SBJ/20100830/Labor & Agents

Guaranteed money for NFL first-rounders continues to rise

The amount of guaranteed dollars going to first-round NFL draft picks increased by 8.5 percent this year, to $452 million.

That’s up from $416.5 million for last year’s top selections, said Mark Levin, NFL Players Association director of salary cap and agent administration.

The amount of guaranteed dollars, which are paid to players even if they suffer a career-ending injury or otherwise do not perform, has gone up for the last several years. The increase from 2008 to 2009 was 9.1 percent. The increase from 2007 to 2008 was 6.5 percent, and from 2006 to 2007 it was 4.5 percent.

But that trend could very well halt after this year, as the NFL has proposed a rookie wage scale in which first-round picks would be paid a set amount, based on their position in the draft. The NFLPA has also proposed major changes to the rookie system, namely that contract lengths for all drafted players be limited to three years.

First-round draft picks typically sign deals that are five to six years in length.

This year, the NFL is operating without a salary cap, but the rookie pool, a cap within the overall salary cap that limits the amount of money clubs can pay rookies, was in effect.

 CAA SIGNS FIRST ROOKIE GOLF CLIENT: CAA Sports has signed its first young golf client since it entered the golf business in April of last year: 21-year-old USC four-time all-American Belen Mozo.

Mozo, a native of Spain who is bilingual, charismatic and good-looking, won both the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship and the Girls’ British Open Amateur, the first player to do so since 1972. She also qualified for three women’s professional golf championships while competing as an amateur.

Dustin Johnson missed
a rule but found some
new opportunities.

Mozo, who recently turned pro after recovering from shoulder surgery, is represented by a team of agents led by Mike Rielly at CAA. Mozo played mostly Titleist clubs at USC, where she is still in school and working toward getting a degree by the end of the year. CAA agents are said to be talking to both endemic and non-endemic sponsors, and Mozo plans to go to Q school for both the LPGA and the Ladies European Tour.

CAA also represents golf legends Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus.

 TWO STROKES, TWO DEALS?: Don’t feel too sorry for PGA Tour player Dustin Johnson, who lost the chance to be in the playoff at this year’s PGA Championship after he was penalized two strokes for grounding his club in a bunker he didn’t know was a bunker.

The next day, Johnson’s agent, Rocky Hambric, received more than 500 e-mails and many phone calls, including calls from sponsors and overseas tournaments who wanted to increase Johnson’s appearance fee. Johnson is 11th on the money list and, at age 26, is becoming a tour favorite because of his athleticism, Hambric says.

“He can dunk a basketball flat-footed with jeans and a regular shirt on,” Hambric said. “By golf standards, he’s an animal.”

Hambric, who has been in the business 33 years and has represented Phil Mickelson, Lorena Ochoa and Anthony Kim, among others, said he has never seen a loss generate so much fan and sponsor interest. “I think I will sign two deals because of it,” he said.

 SFX ADDS HUFF: SFX Baseball has signed San Francisco Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff for representation. Mark Pieper, managing partner of Chicago-based SFX Baseball, will represent Huff, who had been agent-less for a few months and was previously represented by ACES Inc.

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

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