As you know if you read this blog regularly, it’s a highly volatile time to be an NFLPA-licensed contract advisor. Agents are being squeezed by players with an increasingly long list of expectations and a poor understanding of what they do. At the same time, there’s more and more pressure from the union for top players to go without representation. Meanwhile, more and more players are being lured with fee cuts and mounting enticements (high-end training, signing bonuses, marketing guarantees, per diems and the like).
Denver-based Peter Schaffer is among those trying to fight back. He’s arranged a meeting of all contract advisors in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine (Thursday, Feb. 28) to allow everyone to gather and clear the air, perhaps uniting behind a handful of actions designed to unify the agent community and create a more level playing field. As supporters of NFL player representatives, we are playing a supporting role in efforts to ease turmoil in the business.
Here are a few measures that I’ve heard might have support from agents in my discussions with them over the past 2-3 weeks. The last four are recommendations Schaffer has made.
- A representative who will speak (and fight) for contract advisors: One agent I spoke to said there’s a need for someone who’s not NFLPA-certified to go to bat for the rights of contract advisors. The problem is that only NFLPA-licensed reps are allowed into seminars presented by the Players Association. It’s also anybody’s guess whether or not the PA would even listen to such a representative.
- A published list of the fee schedule for every standard representation agreement (SRA) signed in a draft class: This would be a bold move, and one supported by some agents I’ve spoken to over the last two weeks. Others oppose it, some vehemently. One way or another, this would show conclusively who’s holding the line on fees and who’s just paying lip service. In any case, it would be a true long shot for the NFLPA to do this.
- A seat at the table for the next CBA negotiation as well as NFLPA Executive Committee and Player Rep meetings: This seems like the longest shot of all. Obviously, there are some highly skilled negotiators among the ranks of NFL agents, but this might be seen as an indictment of DeMaurice Smith’s ability to strike a deal. What’s more, in the past, the PA has operated with limited transparency.
- Crafting new language that defaults to a 1.5-percent fee on all SRAs: When this was introduced in August 2016, it set the agent community ablaze. I think the Players Association saw it as a way to give draft prospects more freedom, but I think its tangible effect has been to devalue the role of contract advisors. I believe that setting the default rate back to three points would signal a respect toward agents by the NFLPA. It wouldn’t be easy, but I could see the NFLPA ditching this measure and returning to three percent, especially since it’s not binding (agents don’t have to charge at all if they so choose).
- Ending the continuing education exam: I could see the PA ending this, as well. There are better ways to ensure that all contract advisors are up to speed than by simply coming after them with a pass-or-else exam. On the other hand, though this exam was met by fire and fury at the 2018 NFLPA Seminar in Indianapolis, only 17 agents wound up losing their certification.
- Capping the amount of bonuses that can be recovered in case of termination: Schaffer has recommended that no more than $50,000 can be recovered by an agency that gets fired. We regularly hear of six-figure signing bonuses provided to top prospect as a means of getting the signature. This seems fair, though there’s been resistance.
This is a quick overview of what agents could ask for. We’ll find out in just over a month if there’s a consensus behind any of these, and if the NFLPA will even listen. In the meantime, for a deeper look at the business of football (college and pro), we recommend you sign up for our weekly Friday Wrap.