Do Marketing Reps See the NCAA NIL Ruling Having a Major Impact?

As you know, the NCAA has ruled that student-athletes will be able to profit off their names, images and likenesses (NIL) as soon as a uniform policy can be developed, which might be as soon as January 2021. Obviously, it’s a radical change, and one we’ve already dealt with to some degree (here and here).

The move was met with alarm by most people in the college football community that we spoke to, but we decided to get a different perspective. So we decided to reach out to people who work with NFL players on the marketing side. Would this be as big as some think it will be?

We asked: Let’s say the NIL rule came into effect this January, and you’re representing Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. Who’s your first call? What’s your first move? What does the market look like?

Here’s what we were told.

  • “A lot of it would deal with what Trevor was interested in doing. People have this idea that there’s gonna be this overabundance of money going to these kids, and I think it’s gonna temper things. It will be interesting to see. These universities, I feel like, when the rule goes into effect, will be a huge push with their third parties (IMG College, Learfield  Sports, etc.). IMG is the go-between with corporate sponsors, so they’re gonna tell these players, ‘you need to work with IMG. IMG is gonna bring you all these opportunities,’ which I think for a lot of kids make sense. For the vast majority, it will make sense, but for a guy like Trevor Lawrence, really, his competition is the school, from a marketing standpoint. A guy like Trevor Lawrence, his marketability extends beyond what Clemson is providing. He would need to go outside the Learfield/IMG model and have his own representation that looks out for his interest. . . The shoe companies will be in a predicament. Adidas is gonna want to sign a Trevor Lawrence, but Trevor may not be able to wear Adidas cleats on the field. Where (the shoe companies) will run into trouble is, all the schools that Adidas has a deal with, the schools will want the shoe companies to spend their money with their top guys. . . Would definitely limit his exposure, where he’s on TV and print media. initially it’s a bad look if he’s plastered everywhere, and I think most guys aren’t gonna want that. Maximize your value, minimize your time commitment. Some guys are as big in college as they’ll ever be. Maybe a (Oklahoma QB) Jalen Hurts is a little different. Really don’t know what kind of NFL prospect he’s gonna be, so you capitalize on his marketability now.”
  • “First move, contact my most deep-pocketed financial advisors and partner with them to come up with a very large marketing guarantee for someone the stature of Lawrence. Let’s call it $10M up front. Obviously the player doesn’t collect on the marketing deals until the $10M is recouped. Next, I negotiate multi-year deals with all the major apparel and trading card companies. After that, I reach out to up-and -coming companies in various business segments and try to acquire equity stakes in those companies for my client. Smaller upfront payout to my client, but fair-sized equity stake in that company. Lastly, I reach out to various Hollywood agencies such as WMA/Endeavor, ICM and CAA and gauge their interest in co-repping my client for any opportunities in the movie/TV world.”
  • “Shoe and apparel, then beverage, then local memorabilia. Then regional car dealership. Also, probably the opposite brand from who the school is in bed with. It would benefit the shoe company to have one person on the team to wear something completely different.”

Want more football from a business perspective? Make sure to register for our Friday Wrap, which comes out every Friday at 6:30 p.m. CST. You can do that here.

Ask the Scouts: How Could NFL Liaisons Be More Helpful?

We try to use this blog to educate people. These days, we’re digging into the NCAA recruiting and personnel communities, trying to learn as much as we can about what people in this community do and what they need. That’s why launched a new weekly series, the ITL CFB Recruiting and Personnel Newsletter. Here’s this week’s edition.

At the same time, we hope to help them learn more about their own industry, as well. To do that, this week, we asked a handful of our friends in scouting this question: If there was one thing you’d like to tell NFL liaisons, that would make your job easier, what would it be? 

Here are their responses.

