David Carr has since it has been quite awhile since IMG has had the top pick in the draft and Octagon has had the last two."

The problem, Sullivan says, is the Chargers did not pick up an option on the Tomlinson contract that would have given the player a $4.5 million bonus and the team a six-year deal instead of five years. They didn't pick it up because they weren't required to do so, he said.

Last year there was widespread use of these "option bonuses," agents said. They were created in response to a new limit on the amount of money players could get in a signing bonus.

Most of the deals with option bonuses included a "non-exercise clause," which paid players the bonus even if teams did not exercise the option for the final year. The Tomlinson contract was among several 2001 deals that had the option and not the non-exercise clause, but the Chargers were the only team that did not pay the bonus.

"The three-year value of the Tomlinson contract should have been $12.45 million, and the only reason it is not is the failure of the contract to include the exercise buyout provision," Sullivan said.

Tomlinson still gets the $4.5 million back over five years, because his guaranteed salary increases as a result of the Chargers not exercising the clause.

Condon said the contract included benefits that other 2001 rookie deals didn't have and that the shorter term will benefit Tomlinson in the long run.

"Give me Jammer," Condon said. "I will take care of that deal for him."

Sullivan retorted: "It's nice of Tom to offer his assistance on Jammer, but I would think that [Kansas City Chiefs tight end] Tony Gonzalez would prefer that Tom work on getting Tony's contract situation resolved."

JOCKEYS CLOSE TO DEALS: The Jockeys Management Group, which represents about 80 California thoroughbred and quarter horse jockeys, is close to signing two deals with sponsors who will get their logos on the riders' trousers, said R.J. Kors, CEO of the jockeys' group.

Kors would not name the companies, but said he hopes to have the deals in place in time for the fall season at Santa Anita Park, which begins Oct. 2.

JMG was formed to sell sponsorships after the California Horse Racing Board decided earlier this year to allow riders to sell ad space on their pants.

Contact Liz Mullen at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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