SBJ/April 7-13, 2014/Labor and Agents

Total guaranteed dollars rise for NFL free agency signings

Liz Mullen
In the first three weeks of NFL free agency, clubs agreed to pay unrestricted free agents $760.8 million in total guaranteed money, an increase of 24.3 percent over the same period last year, according to the NFL Players Association.

NFL clubs signed 226 unrestricted free agents, or UFAs, as they are known in the business, in the first three weeks, compared with 186 UFAs last year. Last year’s group signed contracts with a total guaranteed dollar value of $612.5 million.

The amount of money that clubs have spent on the first year of 2014 UFA contracts so far is $692.2 million, up 21.8 percent from $568.5 million last year.

“I think it’s a result of the revenues going up, the cap going up, and required minimum cash spending,” said George Atallah, NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs.

Before the opening of free agency, the 2014 salary cap was set at $133 million, an increase of $10 million, the biggest jump since the new NFL collective-bargaining agreement began in 2011. The NFL salary cap was $120.3 million in 2011; $120.6 million in 2012; and $123 million in 2013.

The CBA also contains a provision in which clubs are required to spend an average of 89 percent of the salary cap over a four-year period through 2016.

“With respect to the economics of the 2011 CBA, player leadership knew that our growth was tied to league growth,” Atallah said. “As league revenues have improved and gone up, players have more money available to them that teams have to spend because of the new minimum spending provision in the CBA.”

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined comment on the numbers, noting that free agency spending was a club-by-club issue, not a league matter.

The pool of available UFAs was smaller this year, 402 compared with 420 last year. In the first three weeks of free agency this year, 56.2 percent of UFAs had signed contracts, compared with 44.3 percent last year.

“I think you can attribute a lot of that to there was a pretty significant and relatively unexpected increase in the cap room,” veteran agent Pat Dye Jr. said. “I think that is the catalyst or impetus for a faster rate of UFAs being signed at this point.”

Although the total amount of guaranteed money and first-year money is up, the average annual value of the 2014 UFA contracts is relatively flat, at $2.628 million, compared with $2.592 million, an increase of 1.4 percent. Average first-year value for the 2014 UFA contracts was $3.062 million, compared with $3.056 million, an increase of 0.2 percent.

The NFLPA did not have numbers available on how many players signed one-year deals versus multiyear deals.

Skov gets the star rookie treatment in Spanish.

> UPPER DECK IN SPANISH: The Upper Deck Co. has produced its first Spanish-language American football card, featuring Stanford linebacker and 2014 draft prospect Shayne Skov, who speaks fluent Spanish and learned to play American football in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The card will be released nationwide as part of Upper Deck’s set of about 200 rookie cards, which will be available for sale in retail outlets such as Target and Wal-Mart on April 16. “If it’s popular and we get a great response, we are definitely open to doing this again,” said Brandon Miller, brand manager for Upper Deck.

Miller said the company became interested in doing a Spanish-language card for Skov after learning his story from his agent, Steve Baker, founder of Baker Sports Group. Skov was born in America but lived in Mexico for four years.

> SPORTSTRUST SIGNS SEVERAL: Dye’s agency, SportsTrust Advisors, has signed eight prospects for the NFL draft, as well as Broncos offensive tackle Winston Justice.

Agent Michael Perrett will represent Justice. He was formerly represented by Premier Sports Management.

For the NFL draft, SportsTrust is representing Georgia Tech outside linebacker/defensive end Jerry Attaochu, Alabama outside linebacker/defensive end Adrian Hubbard, Tennessee offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, Auburn fullback Jay Prosch, Stanford safety Ed Reynolds, Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson and Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby. SportsTrust agents Dye, Perrett and Bill Johnson will represent the players.

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


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