SBJ/April 15-21, 2013/Labor and Agents

Unrestricted NFL free agent signings up slightly over 2012

Liz Mullen
Through the first 25 days of NFL free agency, 204 players, or 48 percent of the unrestricted free agents available, have signed contracts with clubs, representing a small increase from last year.

Last year, during the same time period, 190 — or 44 percent of the unrestricted free agents — signed with clubs, according to the NFL. There were slightly fewer unrestricted free agents available this year (419) compared with 427 unrestricted free agents available in 2012.

The NFL provided the figures in response to a question from SportsBusiness Journal. The NFL did not provide dollar figures or contract lengths for the unrestricted free agents this year or last year.

An NFL Players Association spokesman did not return requests for comment.

Teams were able to begin signing unrestricted free agents on March 12, and historically, the most valuable NFL player free agents are signed in the first few weeks of free agency.

The NFLPA earlier this month sent an email to all agents certified to negotiate club contracts and asked them to provide the union with any evidence that teams are “working in concert” to set market prices on player contracts. The NFL has denied that clubs are working together to set the market.

Agents questioned by SportsBusiness Journal last week noted that the number and/or percentage of unrestricted free agents signed was not indicative of whether or not there was collusion by teams.

> NFL DRAFT PICTURE STILL MURKY: In December, NFL talent guru Gil Brandt said he thought there were 15 different players who could be the No. 1 overall draft pick. With the draft just weeks away, Brandt, former Dallas Cowboys personnel executive and current NFL.com columnist who decides which players the NFL invites to the draft, said the possibilities have narrowed, but not by much.

“There is a possibility there are about 10 different guys who could go No. 1,” Brandt said last week. “I have never seen it like this before.”

> EAS SIGNS NFL DRAFT PROSPECTS: Eastern Athletic Services, a Baltimore-based NFL player representation firm that specializes in representing NFL players, has signed Georgia safety Shawn Williams and Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox for representation in this year’s NFL draft.

EAS also has signed Georgia defensive end Cornelius Washington, Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore and James Madison University offensive guard Earl Watford. EAS NFL agents Anthony Agnone, Rich Rosa and Eddie Johnson will represent the players.

Agnone, EAS founder and president, said the players have been making multiple visits to NFL clubs in recent weeks. Agnone, who has been an NFL player agent for 36 years, said he agrees with Brandt’s assessment of the draft this year and says the uncertainty extends beyond the first round. “Any of these players [rated] in the top three rounds could go anywhere,” Agnone said.

> SARNOFF SIGNS NFL DRAFT PROSPECTS: NFL player agent Ken Sarnoff has signed Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson for representation in the NFL draft.

Johnson was ranked No. 11 on the NFLDraftScout.com mock draft last week.

Sarnoff also is representing Boston College linebacker Nick Clancy. Sarnoff had been part of the former Gaylord Sports Management but went out on his own when that firm was acquired by Lagardère Unlimited last year.

> BDA SIGNS LAKERS’ CLARK: BDA Sports has signed Los Angeles Lakers forward Earl Clark. BDA NBA player agent Kevin Bradbury will represent him.

Clark was formerly represented by Relativity Sports. It is not clear why he switched agents, but BDA represents three of Clark’s teammates on the Lakers — guard Steve Nash, forward/center Jordan Hill and guard Chris Duhon.

> A3 SIGNS NBA DRAFT PROSPECTS: Allegiant Athletic Agency has signed a number of prospects for this year’s NBA draft, including South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters.

A3, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based firm that represents NFL and NBA players, also has signed Tennessee State forward Robert Covington and Indiana-Purdue University, Fort Wayne guard Frank Gaines. A3 agents Jared Karnes, Isaac Conner and Tommy Sims will represent the players.

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

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