The Agent’s Role in NFL Contract Negotiations

Okay, so now let’s get into the services you need to provide your athletes. I’m going to break it down into four major categories:
1) Representation
2) Business Services
3) Brand Management
4) Total Human Optimization to use a phrase coined by Onnit.com.

Keep in mind, that there will be some crossover with these.

Today, I’ll discuss the representation aspect, as this is the first and most important tenet of being an agent. Like I’ve previously said, negotiations on rookie contracts aren’t what they used to be due to the new slotted contract figures since the 2011 CBA. Of course, negotiations in future contracts are still very important.

In terms of representation, you want to focus on building your skills in a few fields especially:
• Negotiations
• Understanding team’s salary cap issues and team needs
• Knowledge of player values
• Understand the Free Agency market each year and each upcoming year
• Understanding contracts

This is a subject I would like your feedback most on as readers because it’s the field I’m, admittedly, most unfamiliar with as I haven’t been in the industry yet as I’m still a student. These are all issues that I go to Over The Cap for as it’s been a great asset for my eduation, Spotrac is a good site as well. My advice is to just keep reading up on contracts and articles on contracts. Take notes, understand the details of the deals, understand the values of players, create your own systems and processes for analyzing contracts. Feel free to send me your thoughts on these systems as well.

I took a negotiations class this spring and it’s most easily summed up by a need for you to understand your needs, the other side’s needs, and working out the best deal for everyone involved. You also need to understand the marketplace, the industry, and the any other details surrounding the negotiation. You have an ongoing relationship with these teams and by building a strong, fair relationship with them from the start, you’ll build trust and complete better deals. You’ll also have their ear whenever you call them about a client of yours that you believe in.

I look at being an agent like you would any sales job. You want to sell a product, a player, you believe in. This is like an B2B (business-2-business) sales, it’s all about your relationships. What do people think about when they see that you’re calling them? Do they get excited to see what you want to talk about or do they grimace and sigh?

One idea I’ve thought about a lot is the fact that you do not want to get your player a contract that they can’t live up to, an unfair deal, you don’t want them to be on a contract that severely hurts their team’s chances to win. That kills a player’s reputation with the team’s town and across the league. Fans hate players who waste their team’s money, so you’re hurting their brand.

The next tenent I’ve created for being a good agent is an understanding of each team’s salary cap and their needs. As a salesman, you find your target market for your product and as an agent, you find the best team for your client. If you’re representing a guy who can be a great slot WR for the right team, you wouldn’t try and sell him to the New England Patriots or the Denver Broncos. You’d find a team with the right offense and the right team needs for your client to succeed.

An agent’s job is to understand the market for each of your player’s services, you don’t want your player to be somewhere he isn’t needed and a team is less likely to give him the money he deserves if they don’t have a specific need at that position. You create value for your client by finding them the best chance to succeed, the team that needs them the most. You also build a strong relationship with management of these teams by helping them build their roster in a manner that will help them succeed.

One thing Jason and I have both research is what it takes to build a championship football team. I broke down last season’s team cap spending by each position, then I looked at the amount of money 12-plus win teams spent on positions and 12-plus loss teams spent on positions. To make it something I could use for future seasons, I also looked at the percentage of the cap they spent on each position. This is something Jason has done really well with his new Super Bowl Champion cap spending series.

My goal as an agent will be to put my players in the best position to get the most value they can get, while also putting them in a position to succeed. I’d love to get a running back an Adrian Peterson type salary, but is that the best thing you can do for the success of the team and in turn your player’s brand? Can you get more of the money in a signing bonus, so they get the money they’re worth, but want them to have a manageable contract for their team. Of course, you want to get them their market value allowed by the free agency market, I’m just raising some questions that, I think, are worth asking.

Making sure your clients are on a winning team or a city where they can build the personal brand is a real concern as players begin to build these brands off the field. It’s great to make your money on the field, but it’s also great to be able to put “Super Bowl Champion” next to your name for the rest of your life.

I will also work to get my client’s the most value I can get for them, but I also want them to succeed statistically and in the win column. Russell Wilson is a great quarterback, but he isn’t the Russell Wilson brand he is right now without being on a great team. Put Wilson on the Jets (sorry Jason) and he’s not signing endorsement deals with Microsoft.

You also want to understand the upcoming marketplace in free agency. Understand who else will be on the market during any given offseason, a deep knowledge of the marketplace gives you an advantage over other agents.

