SBJ/May 9-15, 2011/Labor and Agents

Some NFLers getting paid, thanks to deferred compensation

Liz Mullen
Contrary to popular belief, some NFL players have been getting paid, and paid well, since the NFL lockout was imposed March 12.

Although players have not received compensation such as roster bonuses, for reporting for the new 2011 league year, they have been paid deferred compensation in their contracts for money they earned last season and other seasons. Many NFL players’ signing bonuses, other bonuses and incentives earned involve deferred payments, and those payments have been made by NFL clubs, said multiple agent and other player-side sources.

For example, Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams earned a deferred payment of $4.25 million on March 15, St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Jason Smith was paid $3.837 million in March, and Houston Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans was paid $2.5 million last month. Ben Dogra, NFL agent and co-head of CAA’s football division, confirmed the payments for the players, all CAA clients.

Other NFL agents said their players had also been paid since the lockout started. “Our guys who have deferred signing bonuses and deferred option bonuses have been paid and in a timely fashion,” said Pat Dye, a partner in SportsTrust Advisors.

Dye added that midround draft picks as well as high-profile players get deferred signing bonus and other bonus payments.

Clubs are paying this deferred money because they are legally obligated to do so since it had already been earned, agents said.

Everyone in NFL circles last week was waiting to hear whether the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would stay a federal court’s injunction of the NFL lockout. As of midweek, the 8th Circuit had issued a temporary stay and a decision was expected at any time on a more permanent stay.

But the other question agents were asking was whether the NFL league year had started between the time that federal Judge Susan Richard Nelson enjoined the lockout April 25 and the 8th Circuit granted the temporary stay April 29. The reason that is important: Many NFL players have bonuses, including workout bonuses and especially roster bonuses, that are paid on different days of the league year. “Sometimes it’s the first day, sometimes it’s the third day, sometimes the fifth day, that the roster bonus is earned,” said one agent.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email that the league year did not start between Nelson’s ruling and the temporary stay.

Workout bonuses are earned in the offseason before training camp. If there is no offseason, and the lockout ends with training camp, agents want those players paid their workout bonuses.

No matter how the 8th Circuit rules, there is an appeal and the lockout could be off again or on again in the future, agents and lawyers said.

“It’s an odd, odd thing,” said Dye. “I have been in this business for 25 years and never dealt with anything like it.”

LOZANO SIGNS A-ROD FOR BASEBALL WORK: Agent Dan Lozano has signed Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for all baseball-related work. Lozano also signed Oakland A’s first baseman Daric Barton.

OCTAGON GETS JIMMER: Octagon has signed BYU point guard Jimmer Fredette for the NBA draft. Agents Jeff Austin and Chris Emens will represent him. He was ranked No. 11 by NBADraft.net last week.

WASSERMAN SIGNS A CZECH: Wasserman Media Group has signed a basketball player from the Czech Republic, Jan Vesely, the 2010 FIBA Young Men’s Player of the Year Award winner, who is expected to be taken high in this year’s NBA draft. Vesely was ranked No. 6 by NBADraft.net last week and was No. 8 at DraftExpress.com.

Wasserman principal Arn Tellem and agent Alexander Raskovic will represent him.

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

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