At a time when all the top incoming rookies are picking their agents, former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield’s choice may be none of the above.
Via Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Daily, the Heisman winner currently is trying to decide whether to hire an agent, and he possibly won’t.
The argument against hiring an agent is simple: Thanks to the rookie wage scale, contracts for incoming players basically negotiate themselves. (Also, agent fees are no longer tax-deductible.)
The argument in favor of hiring an agent is more complex. A good agent can impact a rookie’s career in numerous ways. (Also, for guys taken in round one, there are certain nuances and hot spots in the draft order relevant to offset language, guaranteed pay, and other structural devices.)
First, a good agent will get the rookie the best possible pre-draft training, ensuring that the player is ready for the various events of the Underwear Olympics and the pre-draft workouts that follow. (A good agent also covers those expenses.)
Second, a good agent will advise the player on whether to participate in the Senior Bowl (Mayfield already has decided to do it), whether and to what extent to engage in Scouting Combine activities, and whether and to what extent to engage in pre-draft team visits and private workouts. A good agent will serve as the buffer between the player and a team that may not be happy to hear that, for example, the player won’t be visiting the facility or throwing privately for its coaching staff.
Third, a good agent will study rosters and depth charts and coaching staffs and schemes, identifying the best destination for the player’s short-term and long-term interests and embarking on a plan to get him there.
Fourth, a good agent will sell, sell, sell his client, working scouts, coaches, owners, and media to make the players as desirable as possible, because the higher he’s drafted the more money he makes.
Fifth, and most importantly, a good agent will land the plane between maxing out the rookie deal and laying the foundation for the most significant earning potential on and off the field. As former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen recently noted, it’s better to go lower to a good team than higher to a bad team. A good agent will thread that needle.
As to Mayfield, there’s also a risk that any type of outside-the-box approach to the pre-draft process will heighten concerns that the team that drafts him is getting more of a loose cannon than a franchise quarterback. With so many seeing Mayfield as potentially the next Johnny Manziel, there’s value in submitting to the norms and conventions of the process, soothing concerns that a first-round pick on Mayfield could be wasted.
Thus, while having no agent is better than having a bad agent, Mayfield’s overall interests would be very well served by hiring a good agent who is skilled and experienced in preparing quarterbacks for the draft, getting them drafted as early as possible, and getting them to the right team, both for the initial contract and the contracts to follow.