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Volume 23 No. 25
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Pandemic influenced Keenan Allen’s new $80M deal

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen’s $80 million, four-year extension agreement with the club last month was influenced in part by the pandemic and the effect it is having, and will have, on the market, his agent said last week.

The maximum value of the deal is actually $80.1 million, with $50 million guaranteed, said Joby Branion, founder and CEO of Vanguard Sports Group and agent to Allen, who has made the Pro Bowl the last three years. “At the end of the day, I think both sides got something out of this deal, which left both sides feeling good about each other — and that’s important to try to always do.”

The pandemic, which will significantly reduce the number of fans at NFL games this year, as well as the likelihood the team would have franchised-tagged Allen next year, played into the decision to sign the extension, Branion said. 

“We know now the vast majority, if not all, of the fan revenue is going to be lost, which is going to impact next year’s salary cap, which is going to impact next year’s franchise tag number for a guy like Keenan, who would most certainly get franchise tagged,” Branion said.

Agent Joby Branion said he negotiated Keenan Allen’s (below) deal knowing that next year’s salary cap and franchise tag numbers will be affected by reduced revenue this season.
Photo: Vanguard Sports Group
Agent Joby Branion said he negotiated Keenan Allen’s (below) deal knowing that next year’s salary cap and franchise tag numbers will be affected by reduced revenue this season.
Photo: Vanguard Sports Group
Agent Joby Branion said he negotiated Keenan Allen’s (below) deal knowing that next year’s salary cap and franchise tag numbers will be affected by reduced revenue this season.
Photo: Vanguard Sports Group

This year’s nonexclusive franchise tag for wide receivers was $17.8 million, and under normal circumstances, that tag would have gone up in 2021. But these are not normal times. 

“Again, if this were a typical year, we would be looking at ‘OK, he’s playing for 10.5 [million] and he’d get tagged next year for 20 million,’ because the cap would have gone up,” Branion said. “You look and say ‘10.5 this year, 20 next year give or take, that’s 30 [million] over two.’ Instead, for the first time — in what, history? — the salary cap is going to go down.” 

The other factor that hung over the negotiations is “just the unknown,” Branion said. “We just don’t know: Is this something that will carry over into next year? Will the market just generally be depressed?”

Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images

Under the deal Allen signed, his annual pay per year will be a little over $20 million and he will be 31 going into the last year of his contract. Branion said that he and Allen both wanted a four-year deal, instead of the five-year deal a lot of top wide receivers were getting, because they think he will be able to get another contract if he stays healthy. And the economy, hopefully, will have recovered from the pandemic, Branion said. 

The pandemic likely changed the Chargers’ thinking as well, Branion said. “There were other options available to us that might have been different and quite frankly the team might have been in a different posture, right? Because they would have known the circumstances would have been different or they would not be what they are now.”

Additionally, the Chargers were willing to step up and lock down a core player after agreeing to a five-year, $135 million contract, with a $102 million guarantee, with defensive end Joey Bosa in late July. “They could have said, ‘We’re done doing deals,’” Branion said, adding that he admired the professionalism of the Chargers’ management, including general manager Tom Telesco.

This is not the only big NFL contract for Vanguard Sports this year. Branion also negotiated a four-year, $54 million deal for nose tackle D.J. Reader to join the Cincinnati Bengals from the Houston Texans in March. 

Additionally, he helped clients deal with the coronavirus, including Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who contracted COVID-19 and successfully battled it, even though he has asthma. Miller called Branion the day he tested positive and Branion told him he could keep it quiet if he wanted or he could make it public. It was important to Miller, Branion said, not to keep it quiet. 

“I said, ‘You could have a huge impact because you can step up and say, ‘Look, people, I am 30 years old and I am at the top of my game and I got it and I was trying not to get it. Take this thing seriously,’” Branion related. “And to his credit, he decided that he wanted to go public — for that reason. If Von Miller, Superman, can get it, anyone can get it.” 

Branion spoke to Sports Business Journal the day before Miller suffered an ankle injury in practice. He said the linebacker, who has won a multitude of honors, including being named the MVP of Super Bowl 50, had fully recovered from the virus and was in the best shape of his life.  

Branion founded Vanguard in 2014 after working at Athletes First since it was founded in 2001. He has grown a practice of about 30 NFL players, and recently started an MLB player practice and NBA practice.

VAYNER SIGNS MIOCIC: VaynerSports has signed UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic for representation inside and outside the octagon. 

Lloyd Pierson, VaynerSports executive vice president, action and combat sports, is representing Miocic. He was formerly represented by Jim Walter

Miocic is coming off his unanimous decision win over Daniel Cormier last month, the third fight in their trilogy. He is under contract to the UFC but there may be some negotiations to do to determine what’s next for the champ. Miocic has a partnership with Modelo and VaynerSports will be looking to expand his marketing portfolio.

Pierson joined VaynerSports from Ballengee Group in late July, bringing 26 mixed martial arts clients with him.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.