New league to tap into NFL agents, unsigned clients
The Alliance of American Football will be contacting NFL agents early next month to detail how their clients who don’t make NFL rosters can get signed to the new league, AAF co-founder Bill Polian said.
“We are going to have an extensive message that goes out to them right around Aug. 1 which explains all the ramifications,” Polian told Sports Business Journal. “We are calling it an agent blast. It will cover the waterfront.”
The new league, scheduled to begin play Feb. 9, 2019, will be offering three-year contracts valued at a minimum of $250,000 to about 400 players who make the AAF’s eight team rosters. More importantly, Polian says, if all goes as planned, it will offer some players a second chance to make it to the NFL.
In addition to Polian, who spent nearly 40 years working in the NFL first as a scout and then as general manager of the Bills and Panthers and president of the Colts, the AAF has hired several former NFL general managers and well-known coaches. AAF coaches include Mike Martz, Rick Neuheisel, Mike Riley and Dennis Erickson, and the league also is employing some famous former NFL players, including Michael Vick, Mike Singletary, Hines Ward, Jared Allen and Troy Polamalu, who will serve as the league’s head of player relations.
The NFL is a small world and many agents have already reached out to Polian, as well as team GMs and coaches, to see what kind of opportunities are available for clients. Unlike with NFL players, there is no rule on how much agents can charge clients in the AAF. But with a base salary of about $70,000 and the chance to make as much as $100,000 annually, representing AAF players may not be a very lucrative business on its own for agents.
If it works as Polian envisions, though, the AAF could be a developmental league for the NFL. “We want to give a guy a chance to develop and get a chance to make it in the NFL, so that is what is in it for the agents,” he said.
Any AAF player who receives a “bona fide” offer to play for an NFL team will be released and allowed to pursue that at the end of the AAF season, Polian said.
“So we will be in the process very soon of signing players,” Polian said, “and in addition to that, we expect once the NFL cuts in September, we will have an influx of guys looking for work.”
Polian expects many of the AAF’s players to come from players who are cut from NFL training camps this summer, but not all. Players who are not drafted or signed are also possibilities, as are players who have played in the NFL in the past.
“Guys like Trent Richardson, who need a second chance,” Polian said, referring to the former Alabama running back who was the No. 3 pick in the 2012 NFL draft and is now out of the league.
Asked if the AAF would want to sign former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, Polian said, “That’s a very interesting question.” He noted that Manziel is currently under contract to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League and that the AAF would honor other leagues’ contracts with players.
“But if he were released by Hamilton, obviously we would have interest in him,” he said.
Training camp starts the first week of January with team rosters of 75 that will be cut down to 50.
■ REP1 PROVIDING FINANCIAL REVIEWS: Rep1 Sports, a firm that represents more than 60 NFL and 75 baseball players, including Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Yankees pitcher Luis Severino, has partnered with a firm to provide free financial audits.
Clients can have their finances reviewed for any potential signs of fraud or mismanagement under the agency’s partnership with BrightLights, a firm founded by David Byrne, a former regulator with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and a certified fraud examiner.
“We have had a few clients run into issues with financial advisers in the last decade and we felt helpless without some form of oversight to protect them,” said Ryan Tollner, CEO of Rep1 and an NFL agent.
Rep1 does not provide financial advisory services to clients, and the review service is being provided for players who want it for “peace of mind,” he said.