  • “It would be nice if across the board they were all open and honest. Remove restrictions and make sure we all got everything we need on their guys. I always say, often times, scouts and schools hurt each other and the players because of ego. We are a guest and should act as a guest at these schools. Coaches should look at us as a chance to help further careers of their players and make friendly connections in the NFL. By being open and treating the other side with kindness and being wide open just helps everyone. They don’t need to withhold info or be cynical. We (also) need to be honest and open with them. So not really one thing, because everything is needed. Honest info, details, open policy, make sure we have film access, etc. Give medical details and all that.”
  • “I think the No. 1 thing is honesty. We want to know the person that we are buying.  If you lie about the guys, you really are hurting the guys that do work hard.” 
  • “I would say the handful of schools that restrict practice access (and which days they can visit), Michigan and Michigan State being the worst. It’s a really bad look and it truly hurts their players. Imagine Cass Tech (High School) in Detroit telling those two (teams), “you can’t come watch practice, but you can swing by and watch them work out one day a week”?! That’s what Michigan does in-season. Michigan State lets you stay for like 5-10 minutes.”
  • “They do a good job. . . taking the direction and cue from the head coach. So they have (much) to consider in their jobs. My experiences have been good over the years. I feel I would be knit picking (if I was critical).” 

We’re asking questions like this every week in our newsletter series. If you work in college football recruiting and personnel — or even if you don’t, or would like to — and you’d like to be added to the list for this series, just let us know at nstratton at insidetheleague dot com. Another way to learn more: register for our Friday Wrap, which comes out this evening. You can do that here.

How Will the NCAA’s NIL Decision Affect College Recruiting?

If you work in the college and/or pro football space, or you would like to someday, you probably heard about the NCAA’s decision to allow players to profit off their names, images and likenesses. There’s still a lot to be decided about how it will work, and we’re a year-and-change away from it actually happening in college football, but it’s coming, and it’s a bombshell.

While many in the media and elsewhere have applauded the NCAA’s decision, we wanted to talk to people who work where the rubber meets the road. We asked several  recruiting directors at NCAA schools, big and small, this question:

The NCAA has voted to allow players to profit off their names, images and likenesses. How do you see this affecting recruiting? Will the rich get richer as big schools with major followings dominate the skill positions? Will schools in less populous or rural settings (Illinois, Boise State, Texas Tech) struggle to attract major talent? Will it have a negligible effect on competitive balance as the best schools attract the best players and others make do with the rest? Or will have some other effect?

Here are some of their responses.

  • “This could be a benefit for schools located in major cities. You can now sell the idea that a player’s product is being presented to a bigger market than other schools in less populated areas. More people = more money. QBs and skills players will most likely benefit from this rule. Looking at the NFLPA top 50 jersey sales, you see that majority of players are QBs, RBs and WRs. Not one OL is listed. It’ll be interesting to see how schools will create a plan to promote player brands for the players in the trenches to the skilled positions.”
  • “A top WR in Texas that would once not think about leaving the state because they had Tech or Baylor dominating the passing game may now waiver because a school in Los Angeles has presented the possibility of commercial or billboard opportunities for them throughout their college career.”
  • “This is really opening Pandora’s box. (Nike founder and Oregon mega-donor) Phil Knight and (business magnate and Oklahoma State mega-donor) T. Boone (Pickens) were the first two donors I thought of when this news came out. . . .”
  • “I think it will make the gap (between big schools and small schools) bigger. It benefits the bigger schools who generate huge revenue like Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, (Texas) A&M, ‘Bama, etc. . . . I’m not sure people know the implications of what this will mean. It certainly changes things, and I’m sure there will be a lot that’s discussed in coming years about how to govern this. But certain schools will use this as a big selling tool in recruiting. . . I heard (former Ohio State head coach) Urban Meyer say on (the Big Ten Network) a few weeks ago say, what would he do if (ex-Buckeye running back) Zeke Elliot was making $600,000 his (sophomore) year at Ohio State? How’s he supposed to say, you gotta go to class? What kind of message would that send to his teammates?”
  • “I question if your recruiting staff is now going to essentially need to have an agent on staff to set up promotional appearance and endorsements. . . I’m not sure how the rural vs. big city will affect recruiting and likeness as a whole though. I think it all depends on if there’s a cap on how much a kid can make and where they get the money from. The more interesting thing to me is, will you see the money from boosters that went to facilities, gear, travel, graphics, etc., now be redirected to the players? Will you lose out on staffing because the operating budget shrinks? I think this is going to be a major issue with group of five schools. the elite programs will not be affected as much.”
  • “(One) interesting question will be how the pay will differ from starters and backups and walk-ons. I do ultimately think it will affect the landscape of recruiting if the higher-tier Power 5 schools are able to offer a lot larger monetary package to recruits compared to the more remote and lower-tiered schools. . . If the money that players receive is similar to the scholarships they already receive, and if you only see just extremely popular college athletes getting the endorsement deals, then I don’t think it will have an enormous impact on recruiting.”

