SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/Labor and Agents

Agencies sprint through whirlwind of signings

NFL player agents have been catching up on their sleep while tallying up their deals after arguably the wildest, and certainly the shortest, NFL player signing period ever.

CAA Football, led by agents Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, negotiated $606.8 million worth of deals, with $278.4 million of that total in guaranteed money to players, according to agency figures.

About 90 percent of CAA’s deals were negotiated within a 12-day period, Condon said, adding that the total amount was a record for CAA Football. Asked whether he knew how it compared to CAA Football’s 2010 numbers, Condon said, “I don’t, but half a billion sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?”

Among other agencies:

Priority Sports & Entertainment: $300.1 million in negotiated deals, with $124.2 million guaranteed.

SportsTrust Advisors: $235 million total, with $115 million guaranteed.

Sportstars: $255 million in veteran deals, $127 million of it guaranteed.

All totals are agency reports, and a complete list of deals for every NFL player representation firm could not be immediately compiled. Some player agents declined to provide their totals. In other cases, agents were unable to provide aggregate figures because the signings were ongoing.

A number of veteran NFL players who played in the league last year were jobless last week and hoping that spots would open on NFL rosters.

Drew Rosenhaus, who represents about 150 NFL players, more than any other agency, sent an email to virtually every general manager in the league during the height of free agency. In that email, a copy of which was obtained by SportsBusiness Journal, he lists 15 NFL players “who would be willing to sign for the M.S.B.” — a reference to “minimum salary benfit.”

Rosenhaus declined to comment on the email last week. He also declined, via email, to provide total value of the deals he and his partner and brother, Jason Rosenhaus, had negotiated. “I’m sorry, but I’m just too busy right now to compile that list, [but] it is extensive,” Rosenhaus wrote.

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CAA could have additional deals coming, including one for the Saints’ Drew Brees.
Some agents last week were continuing to work on long-term deals or extensions for their star clients:

Joel Segal, who heads up Lagardère Unlimited’s football practice, was negotiating deals for Pro Bowl clients Michael Vick and Chris Johnson. Segal said he negotiated $147 million in about four days in this year’s signing period.

Priority Sports’ agents were said to be working on deals for Haloti Ngata and Arian Foster.

CAA could have additional deals coming as well, with clients Drew Brees and Ryan Kalil.

The NFL Players Association, as of early last week, did not have dollar amounts for all the NFL player deals that had been completed since the NFL lockout ended late last month. There were, however, clearly more players signing deals in a much shorter period of time than ever before. Fueling that increase, in part, was NFL clubs expanding their training-camp rosters from 80 players to 90.

Teams this year signed what is believed to be a record number of undrafted rookies: about 615 leaguewide, compared with an average of 450 — though many of those players are not expected to make teams’ final 53-man rosters.

In addition, through early last week, there were 303 unrestricted free agents who had been signed to deals along with 57 restricted free agents, according to NFLPA figures. Normally, there are about 225 to 250 unrestricted free agents and about 70 restricted free agents, with signings being done from early March till late July. This year, because of the lockout, most of the players who signed deals did so within about a week or so.

“I averaged about two to three hours of sleep, once the gates opened,” Segal said. “I remember having a conversation with a superstar player and a head coach at 4 in the morning.”

Condon said he, Dogra and the rest of the CAA Football staff didn’t sleep much either, and when they did, in was in CAA’s offices in St. Louis. A typical day started to quiet down around 1:30 a.m., and the next day started at 6 a.m., he said.

Priority Sports agent Kenny Zuckerman said the pace was different on both sides of the table.

“Usually, when you talk to a team on a deal, you talk to them until that deal gets done,” Zuckerman said. “Because there was so much going on, you’d be talking to a team, and then they would be gone for, like, 24 hours. And then they would call back and say, ‘Hey, really sorry, we were trying to do 10 deals at once and there are only two or three of us.’”

Like other agents, Zuckerman said he typically got two or three hours of sleep a night, if he was lucky. “I am still recovering from it,” he said. “It was an absolute whirlwind.”

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