These are all a part of what it takes to handle your role as a representative and negotiator for your client and his NFL contract. I’m sure we’ll discuss some other issues in representing your clients in future articles here, but that’s enough for today.

Coming next, we’ll discuss the role of the agent in the arena of business services. This is something I can expand on in a better manner than negotiations as I haven’t sat across the table from a team yet. Much more to come in this series.

As always, #BeAmerican out there my friends.

Zack Moore
@ZackMooreNFL
www.AllAmericanHustle.com
Supplements: Onnit

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  • McGeorge

    >.One idea I’ve thought about a lot is the fact that you do not want to get your player a contract that they can’t live up to, an unfair deal, you don’t want them to be on a contract that severely hurts their team’s chances to win. That kills a player’s reputation with the team’s town and across the league. Fans hate players who waste their team’s money, so you’re hurting their brand.

    I don’t agree. I see teams making stupid signings all the time. If they want to over pay your client then take the money. Else you are not doing your jobs and I’d certainly not want your or your agency representing me.

    • http://www.allamericanhustle.com Zack Moore

      Well yes, teams do make stupid signings all the time. I’m just taking conventional logic and trying to look at it from another perspective. It’s not good to be Carl Pavano with the Yankees or Kei Igawa. The player gets a huge contract that he never lives up to and an entire city hates him. Sure, is the money nice? Yes, but you’ve completely obliterated any brand you could possibly have.

      • McGeorge

        One big difference between football and base ball is longevity.
        In Football, after the rookie contract is up, most players get this one payday. After that contract is up, and the player is 30+, they mostly get smaller and shorter contracts, except for QBs and stars.

        Thus its worth taking all you can get at age 25/6 via the big over paid contract, because you won’t make so much at 31 in any case, regardless of your performance (unless you are a QB or Jerry Rice).

        Also – football players not at the top, don’t really have the opportunity to make that much via endorsements. I see JJ Watt and Peyton Manning in commercials. I don’t see some what above average players.

        Given the short term careen in football, I’d take the overpaid contract at 25/26 and be content.

        • http://www.allamericanhustle.com Zack Moore

          Commercials aren’t the only place for endorsements. You can also build your brand through business opportunities. If I’m a player who sees myself building a brand with longevity and starting a business post-career, I’m not going to be comfortable being in a contract I can’t live up to.

          Something I didn’t mention from the player’s perspective is that they don’t like the negative feelings of being in a contract that they’re not playing up to. The statement I made had nothing to do with the sports of baseball or football, it had to do with the contracts themselves and the way a bad contract is gonna hurt your image. I’m not saying I’m gonna stop my players from getting what I think they’re worth, but I am concerned about them having a cap number that allows their team to play well for his sake as a player and brand as well.

        • http://www.allamericanhustle.com Zack Moore

          I know a player who has a $75,000 Verizon deal and you’d have no idea he’s with Verizon. I know a guy with a car deal where he gets two new cars per year and he doesn’t have to do much promotion. There are also the regional deals as well as digital and social media deals that I’m exploring as well.

      • aavenoso

        I’d argue that both of those are poor examples as Carl Pavano was a stud in Florida… and nobody cared less. Kei Igawa, successful or not will always be a hero in his native market of Japan, simply by playing in MLB. I live in China now, and I can say Yao is still a god in this country, years and years after his feet abandoned him.
        In Pavano’s case, I would argue his contract bought out any value his brand would have had having been successful or not. If he had had a 4yr/4 million dollar deal, won 2 cy youngs and 3 world series rings, and then suffered a career ending injury, no amount of brand management would have made up the difference in the money he made from the bloated contract the Yankees paid him.
        These are also Baseball contracts where everything contract is guaranteed.
        Revis is a better example who hoped from a mediocre Jets team to a meaningless Tampa team, collecting 16 million… did he hurt his brand not taking a smaller deal from San Francisco, and maybe picking up a SB ring in the process.

  • McGeorge

    What I think an agent should be aware of is how various bonuses affect the players cap hit. If it becomes painful to cut a player early, the team may keep them an extra year, and you’ve gained some extra protection for the player.

    Also, a roster bonus that forces a team to cut a player earlier in the off season gives him more time to get a new job. Compared to later cuts, or threats of cuts, like the NY Giants did to M. Kiwanuka.

    • http://www.allamericanhustle.com Zack Moore

      Of course, good point, something I should go more in depth on in the future.