SBJ/April 30-May 6, 2012/Labor and Agents

Agents consider potential effects of expanded NFL rosters

Liz Mullen
NFL agents had differing views on a plan announced by the league last week to expand club roster limits to 90 players before the final cut down to 53 players when the season begins.

Teams have had a roster limit of 80 in the spring and summer months, except for last year, when rosters were expanded to 90 after the NFL lockout wiped out spring football activities and shortened teams’ preseason camps.

Teams will be required to cut down to 75 from 90 after the third week of the preseason before cutting to 53 before the start of the regular season.

Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons and chairman of the NFL competition committee, said by email that the 90-player roster accounts for drafted yet unsigned players and “creates more certainty and competitive fairness to the roster numbers for teams.”

Some agents said the roster expansion would cause clubs to sign younger players and more undrafted players as they did last year, giving more of these players a shot at making an NFL roster than they normally would have, possibly at the expense of veteran NFL players.

Last year, clubs signed a record 615 undrafted rookies, up from about 450 who usually sign with clubs in the weeks right after the draft. Ultimately, only 61 of those 615 players made a team’s 53-man roster last year, compared with 57 undrafted rookies on rosters to start the 2010 regular season.

Other agents were unsure of the effect. “I don’t know how it makes a difference, except it allows teams to look at more players,” said an agent in a text message.

Prominent agent Drew Rosenhaus said the roster expansion will allow clubs to sign more undrafted rookies, but the expansion also could help veteran players.

“The roster expansion will help the 200 plus currently unsigned unrestricted veteran free agents,” Rosenhaus texted. “The roster expansion will allow the teams to rest many of their starters during training camp and the preseason games.”

OCTAGON SIGNS JOHNSON: Octagon has signed five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion driver Jimmie Johnson as a client. Octagon will work exclusively with Johnson and his team on brand-building initiatives through endorsements and other commercial opportunities.
 
CAA Sports had represented Johnson in these areas since 2007 and developed a “24/7” HBO show and video game, “Anything With an Engine,” for Johnson but didn’t close any new endorsements for him.

Alan Miller, Johnson’s business manager, said it was time for a change and added that he knew Octagon well because of the agency’s work with NASCAR’s top series sponsor, Sprint. Said Miller, “CAA worked hard with us. It was simply a matter of believing we needed to head in a different direction.” He added that he thinks Johnson has room for endorsements in categories such as apparel, food and watches.

EXCEL SIGNS NBA PROSPECTS: Excel Sports Management signed NBA draft prospects Jeremy Lamb, shooting guard from Connecticut; Meyers Leonard, center from Illinois; and Jared Cunningham, shooting guard from Oregon State. Agency founder Jeff Schwartz, Mike Lindeman and Sam Goldfeder will represent the players.

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

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