About a week ago, I was having a conversation with a longtime friend who’s an up-and-coming contract advisor. Conversation turned to the new default 1.5-percent agent fee, and I asked if any prospects or their advisors were playing hardball so far, demanding that he drop his fee from three percent.
“Not so far,” he said. “Everyone’s paying three percent.”
That has since been echoed by other agents I’ve spoken to. I hope that continues. NFL agents, already billing at the lowest percentage of all the major sports, don’t need to get further whittled down by players who know they have all the leverage.
However, as I always tell my clients, having November discussions is easy. It’s the December discussions where agents and their prospective clients talk terms. Players are seeking the best training and pre-draft packages they can get, while agents are counting dollars and trying to decide where to spend them.
Of course, nothing happens in a vacuum in the football world, and the practical reduction in agent fees means fewer contract advisors will take the plunge and pay for a prospect’s training fees. They’ll be even less likely to send a late-round prospect to Florida, California, or some other sunny clime, as has traditionally happened. Naturally, this isn’t going to stop players from thinking that the right training will transform them from late-rounders into solid prospects, and in some cases, they may even be right. Therefore, I see the combine prep business moving in a different direction this January and February.
The challenge for agents isn’t paying for training, per se. It’s paying $6,000-$7,000 for training, food and supplements, plus another $5,000-$6,000 just for accommodations. Often, the player’s lodging costs more than his training. With more and more good trainers providing solid regimens, the mission is to find a combine prep facility near enough that a prospect can sleep in his own bed. The biggest job will be finding those facilities, evaluating the different facets of each program (when does it start? what kind of facility? who conducts training?) and, of course, weighing the costs of each.
With this new paradigm, we’re assembling a marketplace where agents and players can do their Black Friday shopping (and beyond) for combine prep. It’s our 2017 ITL Combine Prep Grid, a place where everyone in the business can sort out all the options in one place. Though we’ve only got four entries so far, they’re all solid, there are plenty of outside-the-box options, and there are many, many more on the way. We’re just getting started.
There are still a handful of titans in the combine prep business, and they won’t stop being titans. But now there’s a chance for a number of smaller training houses to work with players and make a little money while cutting costs (and risks) significantly for contract advisors. If I’m right about this new trend, it could be a rare win-win-win for trainers, agents and prospects.