I just wanted to share with our audience my experience at this year’s Tulane Pro Football Negotiation Competition. This is the 3rd year I’ve been invited to judge the event and it remains one of my favorite events of the year. I once again would encourage any law student who is thinking about pursuing a career in sports to participate in next year’s competition.
The event kicked off with back to back presentations by myself and Brandon Shore of the Dolphins walking the law students through the components of a NFL contract and then through the process of an actual negotiation. We had good attendance for our talk and really enjoyed the Q&A that followed with the students.
The next morning the actual event begins and here is a quick rundown of how it works. Schools are given the role of either agent or NFL front office executive and then tasked with negotiating a new contract for player who is either a free agent or expected to receive a new contract extension. Both sides are given objectives to meet such as a contracts annual per year value, magnitude of a signing bonus, or level of yearly per game bonuses. Teams are given 45 minutes to try to reach a deal. The player pool this year consisted of Jarvis Landry, Drew Brees, and Trumaine Johnson. At the completion of each round the teams were graded by judges based on negotiation style, ability to reach objectives and overall presentation and preparedness and then offered advice for the future. The first day is a round robbin tournament with teams having an opportunity to compete multiple times.
Following the completion of the first round, Tulane hosted a nice social event at one of the hotels with food and drink where competitors could socialize with judges and other teams. At the conclusion of the evening the announcement was made of the top 8 teams that would advance to the playoff round on Saturday. The playoffs are a single elimination tournament following the same format as Saturday except with more judges per round. The players used in the playoffs this year were Kenny Vaccaro, Jimmy Graham and Ziggy Ansah.
The competition continued to grow this year both in terms of quantity and quality of competitors. I think the first year I judged there were 20 teams and I believe that they were up to 34 teams just two years later. The list of judges was also very impressive. NFL representatives included Jackie Davidson (Jets), Khai Harley (Saints), Bryce Johnston (Eagles), Nick Sabella (Bears), Brandon Shore (Dolphins), and AJ Stevens (Buccaneers). Agents included Richard Katz (KMG), Tate Martin (Cavignac Sports), and Harrison Smith (Paradigm). Also attending were myself, JI Halsell (Nflcontractmetrics.com), and James Waldhauser (Cousineau McGuire). I learn something new from this group every year.
The finals came down to some familiar names with Villanova, who won last year, facing off with Chapman, who has now gone deep into the playoffs for three straight years. It was by far the closest finals in the three years I have judged with a very, very close vote giving Chapman to win. Congratulations to the winners and all the schools who competed.
On a personal note I really enjoyed getting to interact with so many students and discuss various things. There were many people I recognized from past competitions and was happy to catch up with the international team from Costa Rica and the group from Denver among others while also meeting some new people with some pretty amazing stories and career ambitions. I even got to autograph a few books as silly as that sounds. I already have a backlog of email but will get to all of them soon and if we didn’t get a chance to connect during the hectic weekend feel free to email me anytime.
I also want to thank the Tulane Sports Law Society for having me as a judge again. Both Erin and Breard did a great job organizing the competition this year and have left the competition in even better shape for those taking over in the future. Tulane’s students from the Sports Law Society have always been supportive of OTC and I hope to be a part of their event in the future.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.