SBJ/May 7-13, 2012/Labor and Agents

In motion: Some NFL teams aren’t waiting around to begin talks with top draft picks

NFL clubs historically have waited until July to start signing first-round picks. This year, that process was starting early last week, only a few days after the draft, with a few general managers, agents said, looking to get their top picks signed.

“A club called me and said ‘Let’s get started on [a first-round pick],’” said one veteran NFL agent. “He was aggressive. He said, ‘I want to get my guys done. I am going to have my other guys done this week. Let’s try to get them done before the mini-camp.’”

This agent, who asked not to be identified, said he had never received a call from a club general manager about a contract for a first-round pick so early.

The agent for No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck is already in talks with the Colts.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Will Wilson, Wasserman Media Group agent for No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, said, “We are in contact with each other and discussions have begun,” regarding a contract for Luck with the Indianapolis Colts.

Not all agents, however, had heard from NFL clubs about first-round picks as early as last week. One agent, after saying he hadn’t been contacted, added, “There’s no reason they shouldn’t all be signed now.” This agent said there is a lot less to negotiate for first-rounders under the new collective-bargaining agreement than there was previously — with first-round player deals limited to about half of what they were under the old CBA. Additionally, with the NFL having expanded rosters from 80 to 90 players this year, agents as well as a general manager said one of the effects of the increase is that clubs could move to sign high draft picks earlier than in the past.

CAA NO. 1 AGAIN WITH NO. 1s: In the six years since Tom Condon and Ben Dogra joined CAA Sports, the agency has led all others in representing the most first-round picks. The firm did it again this year, with seven picks — but with some help from new partner Jimmy Sexton, who joined CAA Sports in November.

Sexton represented four of CAA Sports’ nine overall picks. “He has been a great partner,” Condon said. “He was really productive. He was the lead guy on four of our draft choices.”

CAA Sports holds the record of first-round picks represented by a single agency, with nine in 2009. Both Condon and Dogra said they were not trying to break their own record this year and were happy with their draft.

CAA Sports also represents Joe Long, brother of client Jake Long, the Miami Dolphins offensive tackle who was picked No. 1 overall in 2008. Joe Long signed a deal as an undrafted free agent with St. Louis last week.

“I think we had a good draft because we represent some really high-quality guys who we think have a chance to be some really high-quality football players,” Dogra said.

SPORTSTARS LEADS IN OVERALL COUNT: Sportstars represented the most overall draft picks this year with 20. It was one of the best drafts for the agency, which represents about 100 players in the league.

Founder Alan Herman said he thinks the overall quality of his agency’s draft this year may be better than it was in 2006, when it had 22 players drafted, but the real answer won’t be known for several years.

“Quality is, Where are we four years from now and how many of these guys are starting players in the National Football League, commanding significant salaries?” Herman said.

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