Of course, the football business world is a big one, and there are other groups whom the new rule will affect. One of those groups is NFL agents. We spoke to several of them today to get their opinion on what happens next, and whether or not they see this as a net positive or net negative. You can read their responses in today’s Friday Wrap. You can register for it here.

Ask the Scouts: Why Are We Seeing Overnight Overall No. 1 picks?

This weekend, LSU hosts No. 9 Auburn. Two weeks later, the No. 2 team in the nation travels to Tuscaloosa to face No. 1 Alabama. It’s possible those two games could determine the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Think that’s a stretch? Consider the last two drafts. In 2018, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield entered the season as a late-rounder on most boards. After tearing up the college football world, he won not only the Heisman but the honor of being taken No. 1 by the Browns. A season later, Kyler Murray was just a baseball player (taken No. 9 overall in the 2018 MLB Draft by Oakland) who wanted to spend his last season as Oklahoma’s starter. He went on to replace Mayfield not only as the Sooners’ starter, but also as Heisman winner and No. 1 overall to Arizona.

This year’s Mayfield/Murray could be LSU QB Joe Burrow. The Athletic’s Michael Lombardi has been banging that drum for weeks now, and while NFL scouts are still on the fence (“I’m grading him next week, so I can’t give an answer,” said one; “I heard his arm strength is average,” said another), Burrow has passed every test so far.  But that’s not what interests us most. The bigger question is, why are these passers moving ahead of others with more significant bodies of work?

Here’s the questions we asked several of our friends in scouting: For the third straight year, there could be a No. 1 overall (Burrow?) who entered the season on almost no one’s first round board. Why is this? Is it college offenses that more closely mirror NFL offenses, so hot players have less of a learning curve? Is it a “now” culture that favors a hot season over a body of work? Is it the rise of analytics, which make forecasting the most NFL-ready players much harder? Or is it something else?

We’ll survey their responses in today’s Friday Wrap (register for it here). You can weigh in on the question in our Twitter poll here. Here are a few of the responses we got from scouts via text:

  • “A lot of people favor a hot season. Me, I like the body of work. I want a guy who has been good for more than 12 games. I’m not a fan of analytics for anything but helping with strategy.”
  • “Simple answer is that scouting is not an exact science. Every player has some sort of momentum heading into the draft, good or bad, but seldom is there a true “stock up, stock down” scenario. The process includes career trajectory, but the whole picture is much more than that.”
  • “I think the inexperienced GMs and the young scouts they hire around the league get excited about a one-year wonder. I also think today’s scouts look at social media and are afraid to dismiss what internet scouts say, when in reality they should trust their eyes when they evaluate and look at the track record of the player.

Make sure you check out our poll (and vote in it) and read all the scouts’ responses in today’s Friday Wrap (register here).

XFL Scouts, Executives Bullish on League’s First Draft

With lots of friends in the front offices of the new XFL, I have been pretty excited about the league, but a little nervous about the league’s two-day draft, which took place Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. How do you populate 70-man rosters from scratch? Especially when media coverage is minimal, players are scattered across the country, staffs are tight and budgets are limited?

