I know we just wrapped up a four-week series on things any NFL agent hopeful needs to know before getting certified. However, upon further review, I’ve come up with one more. Let me illustrate it with a couple of stories involving my team, the Saints.

  • You may have read that Sean Payton and Johnny Manziel met during Super Bowl week, and rumor has it Payton is weighing giving him a shot with the team. My wife (who always refers to herself as ‘knowing more football than most women’) and I were discussing it, and she said she thought it was a bad idea putting a player with substance abuse problems in New Orleans. Though I saw her point, I disagreed. Manziel has plenty of athletic ability, and Payton has all the leverage, I said. He’ll sign a veteran minimum deal, and if he messes up, he’s gone. Simple as that.
  • Meanwhile, the Saints are seriously considering bringing in DC Malcolm Butler, which would require a trade with the Pats because he’s a restricted free agent. Though it’s incredibly exciting to think of a big-time corner coming to New Orleans, the question is, how much is too much to give the Patriots for a guy that could suddenly experience a lack of drive after going from an undrafted rookie — a guy that didn’t even get a UDFA deal, but who had to come in on a tryout — to a man making $13 or $14 million per year? There’s certainly precedent when it comes to the Saints spending lots of money on free agent DBs who crap out almost immediately. Don’t believe it? Mention the names David, Browner or Byrd to any Who Dat guy, and watch how he twists his face into a look of disgust.

If you want to be a success as an NFL contract advisor, you have to have ‘hand’ over your client. Problem is, that’s becoming increasingly harder to do. The NFLPA, which you might expect would have your back, is increasingly interested in encouraging players to go agent-free. Meanwhile, ‘what do I get?’ is the money question that any prospect worth signing has for you, and there’s no signing a decent player without providing combine prep, which is probably $10,000 minimum. And don’t forget, a player can fire his agent any day, any time, for any reason, and all he has to do is give five days notice. I think this is one reason so many first-year agents sign small-school players. Not only are they easier to recruit, and might be less inclined to demanding big-time training, but their road is steeper anyway. They can’t be as disposable with their agents.

Of course, to some degree, NFL teams are the same way. When you draft a player in the first round, you are handing him anywhere from $5 million to $20 million guaranteed, and you pretty much can’t cut him for three years, even if he’s a Manziel-style distraction/bust. Players know this. That’s why it takes real character (and/or just downright love of playing football) to make it to a second deal and really have staying power in the league.

If you’re going to succeed in football, you’d better figure out a way to gain sway with the players you sign. It’s one of the real challenges of the game, especially for new agents.

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