Ask the Agents: What Will You Charge AAF Signees?

One of the interesting paradoxes of the agent business is that often the contract advisors with the least amount of clients are the ones expending the most effort. While the work of being an agent involves negotiating contracts and marketing deals, arranging training and facilitating NFL contacts before the draft, it’s different for lesser prospects.

In those cases, the agent spends endless hours virtually begging NFL teams to consider the player, sending countless emails, making videos, and cold-calling. It’s not ‘agent work’ in the traditional sense, but it’s work, no doubt about it.

With that in mind, we asked several contract advisors how they’ll handle fees for players that sign AAF, not NFL, deals. While the contracts are less, they’re comparable to NFL practice squad pay, which is something, at least.

Here’s what we got back when we asked several agents: “What are you going to charge your AAF signees, if anything?”

  • “Well, I’m going to treat this like I do my CFL clients. A one-time fee per contract, meaning, I’m not in their pockets each year. The flat fee will be like $1,000. An agent will still have to do transactional things as it relates to the player (i.e., spending time getting the contract, dealing with appeals/grievances, etc.), so that fee will be per contract, and not double-dipping or triple-dipping each year and plus you’re not being petty with the money. Have to look at bigger picture of getting your client to the NFL.”
  • “Not more than 4%. Salaries are not that bad, but nowhere near what NFL pays rookies. I think 4% would be fair.”
  • “Not sure, but probably whatever we agreed to on the NFL SRA.”
  • “Probably nothing, as I don’t have an agreement for that. Just tell them to pay my expenses back. Might have them sign an addendum, though, for the league.”
  • “Nothing.”
  • “To be honest I haven’t thought about it yet.  I have addendums that state that if they play in any professional league worldwide, that I get my expenses back.  So that is the minimum. Maybe 3% or our expenses, whichever is greater. These are guys I have had to work extremely hard for. Not just throughout the draft process, but also keeping them from jumping ship, because I truly believe in them and know they will have some opportunity if they stay motivated.”
  • “Was just thinking about that today. I think something between $1,000 to $2,000. Three percent of $70,000 is $2,100. I mean, if a player made $70,000 in the NFL, (that’s) basically 2.5 games in the NFL you would charge them.”
  • “Three percent.”

We got several more responses which show that contract advisors are really wrestling with this question. We’ve included them in the Friday Wrap, which comes out this evening (7:30 p.m. EDT/6:30 p.m. CDT). Here’s last week’s edition. It’s free, and thousands of football professionals (and aspiring football professionals) read it each week, and you should, too. Register for it here.

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The 2018 NFLPA Agent Exam in Washington, D.C.: The Post-Mortem

With Agent Week 2018 now in the books, we spent time over the last week trying to get a sense of the exam itself, as well as how we did preparing this year’s agent class.

To answer the second question, this year, we commissioned a survey. Interestingly, only about half of our respondents (we got fewer the 20 responses) were attorneys. Most (about two-thirds) were confirmed to take the exam at least a month before the test date. We were really pleased with what we heard:

  • Based on our survey, almost 80 percent found our daily newsletter series recounting success stories from the most recent agent class and providing test tips “encouraging and insightful,” while the remaining 20 percent called it “a key part of my exam prep.”
  • We did pretty well on the test questions, too. More than half (54 percent) said “on balance, they were helpful and mostly similar to the actual test questions,” while another 30 percent said “they were definitely helpful and quite similar to the actual test questions.” Only one respondent said, “I wish they had been more similar to the questions on the actual exam.”
  • Our study guide probably got the best grade, however. Ninety-two percent said it was “very helpful; I’m glad I had it.” All in all, based on a scale of 1-5 with five being best, we got a ‘4’ from 54 percent and a ‘5’ from the rest.

With regard to the test itself, we were interested to see how closely the exam mirrored what was taught in the day-and-a-half seminar leading up to the test, and whether or not the exam was as challenging as it has been the last three years since the players association really put the hammer down. One test-taker said “there were a few things on the exam that were not covered, but I think that is because they change topics slightly year to year. One thing I noticed is almost every exam question was covered at some point during the conference so it’s really important to pay attention during the conference.”