From the sound of things, without too much trouble. I reached out to several of the league’s scouts and executives after this week’s draft, and without exception, they were very excited about how well the draft went. Here are their responses:

  • “Players were following the draft online. Agents were great to deal with. Players and agents have seen the success the players had from the AAF and getting NFL contracts. The players were great to deal with, even ones that were high NFL draft choices. This league will benefit from what the AAF started. I thought it went very smooth.”   
  • “For the first time anybody ever tried to tun a 70-man draft, with 1,100 in the player pool, there were a lot of things that could have gone wrong, and really it went off without a hitch. The guys in the main office did a great job, and there were no problems communicating with the front office. We got the guys on the phone as we made the pick or right before, so we were able to get hold of all of our guys and I didn’t hear any bitching or moaning from agents or players. From what I heard, they were all excited to get the call.”
  • For the most part, agents and players were very accessible throughout both days of the draft. Players almost to a man were fired up to get another opportunity to play, and you could feel their emotion over the phone. Really excited to get to work with them in December.”
  • Thought it went surprisingly smooth. Out of our 70 guys drafted, I think 68 of them were very excited and pumped. We had called about 600 guys prior to the draft. Came across some that said they were not going to play for that little of money, so we took them off our board. But many many more are excited about the opportunity. For a 70-player draft, it went excellent. We are obviously excited about our draft and feel we knocked it our of the park, but the proof will come in (February).”

Of course, I wanted to get a fuller view of the draft, and to do that, I also reached out to a handful of agents to get the other side. I cautioned them not to rant; I only wanted specifics (good and bad) about the draft, with an eye toward constructive criticism. Nobody’s perfect, after all. They gave me several interesting and well-thought-out responses, which will be in today’s Friday Wrap that comes out this evening.

I hope you’ll check it out. If you’re already registered, it will be in your inbox at the customary 6:30 p.m. CT. If you aren’t, you can go here and rectify that.

Ask an NFL Agent: How Long Does It Take To Befriend Scouts?

With the results of this summer’s NFLPA contract advisors exam disseminated, dues paid and liability insurance policies purchased, the Players Association is slowly adding the names of newly minted contract advisors to its website. That means about 100 people being added to the NFL agent ranks are asking, what do I do now?

We field a lot of those questions. In fact, we’ve been answering them for our subscribers over the past two weeks with Monday emails. Here’s one from Sept. 30, in which we discuss the benefits and challenges of trying to join a big firm. Last Monday, we discussed how to get started on recruiting, and this Monday, we’ll talk about the practice of representing college and NFL coaches.

Today, we’re answering another one. One question we always get from new agents is how they can find out who to recruit. The bigger question is, how do they approach scouts to locate the sleepers that they have a shot at singing? With that in mind, we decided to pose this question to new agents: How long did it take you to develop relationships with scouts? How long was it before you could ask scouts questions about players and expect a reasonably timely, reasonably candid response?

Here are some of the responses we got back:

  • “Completely random scouts? I’d say my first draft cycle. I had (a big-school client) go to the combine, so some scouts reached out, and then I was able to create a friendship with them. It was really a year-by-year process . . . You can go up to random scouts at all-star games and introduce yourself and push your guy, but the chances of them ever picking up your call or answering your texts in a timely fashion after that on a consistent basis is slim. . . I’d be lying if I said I didn’t make new connections with scouts every single year, and I don’t see that really changing, especially with all the turnover in scouting departments today.”
  • “Like 3-4 years. They don’t tell you (anything) until they know you are legit and get quality clients.”
  • “My feel personally is . . . whatever time it takes to sign a couple guys that the scouting community realizes, ‘OK, you’ve got a little feel for what you’re doing, a little credibility, and it’s worth me having a conversation about who you’re looking at, who you might be recruiting, who you’re close to signing’ . . . you can almost always get a brief conversation rolling with a scout at some point.”
  • “I had one or two my first year that were nice enough to talk to me, but the network of scouts I talk to now has taken me years to develop.”

