It’s not a literal question but a hypothetical one. It’s no secret that player agents can literally “set the market” so to speak. More often than not, that large payday that is doled out on some free agent signing sounds much larger than the guaranteed portions actually are. It’s an attempt to inflate the numbers. Not so player “X” can thump on his chest as being the highest paid at his position but instead so that the agent can use the contracts numbers to appeal to future clients.
Which brings us to the current state of the CBA. How much influence do the agents have on the negotiations?
Consider that whatever salary cap is in place (something that most agents secretly don’t want) they stand to lose money. If players X & Y are ready to hit the open market and they are not top prized FA’s, their contract offers will come with a salary cap structure in place, and thus likely less money than they would have got without one.
Consider the NFL Draft as well. Leading up to the draft is the Combine but the NFLPA has requested that agents “boycott” that event as a show of solidarity. The agents know that many of their clients need the Combine. Why? To make more money. Put a higher draft pick slot on their names. Sure the players get theirs but there is no flat rate fees from the agents. The higher their client goes, the more money he makes, and the more money the agent makes.
So while veteran players want a rookie salary cap, agents don’t. Especially not in the first round where top 10 picks can bring in as much capital for a savvy agent as the free agent market can. When rookie contracts are being negotiated and rookies are either holding out or closing in on the start of training camp without a deal, it’s not because the guy picked immediately before him or after hasn’t signed, it’s because it is in the best interest of the agent. The player’s best interest is to get him into camp on time.
Peter Schaffer, agent for Browns tackle Joe Thomas, called a rookie salary scale, “scouting insurance against poor selection decisions.” Every team is willing to accept poor decision making in terms of drafting players, they want insurance from those players who simply take the money and run. How many times have we heard agents over the years say their client has lost interest in the game? How many times has a first round product busted because he doesn’t put the effort into his pro game? Every year.
The CBA is more than rookie salary scales. It’s about the money that the NFLPA will get and the player will get. Agents have been telling players for over a year to save their money in case of a lockout. Some agents receive monthly payments or quarterly payments from their clients while others receive their money up front off the top of the contracts. Do you think they cut their take?
So while the players and NFLPA battle it out with the NFL owners, behind the scenes the players are being advised by their agents, which in turn makes you wonder what they are being told. Is there an agent out there that is going to advise his client that taking a smaller slice of the NFL pie is in the best interest of the league? No, because it’s not in the best interest of the agent.
The irony of all this is that when the CBA gets done, the top players are still going to receive the giant paydays and the little guy is going to take home a lot less, but that’s alright because for the agents, the top ones don’t spend the same amount of time with those clients.