That jibes with what we’ve heard for years from those taking the exam. NFLPA officials are not without a heart, and they give those who pay attention during the seminar a clear advantage. Of course, not everyone takes advantage, and it shows up in the final minutes before the test begins. “Like you predicted, there were several people in the lobby seemingly reviewing materials for the first time and highlighting!,” said one of our clients. “All I could do was chuckle!” 

At the same time, there was some dissonance between what was presented and what showed up on the test. There was also one test-taker who said the seminar was a bit rushed and confusing on Friday morning. “They were presenting the info and some presenters were correcting each other, so I didn’t know who to believe,” he said. “Also, they ran over time, so they rushed info and cut short some material. On top of that they sent out stuff for us to study weeks ago just to tell us at the meeting that some things were different.”

As always, it wasn’t a perfect two days in Washington, D.C., but if you studied, took advantage of the NFLPA’s guidance at the seminar (even if it was rushed at times), and used our materials, I think there’s good news waiting in about a month.

Listening to the 2018 NFL Agent Class

At this point, almost 300 people are in Washington, D.C., to take the 2018 NFLPA Exam. For the first time, we’ll be asking them to take a quick survey designed to (a) learn a little more about them and (b) learn a little more about us.

As you know, we offer a study guide, a 40-question practice exam, and a second 40-question practice exam.

Here are the questions we’ll ask them to answer:

  1. Are you an attorney or legal professional?
  • Yes
  • No

2. When were you confirmed to take the exam by the NFLPA?

  • Eight weeks or more before the test date.
  • Four to eight weeks before the test date
  • Two to four weeks before the test date
  • Less than two weeks before the test date

3. What ITL exam prep materials did you have access to?

  • Inside the League’s basic service
  • ITL Study Guide
  • Exam 1
  • Exam 2

4. What best describes your feelings about the ITL Rising Contract Advisors Newsletter series?

  • More of a nuisance than a help
  • Neither a negative or a positive
  • Encouraging and insightful
  • A key part of my exam prep

5. Presuming you had access to ITL Practice Exam 1 or 2, how would you characterize the questions?

  • I wish they had been more similar to the questions on the actual exam
  • On balance, they were helpful and mostly similar to the actual test questions
  • They were definitely helpful and quite similar to the actual test questions
  • I did not have access to the practice exams.

6. Presuming you had access to the ITL Study Guide, how would you characterize it?

  • Probably not as helpful as I expected it to be
  • Better having it than not having it
  • Very helpful; I’m glad I had it
  • I did not have access to the ITL Study Guide

7. On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied were you with ITL’s exam prep materials?

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

8. Presuming you used ITL’s exam prep materials, how did you hear about us?

  • From fellow test-takers in Washington, DC
  • Google search
  • Twitter
  • Referral from friend or co-worker
  • Other

Want To Be An NFL Agent? Start With These 3 Test Questions

So you want to be an NFL agent? Step 1 is passing the NFLPA agent exam, which will be held Friday in Washington, D.C. Here are three questions taken off our two practice exams that are very similar to the ones test-takers will see in two days.

Practice Exam 1 – Question #27

A player rushes for 950 yards in 2017, the final year of his rookie contract. While negotiating a new deal for the player, the agent includes additional compensation in the form of a $50,000.00 incentive for a 1,000-yard season total rushing performance. How does this affect the player’s salary cap number for the following season?

  • It will not affect the cap; performance bonuses do not count against the cap.
  • The incentive is Likely to be Earned and will count $50,000.00 against the cap in 2018.
  • The incentive is Likely to be Earned and can be prorated, for cap purposes, over the years remaining on the contract
  • The incentive is Not Likely to be Earned and will only count against the cap in the year after earning the performance bonus.

Answer: Not Likely to Be Earned. Once a player achieves a performance bonus (in this case 1,000 yds rushing) in the previous year, it changes from NLTBE to LTBE.

Practice Exam 1 – Question #34

Player E signs a UDFA contract in 2016. In preseason 2016, he is injured and placed on injured reserve for the entire season. In preseason 2017, he is again injured and placed on injured reserve for the entire season. In 2018, he has rushed for 728 yards through the first six games of the season. If it is now one minute after the sixth game in 2018. When may the team give an extension to Player E?