These aren’t the only responses we got. In fact, one of our friends in the agent community used the question to discuss a significant (and costly) way he’s seen new contract advisors be exploited by opportunistic scouts.

You won’t want to miss their comments, and you don’t have to if you register for our weekly Friday Wrap. You probably already have, but just in case you haven’t, now’s your chance to sign up. You’ll be among 5,000 people across the football industry who receive our review of the week in the game as it pertains to the business. If you haven’t already, please join us.

A Midseason Look at Six Mock Drafts for the ’20 NFL Draft

If you read this blog regularly, or you keep up on our Friday Wrap, you know we like to keep tabs on the major draft prognosticators just to see which ones are more willing to break from the pack, which ones pick up on the hottest prospects earliest, and which ones are most volatile from month to month.

For two-plus years, we’ve surveyed seven services, monitoring them from immediately post-draft all the way through the following draft. It’s always fun to see how the boards change as the season winds toward draft time.

Now that we’re almost halfway through the college season, we thought now would be a good time to take our second look at the seven services (Pro Football Network/Tony Pauline; Pro Football Focus; Sports Illustrated; Bleacher Report/Matt Miller; ESPN/Todd McShay; The Athletic/Dane Brugler; and Walter Football). We previously reviewed their work on July 16 (sorry, pay link).

We have several observations in today’s Friday Wrap, which comes out at 6:30 p.m. CT. In the meantime, here are a few things we found interesting:

Passing thoughts: Utah State’s Jordan Love was seen as a sneaky pick for the first round this summer, though he was only listed on one of the seven boards (Pauline at No. 8); we don’t know how Pauline feels these days, but Love is No. 10 in the eyes of Brugler and No. 29 according to Brugler. Then there’s Washington’s Jacob Eason and LSU’s Joe Burrow. Eason has gone from no boards to three boards in six weeks, with Walter Football listing him at No. 17 over Love, Burrow and Georgia’s Jake Fromm. Meanwhile, Burrow, despite garnering serious Heisman mentions, is mostly persona non grata. Miller likes him at No. 21, while Pro Football Focus slides him in at No. 32. They are the only two services that see him in the first round, but at least he’s not Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. Like the last two No. 1 overall picks, Hurts is Oklahoma’s starter, a transfer, and a serious Heisman contender, but that’s still not good enough to rate a spot in the top 32 for any of the six services.

Catch the fever: Based on the draft services, it’s going to be a great year to need a wide receiver. Not only were there more receivers than any other position that garnered first-round grades from all six services, but two others (Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III and Clemson’s Tee Higgins) made five out of six boards; Walter Football snubbed both of them. Also, TCU’s Jalen Reagor was on four of six boards.

That’s a stretch: Among the 13 players who made all six boards, the biggest difference of opinion was on Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa as Miller listed him at No. 3, but  McShay only saw him as No. 25. Also, Walter Football tabbed Herbert as the No. 2 pick, but Miller saw him as only the No. 22 selection. Finally, there’s Georgia OT Andrew Thomas; Walter has him at No. 3, but McShay sees him as only the No. 19 pick.

Want more? Make sure to register for our Friday Wrap, which you can do here. You can also check out the entire draft grid — and a whole lot more — by joining us at ITL.

A Look at the ’19 NFL Draft Class and Modern Roster Trends

If you want to know how the league changes from year to year, you need to look at its composition. Which positions are becoming more highly valued? How are defenses countering offensive trends, and how is that showing up in the composition of the league?

