SBJ/December 5-11, 2011/Labor and Agents

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  • Addition of Sexton balloons CAA’s NFL roster

    Before NFL player agents Ben Dogra and Tom Condon agreed recently to new long-term deals to stay at CAA Sports, they engaged in talks to make their practice — which boasts more first-round NFL draft picks and more Pro Bowlers over the past five years than any other agency — even more dominant.

    Last week, CAA confirmed that it had reached an agreement in principal for prominent agent Jimmy Sexton to join CAA Sports, a deal in which he will bring about 40 NFL players and 30 pro and college football coaches with him. Among Sexton’s clients are New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, Alabama coach Nick Saban, and starting quarterbacks Philip Rivers (San Diego), Tim Tebow (Denver), Christian Ponder (Minnesota) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo).

    With the merger of Sexton’s NFL practice into Condon and Dogra’s business, CAA Football will now represent about 150 NFL players, including 15 of the league’s 32 starting quarterbacks and 50 players who have played in a Pro Bowl.

    Condon and Dogra, who joined CAA in 2006 — Condon from IMG in April and Dogra from the former SFX Sports in July of that year — agreed to extensions of more than five years for their new deals. Sexton would not disclose the financial terms of his deal but said the length mirrors that of Condon’s and Dogra’s deals.

    Sexton said Condon and Dogra both approached him about joining CAA after the whirlwind period of NFL free agency that ensued following the end of the league’s lockout this summer. Sexton talked to CAA Sports co-heads Howard Nuchow and Michael Levine, as well as meeting with others at CAA’s Los Angeles headquarters, before making the decision to join CAA.

    Sexton said he spent a lot of time talking to Condon and Dogra before making his decision.

    Jimmy Sexton (above) joins the powerful CAA pair of Ben Dogra (top) and Tom Condon.
    “The one thing that impressed me more than anything was how they were rival agents six years ago and yet they worked so well together over the last five or six years,” Sexton said. “That was impressive to me: that they could take their separate practices and be that good that fast.”

    News that Sexton was joining CAA came as a bit of a surprise in the industry, as Sexton had joined forces with prominent NFL agent Pat Dye Jr. about a year ago to form a new company, SportsTrust Advisors.

    Sexton did not have an immediate comment on which clients that he and Dye had recruited together, such as rookie Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, would go to CAA and which would stay with Dye. Said Sexton, “Pat and I discussed it over the past couple of weeks and I made him aware [of the decision to join CAA].”

    Dye declined to comment.

    Sexton will continue to work out of his Memphis office, while Condon and Dogra work out of the CAA Football office in St. Louis. But, Sexton said, “All three of us will work together.”

    Condon and Dogra said they started talking earlier this year about making CAA’s NFL practice even more powerful than it has been by adding another agent, and they decided to pursue Sexton.

    Sexton historically recruits a lot of players out of Southeastern U.S. colleges, but Dogra said adding his practice had nothing to do with recruiting. Instead, Condon and Dogra said, they targeted Sexton because they consider him innovative, respected and a trendsetter.

    It’s long been said that the advantage of large player-representation practices is that the agents are able to place players because teams must deal with them for talent. The knock is that they are too big to provide personal service.

    All three agents declined to comment about the power that CAA Football would now wield with NFL clubs, but asked if CAA Football had not gotten too big, Dogra said, “The ‘big’ issue is a recruiting issue. I mean, ‘big’ is all relative. There are some people who can’t service one client, let alone 10 clients. … If we didn’t feel like we could service our players, we would stop signing them.”

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  • USC’s Barkley improves draft status, considers turning pro

    Liz Mullen
    USC quarterback Matt Barkley, expected to be a top pick in next year’s NFL draft if he makes himself available, will start meeting with sports industry experts this week to help him make that decision, his father said.

    “Matt has not even begun his contemplation on whether he is declaring for the draft or staying at USC,” Les Barkley said in a brief telephone interview last week. “He has until the middle of January to make that decision.”

    Jan. 15 is the deadline for underclassmen to declare for next year’s draft.

    USC’s Matt Barkley will be conducting research about entering the 2012 NFL draft.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Barkley did, however, say that his son would have “discussions with people in the industry” starting this week to help him decide whether to enter the 2012 draft or return to USC. He would not elaborate on who or what type of people his son would consult with, but he said his son “will talk with various people about what it means to be a professional football player.”

    Barkley declined to comment on the subject of agents and what agent or agents his son might choose if he does decide to turn pro.

    Should he opt to leave school, Matt Barkley could be one of the first players to sign with an agent this year. Barkley is a “true junior,” having played all three of his college years since graduating from high school, and USC has completed its season. The Trojans are not eligible to play in a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions.

    Under the NFL Players Association’s “junior rule” — which prohibits NFLPA-certified agents from talking to true juniors until they have completed their third season — agents can start recruiting juniors after their last regular-season or championship game of that year, or Dec. 1, whichever is later. In Barkley’s case, that means conversations could begin as of last Thursday.

    If Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck were not in the mix — Luck is considered the likely top draft pick in 2012 should he declare — Barkley might have been the QB in the spotlight heading into next year’s draft.

    “All the attention is on Luck, but in a normal year, Barkley would be generating No. 1 overall consideration,” said Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com.

    Rang said the biggest knocks on Barkley have been that his arm isn’t strong enough and that his performance has been flattered by the good players around him at USC, but he added that Barkley improved his draft status in USC’s final games of the season. “He is surrounded by a great deal of talent,” Rang said, “but he is making them play better, and his arm is certainly strong enough to make any NFL throw.”

    ASM ADDS CRAWFORD: NBA player agent Andy Miller has signed a number of new clients in recent months, during the league’s lockout, including Atlanta Hawks guard Jamal Crawford. Crawford, who was previously represented by Aaron Goodwin and who interviewed a number of player agents in recent weeks, committed last week to sign with Miller’s ASM Sports Management, Miller confirmed. Edgewater, N.J.-based ASM also has added Milwaukee Bucks center-forward Larry Sanders, free agent guard Roger Mason Jr. and power forward Kenyon Martin, who in September signed a one-year deal to play with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers.

    LAGARDÈRE SIGNS SUGGS: Joel Segal of Lagardère Unlimited has signed Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. The four-time Pro Bowler was previously represented by the late Gary Wichard, who died in March.

    IF SIGNS SHARPER, MURPHY FOR BROADCAST WORK: IF Management, a New York-based agency specializing in representation of sports broadcasters, has signed five-time NFL Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper and two-time MLB National League MVP Dale Murphy for broadcast representation. Agent Gideon Cohen will represent them.

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

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