  • Immediately
  • After the completion of eighth game in 2018
  • After the completion of the last game in 2018
  • After the Super Bowl for the 2018 season

Answer: Immediately. Per the CBA, an undrafted rookie can renegotiate his rookie contract anytime after the end of his 2nd season.

Practice Exam 2 – Question #10

A player with a full split is injured in the first regular-season game. The team cuts the player and the player files an injury grievance.  The player settles with the team for 5 weeks of pay at the down split amount. The player gets:

  1. An accrued season, but not a credited season, for benefits
  2. A credited season for benefits, but not an accrued season
  3. Neither a credited season for benefits nor an accrued season
  4. Both an accrued season and a credited season for benefits

Answer: Both an accrued season and a credited season for benefits. This player was paid for 6 games.  For a credited season for benefits, games on IR count, so once this player got 3 games, he got a credited season for benefits.  For an accrued season, games on IR count — so once this player got 6 games (1+5), he got an accrued season.

If you’re reading this from a D.C. hotel room, it’s not too late to find out just where you stand before things get interesting Friday afternoon. We can activate you for our practice exams as soon as you register — no mailing — and our study guide is must-have content for breaking down the CBA (and will be emailed to you immediately). We’re here and ready to help. Give us a try.

Tips from 2018 NFLPA Test-Takers

One of the keys to success in any venture is listening to those who’ve gone on before you. With that in mind, every year, we interview ITL clients coming off their respective rookie years in the business. We ask them several questions, but one is always the same: ‘What was your take on the NFLPA exam?’

Since we’re about 24 hours from the next agent class touching down in Washington, D.C., and about 72 from the exam, I thought I’d provide an overview of what this year’s rookie class said about the test. I should note that every agent we interviewed is not only a member of ITL, but also has at least one player on an NFL roster in their first year. Only about one in four rookie agents do that every year, so they’re in impressive company.

Respect the test: I would say this is the main reason some pass and some don’t. Most people hear “open book,” “multiple choice” and “graded on a curve” and laugh it off. Maybe that was good enough before 2016, but especially since the test was made harder, it’s not true anymore. Mobile, Ala.-based Alexa Stabler said she saw people who came to D.C. underestimating the test. “I don’t think that’s wise,” she said.

Pay attention: A number of our clients said it’s important to keep up and take notes during the pre-test seminar at the Ritz. New Jersey-based Matt Stankiewicz said “they will often tell you exactly what you need to know.

At your fingertips: It’s one thing to take materials into an open-book exam. It’s something else entirely to have those materials digested and annotated so that you know where to go when you need info. Houston-based Artigua White said that was the key to passing the exam.

Manage your time wisely: The NFLPA exam includes ‘fact pattern’ questions that require you to read every detail, then sort out exactly what’s relevant and what’s not. That takes time. “It wasn’t a problem, but managing the time and the math . . . they kinda crunch your time based on the math equations,” said Southern California-based Chris Chapman.

In all, we interviewed 15 first-year agents for our newsletter series this year. You can access them all here. Not all, but most of them, used our study guide and/or our practice exam to make the CBA a little more manageable and give them a chance to see questions very similar to what would be on the test. All our exam prep materials — study guide and both exams — are laid out and explained here, with links to all of them.

There’s still time to pick up our resources! Our practice exams are both online, and our study guide is in PDF form and will be emailed as soon as payment is approved. What’s more, we’re on 24-hour call for our clients though Friday at noon. Bottom line, we’re here and we want to help. If you’re getting ready for the exam, please give us a chance. We can help!

 

 

 

It’s Agent Week 2018

In the early days of Inside the League, July was pretty much a black hole. As we were focused on agents already in the business, we had a pretty big blind spot towards those trying to get in.

We rectified that in 2012 when we introduced our first practice exam. At the time, it was a 40-question, multiple choice proposition that grew to 52 questions last year. Since then, we’ve added a study guide and, this year, a second practice exam. Now both exercises offer 40 questions that are as close to what test-takers will see as you’ll find on the Internet.