There’s much more to look at than just draft picks. Each year, hundreds of undrafted rookies make teams as part of the 53-man roster or the practice squad. You have to really go inside the numbers to pull out the trends. Here are a few things we found:

  • It’s become rare to see a team carrying more than two quarterbacks. What’s more, we live in a golden age of passers with fewer than 10 teams beginning the season with a different starter from 2018. Still, that hasn’t stopped passers from getting signed at a steady rate. The number of passers repped by agents in each draft class is about 80, plus or minus five, and that’s been pretty consistent over the past five years. As a matter of fact, it’s been exactly 80 each of the last two years. When you consider that QBs are pricey to represent, it’s a questionable choice to sign them.
  • Outside of specialists (punters, kickers and long-snappers) and fullbacks, the position that sends up the fewest members per draft class is center. Only 22 made it this year; last year, it was even fewer (17). The silver lining? Of the 22 who made it to a team this year (UDFA or draftee), 19 were on the roster in Week 1. Last year, 17 of 20 (85 percent) made it from camp to the roster.
  • Last year featured an interesting anomaly (or a scary lack of talent): defensive ends, normally a pretty in-need position, succeeded in making teams at only a 20 percent rate (29 of 139). This year, those numbers rebounded in a big way as 62 of 144 defensive ends made teams (43.1 percent). Part of this can be explained as the position is going from being a traditional defensive end to an “edge” player who can be more of a linebacker. I expect these numbers to be resolved as we more forward and defensive end and outside linebacker differentiate themselves.

There’s plenty more to learn if you check out our grid, which is linked to each of the other four years that we’ve examined, going back to 2015. Another way to study league trends is to read our weekly Friday Wrap, which goes out in less than three hours (6:30 p.m. CDT). We’ve got more trends that we identified, but that’s not all. We talk about the college and football business every week for our thousands of readers.

We’d love for you to be one of them. Just register here.

Spotrac: NFL’s Top Five Highest Cash Payrolls

One of the benefits of being in a business for almost two decades is that you make a lot of relationships, good and bad, and you get to sort out the pretenders from the legit sources of information. One of our new friends, Mike Ginnitti of Spotrac, is definitely “legit.” 

If you read this blog regularly, you’re the kind of person who doesn’t need an introduction to what Mike and the team at Spotrac do. This week, with Super Bowl-winning QBs and All-Pro cornerbacks suddenly on the block, trade winds are in the air. But which teams can easily take on salary this time of year? And which one’s can’t? We asked Mike to give us a look at which teams have the highest cash payrolls and which ones have the lowest. Below are his thoughts.

While much is made of the highest paid players or the teams with the fewest or least amount of cap space in a given year, the notion of actual cash paid out by a team is often overlooked. Here’s a quick breakdown of the top and bottom five cash payrolls in the NFL for the 2019 season, which includes all active salaries, players on reserve lists, and dead cash – or cash being paid out to players who were released but still had guarantees. Note: this is a snapshot look, as these numbers change on a daily basis. For a look at Spotrac’s Team Cash Tracker, click here.

Top-five highest cash payrolls, in order:

Atlanta Falcons, $256.7M: The Falcons have big-time bonuses for Matt Ryan ($33.25M), Julio Jones ($25M), & Grady Jarrett ($18M) taking up the bulk of their 2019 payroll, & another $14M allocated to players already on their injured reserve list. Their payroll signifies that the Falcons consider themselves inside of a window to win, even if the play on the field isn’t quite cooperating just yet. Over 61% of the Falcons’ 2019 payroll is being allocated to the offensive side of the ball.

Philadelphia Eagles, $212.4M: The Eagles routinely keep a high cash payroll because of the way in which they structure their contracts: high cash early with the mindset that multiple salaries will be restructured into bonuses in years 2, 3 and sometimes 4. Most of the Eagles’ high cash earners in 2019 fall under this category (Alshon Jeffery, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox). The big exception, of course, is QB Carson Wentz, who takes in $17M in year one of his sophomore extension, and who will see nearly $40M cash in 2020. Over 58% of the Eagles’ cash payroll this year belongs to offensive players.

New York Jets, $208.3M: Of the Top 10 cash payrolls, only two teams are spending more on their defense than their offense in 2019: the Jets (51%) and the Packers (52%). For New York, that’s due in large part to the blockbuster free agent signing of C.J. Mosley ($19M) and No. 3 overall selection Quinnen Williams ($16.7M). Elsewhere the Jets already have $20M of cash locked into players on injured reserve or non-football injury (NFI) lists, and another $2.25M allocated to suspended players. Sam Darnold ($1.85M) ranks 25th among Jets’ cash salaries for 2019.