Still it wouldn’t matter if we weren’t helping agents get results and hearing positive feedback. So far, we’re pretty encouraged about our latest service. Here are a few (unsolicited) comments on our materials:

  • “Your service is super helpful.”
  • “Wanted to thank you again for the prep material. I got through the latest test (Exam 2) in about 40 minutes time and scored 38/40. Obviously, I will use my whole time allotment for the regular exam, but I am having to look up very few things now. I’m feeling very confident about next week and ready to attack it.”
  • “Thank you for all the work you put into your content and with the review guide/practice exams. It for sure helped give me a better structure to memorize what I need to and go over what I still needed to work on.”
  • “I am really finding the site and exam prep materials to be useful.”
  • “Did you all turn up the Heat (extra hot🔥🔥🔥) in Exam 2 on purpose?  It was abnormally hard. I missed around 10 on my first run through.”
  • “These (practice exams) have been a life saver.”
  • “Thank you! I received it and  I’m already feeling better. I appreciate this resource!”

We’re not publishing this to toot our own horn. Instead, the idea is to let those people know more about what we do and how our clients feel about it. Believe it or not, dozens of people just found out from the NFLPA they are approved for the exam, and we want those people to know we’re here.

We’ll be doing more this week to get prospective agents ready for Friday. More tomorrow.

Advice for New NFL Agents: Shane Costa

We’re about a week and change away from the 2018 NFLPA Exam for new agents in Washington, D.C. For the past month, we’ve been talking to some of the fastest-rising young agents in the business for a fresh take on what new contract advisors can do to achieve success.

Today we talk to Shane Costa of Buffalo, NY-based Pillar Sports. Shane comes from the team side, having worked for the Bills from a young age before pursuing his law license and moving back into the game. Like the other agents I’ve spoken to in this space over the past four weeks, Casey Muir and Greg ‘Tripp’ Linton, I could see Shane as a future GM, or as a mega-agent some day.

Here are Shane’s thoughts on what steps a young player rep can do to achieve lasting success.

  • “First thing I would say is, become an expert. It’s not enough to just have a passing knowledge of the CBA and the relevant rules and bylaws to pass the exam, but you really have to become an expert at it. Read the CBA, take notes, try to become an expert even before you have clients. You want to study it and become more knowledgeable to increase your chances of success. The more you know, the more you’re gonna be prepared to educate your player, and that’s gonna be apparent when you talk to players. If you don’t come from a football background, you really need to get a full grasp of the intricacies of the CBA. You’ll be better able to communicate that knowledge to your client so you can sign him. I’d also recommend you sign up for Inside the League. It’s so valuable when it comes to learning about the league and understanding the profession. It’s crucial to use that service.
  • “Second, communicating and setting expectations is critical to keeping and retaining your clients. In this job, you have to be an excellent communicator, not just with the client and his parents, but with teams, scouts, executives and media when necessary. You have to be able to understand and effectively communicate what you’re trying to extract or to provide. You’ve got to know when to talk to scouts and what you can ask, and that allows you to understand where your player fits. Once you understand that, you have to be able to create reasonable expectations. As an agent, you always want to be honest with hour client with where they stand with teams. You have to understand what teams think about your client, and that’s not always an easy thing to say when recruiting, but it’s so important. You can tell potential clients, ‘if you have a plan and do XYZ, there’s a good chance you get drafted.’ It allows you to build a plan with a player and also have him get his expectations straight. If you always communicate with teams effectively and with players effectively and set their expectations, you’ll have a much better grasp and understanding and relationship with your client.”
  • “My last point, and I think this is really important, is to balance your emotions. When you start out, you’re gonna have a lot of setbacks and good things happen, but in your first year, you’ll probably have more setbacks and rejection and players cut than players achieving success. You work so hard for them and become so attached to their outcome that it’s hard not to feel that. Don’t get too high or too low. Just be ready with a plan, and don’t get down on yourself, and at the same time, when you have success, enjoy it briefly but understand that there’s more work to be done.” 

 

Ask The Agents: Is Jameis Winston Headed For A Big Second Deal?

About two years ago (June 2016), Colts QB Andrew Luck signed a six-year, $140 million contract in his first post-rookie deal. Three months ago, Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings for three years and $84 million.

There’s another passer who’s nearing the end of his rookie deal: Jameis Winston, who was drafted No. 1 overall in 2015. You may have heard that he recently left his agency, and is a ‘free agent’ for contract purposes, even having his representatives call around in the last week, shopping for a new firm. But what kind of guarantee does a QB like Winston offer to a contract advisor? Does he have any shot at Luck or Cousins money?

We asked several agents this question, most of them with the kind of top firms that a player of Winston’s station would demand. Their answers indicate there’s interest in the Bucs signal-caller, and an expectation that there are dollars to be made, but very little certainty regarding his prospects.

Here are the responses we got when we asked, ‘do you think Jameis Winston gets a second deal, based on where he is now?’

  • “He hasn’t been very good so if he gets another deal it’s a Teddy Bridgewater-type deal as of today.”
  • “If he plays well this year he’ll definitely get paid, in my opinion. This issue was two years ago, not new news.”
  • “I think he’ll get paid. Needs to play better, settle his life down. Teams have to trust his people will be there with him. (There’s a) shortage of QBs. But he’ll have women’s groups after him so he needs to chill out and clean up image. I think it will blow over (but) poor play doesn’t help.”
  • “He gets one.”
  • “Great question. Depends on a whole lot.”
  • “It really is a roll of the dice with that kid.”
  • “Depends on how well he plays this year I think. Tampa isn’t letting him go, so If he stays out of trouble, I think he gets paid.”
  • “100%…It may not be a blockbuster, but if Geno Smith gets a second chance, he will.”
  • “He’s a QB. A former 1st-rounder. And has won. I would say absolutely, if he has the right people around him going forward. But he hasn’t started with anything off the field to solidify it.”
  • “Simple. If he plays well, yes, but structured to protect the the team (financially) if he screws up off the field/gets suspended/etc. If he doesn’t play well, then he will be shunned like (The Scarlet Letter’s) Hester Prynne. Good QB’s are not easy to find.  If he plays like one, he’ll get a deal.”
  • “He gets a second contract if he behaves. I’d say there’s a 60-40 chance he gets one, with 60 percent chance he does.” 

Post-Draft Stories of Success and Spirit in the ’17 NFL Agent Class

This year was special for us at ITL because I got to see another former intern, Jared Leigh, not only get certified and pass the exam on his first try, but also land a player on a 90-man roster in his first year certified. I know that sounds like a no-big-deal proposition, but it’s actually quite a big deal. After tracking this annually, I’d estimate that only about 20 percent of independent rookie agents get a player drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent in their first year in the business.

Jared worked for us for two years, proving to be reliable, talented and capable. He even went to the Senior Bowl the year before getting certified just to get the lay of the land and make contacts. It’s no surprise to me that he’s well on his way to making it big.

Here are two other great stories I’ve heard from talking to the 19 first-year agents in the ITL family that already have players in the league. I found them inspirational and I hope you do, too.

1.In 2014, Sam Spina was new to South Florida, but knew he wanted to be involved in pro football. So he called poured all his efforts into volunteering with former Dolphins DE Jason Taylor’s foundation, which happened to share an office with Neostar Sports, a marketing agency that represents former Dolphins great Dan Marino. Sam volunteered at Marino’s appearances before finally telling Neostar owner Ralph Stringer that he wanted to work for him. This is where the story gets good.

When told there were no vacancies, Sam was undaunted. Instead of shrugging his shoulders and shuffling off to salve his wounded ego, he returned early the next day and moved all his stuff into Neostar’s offices anyway. When Stringer arrived, Sam was answering phones and taking messages. That led to a job with Neostar that opened enough doors that, after completing law school at St. Thomas, he took the NFLPA exam, passing on the first try last summer. This is the kind of confidence mixed with audacity that you must have to succeed in this industry.