Pittsburgh Steelers, $207.4M: The Steelers have $102M spent on their offense (44% of which belong to the now-injured Ben Roethlisberger), $98M allocated to their defense and a little more than $5.6M on special teams. Restructured contracts for Joe Haden and Maurkice Pouncey round out the big numbers this year, while newly drafted inside linebacker Devin Bush sees $12.2M in his rookie campaign. Many of these numbers drop off considerably in 2020, as Pittsburgh currently has just $132M cash spent into next season, with 39 contracts locked in.

Minnesota Vikings, $203.3M: The Vikings have done a remarkable job of keeping their core players around despite pressure to earn more elsewhere. Big-time extensions for Adam Thielen and Anthony Barr combine with recent deals for Kirk Cousins, Xavier Rhodes and Danielle Hunter for a top-heavy cash payroll in 2019. These five players combine for 39 percent of the Vikings’ entire payroll this season.

So which five teams have the most cap room to play with, if they so chose? You’ll have to read our Friday Wrap to get the five teams on the other end of the scale. Don’t get it already? You can register here.

2019 NFL Agent Exam: Why Come Back For More?

If you read this blog regularly, you know we talk a lot about the challenges and difficulties of being an NFLPA-licensed contract advisor these days. I talk to agents every day who lament the issues they face on a daily basis, and they often wonder if it’s all a waste of time.

That’s why I was really surprised to learn that at least four people — Andrew Brandt, Alexis Cobb, J.I. Halsell and Adam O’Neil — had gotten re-certified after previously spending time representing players. Given the difficulties in the business and the balkanization of the agent class, I wanted to find out what brought them back, so I reached out to them. The following is a brief overview of their experience in the industry and why they chose to return.

  • Phoenix-based Halsell surprised me when he told me he was leaving Priority Sports in 2014 and getting out of the game. He had enjoyed success, having worked for the league office in the early ’00s, followed by two years with the Redskins in their cap department and a good run with Priority, one of the better agencies. Then again, he didn’t leave the business entirely: he maintained his own salary cap website, did media appearances, and of course worked with Chargers OT Russell Okung as a consultant on two contracts. For that reason, it’s true when he says “I didn’t really completely leave the agent business. In addition to working with Okung, I consulted several certified contract advisors on contract negotiations during this time. Given that experience and the connections i’ve made during that time, it made sense for me to get recertified and use my skill set on my terms.” 
  • Pittsburgh-based Cobb dropped her certification in 2014, but like J.I., she didn’t really leave the business, instead focusing solely on coaches. She has since built up her firm, ASC Executive Group, to represent several rising college coaches, and she said she’s smarter and more established this time. “I decided to represent athletes again because I felt my coaches division . . . was strong and I didn’t need to devote all my time to it. Therefore, I could really refocus my energies on athlete representation.” Furthermore, she has “learned lessons that I can avoid when I was a young agent. Now, I can work smarter for my guys with much more understanding rather than being inexperienced.” 
  • Orlando-area attorney O’Neil got certified in 2013, but dumped his certification three years later. He said that, since then, he got a chance to strengthen his law practice, but the itch to represent NFL players never left, so he’s back. “I spent a couple years off and worked on my firm and infrastructure to put myself in a much better position . . . I never truly wanted to leave, but with the extra challenges added, I (knew I) wouldn’t stay afloat for long,” he said. “I’ve put myself in a much better position to be able to not only chase my own dream but to make sure players can continue chasing theirs.”

Want even more thoughts on the business, its shortcomings, and how to succeed in it, regardless of what role you’d like to play? Start off by registering for the Friday Wrap. You can do that here. It’s free, and you’ll be among 5,000 people across the business who receive it every week.