2. Sometimes the difference between having a client in the NFL and not having one is hustle. West Coast-based agent Chris Chapman didn’t have anyone drafted, but he felt like one of his clients, Houston DE Nick Thurman, was a legitimate UDFA. So he called around for a rookie minicamp tryout on the first weekend and landed one with the Raiders, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

That’s when he called the Texans near the end of Saturday of draft weekend and was fortunate enough to get a scout on the phone. After hearing Chris make his case for Thurman, the scout promised Chris he’d add him to Houston’s tryout list on Sunday. But that’s not where the story ends.

The next day, Chris sees our tweet that the scout is one of four the Texans let go the day after the draft. Chris scrambled to find a phone number for the Texans’ offices, and after tracking down a team exec, pleads his case on Thurman’s behalf. That official actually calls the fired scout, who confirms that Thurman was to be added, though only on a tryout basis.

Thurman, after not winning a spot with Oakland, comes to Houston the following weekend and beats the odds by landing a coveted UDFA slot. Had Chris not followed ITL on Twitter, he’d not have known that the scout who promised Thurman a tryout was no longer in the building. Had he not reached out to the team immediately, Thurman would probably be on the street now instead of preparing to go to Houston for training camp in July.

These stories just scratch the surface of the amazing feats of 19 rookie agents we worked with in 2017-18, their first year in the business. If you’re getting ready to take the exam next month, make sure to let us know and we’ll add you to the list.

Advice for New NFL Agents: Greg ‘Tripp’ Linton

Last week, I asked Casey Muir of Octagon Football to give me three points for new agents, three big things the people taking the NFLPA exam next month need to know in their first year as a contract advisor. If you missed it, stop and read it now. It was full of good advice and things you probably didn’t learn in sport management class.

It was so good that I decided to make it a series. This week, I asked Greg Linton of HOF Player Representatives to do the same thing. I’m always being asked by major firms to give me 5-10 names of young, rising agents who represent the next wave, and Greg is always one that I recommend (Casey used to be one, as well, in his pre-Octagon days). That made Greg a natural for advice.

Here’s what Greg, known as ‘Tripp’ to his friends, told me.

  • “First thing I tell new agents, and they often don’t understand what I’m saying, is that you have to learn the things you don’t know that you don’t know. For instance, a lot of people say, I live in Texas, so I have all these schools where I can recruit, but they don’t know that at Texas and Texas A&M, the coaches there may be advising their top players to sign with their own agents. (Players at) certain schools are going to do certain things based on who their head coaches are. A lot of (new agents) go after guys and go bankrupt because (the schools or coaches) aren’t honest. They need to talk to people like (Inside the League), other agents willing to give them help, and things like that. It just saves you time and money.
  • “Second thing, I don’t spend other people’s money and I don’t spend money that I don’t have. A lot of guys will get investors and get loans, and they think a guy is gonna go in the third round, and then he goes undrafted. Now (the agent’s) in debt, and their investors are like, ‘you told me we’d make this money and now we aren’t,’ and (the investors) pull out. (Many agents) who had investors are now out of the business. I guess that’s where my economics background comes in. I’m not overspending. My bachelor’s is in economics, with a dual major in finance and marketing, and I have my MBA. That’s an issue. Everything we do at (HOF Player Representatives), I’m the one that’s saying ‘no’ when it doesn’t make sense financially. Most people will pay to sign a draft pick and think they’re gonna keep the guy and make big money, and it does not work that way. Don’t assume that A is going to lead to B. Don’t assume you sign a player and he’s drafted in third round, so it means you’re gonna get the (tackle) next year who’s a first- or second-rounder. (Agents) overspend and get guys because they think they’re gonna get the guy from next year. That doesn’t work either.
  • “Other thing I would say is, I did a four-year study on the draft grades (provided by the two combines, BLESTO and National Football Scouting), but outside of the top 100-150 guys, those grades don’t mean anything. People swear by them, but I’m to the point now where I let (other) people do it. I guess I could say trust your eye, but most agents don’t know football. You have to take into account medicals and workouts, and those are the kinds of things you don’t have in June.

“That’s a start. Those are the three things that would help, in my opinion.”

If you want more advice on the business, and what agents say some important Year 1 lessons are, make sure you’re reading our Friday Wrap. It comes out Friday evenings every week, it’s free, it’s read by thousands of people in the NFL business community, and you can register for it here.