Agents wait to scrutinize Justin Smith extension


He who represents himself has a fool for a client.  That adage usually arises in connection with courtroom proceedings, where the litigant’s emotional attachment to the outcome will skew his efforts — even if he otherwise has the skill.

It also has some application in the NFL, where nearly every player has someone representing him when it comes to negotiating with teams.

For rookie contracts in the age of a true wage scale, it’s not nearly as critical.  That’s why it won’t hurt players like Ravens first-rounder Matt Elam, who’ll get the slotted deal available to the 32nd pick in the draft.

For veterans, however, it’s more complicated.  A skilled and honest agent (and, obviously, plenty are neither) can help compile evidence and fashion arguments to push back against the team’s legitimate belief that the player is worth less than what the circumstances otherwise suggest.  It’s not because teams are dishonest (and, obviously, some team employees are), but because teams necessarily will pooh-pooh the prospect of paying more because they’re the ones routinely doing the paying.

As a result, it’s awkward for the player to argue on his behalf why he’s a great player who deserves more than the team is offering.  Some guys (even football players) are too humble to do it, and some simply are so conditioned to defer to the notion of “team” that they can’t and won’t disagree with the coach or the G.M.

That’s why all agents are very interested to see what 49ers defensive end Justin Smith got from the team via his recent two-year extension.  Smith confirmed on Wednesday that he negotiated the deal on his own, choosing not to hire a new firm after recently parting ways with CAA.

“At this point in my career – my agent and stuff – it wasn’t about that,” Smith said, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.  “It was about wanting to be here, wanting to play, having an opportunity to be on a great team.  And go for the championship.  That’s what it’s all about.  Having that opportunity, I feel real lucky.  Real fortunate.”

On one hand, the value of playing for a title means much more to the player than his agent.  (After all, the agent doesn’t get three percent of the ring.)  On the other hand, Smith’s desire to pursue a championship easily can result in Smith taking less than he objectively deserved.

Smith added that, if/when he gets to the point where he’s not a full-time player, he’ll walk away.  In our view, there’s also a chance he’ll call if quits if the Niners get back to the Super Bowl and win it.

The real question is whether buyer’s remorse will creep into his brain, and whether he’ll act on it.  Much of it will depend on the reaction to the deal he did.  While Smith won’t be getting that kind of feedback from his agent, he may end up hearing it from other players who get it from theirs.

21 responses to “Agents wait to scrutinize Justin Smith extension

  1. Mark Tauscher negotiated at least one of his contracts with Andrew Brandt while both were with the Packers.

    One idea that not too many athletes have tried is hiring an attorney by the hour to do the negotiation at a rate far less than the 6-10% an agent will want. Way back when Ray Allen played for the Bucks, he hired Johnny Cochran for a few thousand bucks an hour and they negotiated directly with the owner (Herb Kohl). Allen probably saved himself a huge chunk of change.

  2. I see nothing wrong with this. The agents squeeze teams for more money so they get more commission. More players should get rid of the middle man (if they understand what they want and how to read). Who cares what the agents will think? If he wasn’t happy with the deal he wouldn’t have signed it.

  3. Tedy Bruschi never had an agent either until after his stroke. Some guys are just old school. Fewer and fewer now, granted, but it’s not unheard of.
    And agents will definitely discount this contract to teams since none of them were involved. Nature of the business. Sounds like Smith’s eyes were wide open on this one and good for him for doing what he felt was best for him and having different priorities.

  4. Justin is one of few adults that has the ability to look thru both sets of lenses and understand the needs of both. He most likely took an extension that is less than market value but still good money. On the flip side the team creates better cap space, keep the team in the black, now and in the future. Nothing wrong with eating a little less so others can get a slice.

  5. Too bad this good player never had a chance to play for the Redskins and get Super Bowl rings. He would have been a good player off the bench for the Redskins and he still might be able to help that way but he’s stuck playing for a mediocre franchise that will never get him a Super Bowl ring.

  6. I’m sure he did fine. Great guy and smart too. Too bad, I don’t see them getting back to the SB soon enough for him though.

  7. An agent would’ve had him go to another team on a 1yr deal after being cut for wanting too much money. Representing himself he could use the 6% over two years as a small bargaining chip and buy himself at least another season guaranteed, which is what I suspect this deal really is. I think its a sure fire roster spot next season and a “wait and see” on the second season. An agent would’ve put him in Cleveland next season on a $1yr, $1M deal and going on miserable on a losing team. Look at all the Defensive guys that are still on the market after stellar careers. He did the right thing.

  8. Maybe, just maybe, he’s not driven by the almighty dollar and the fear of leaving money on the table. Sometimes it’s enough to be rich instead of filthy rich and satisfied doing something you love . Probably an alien concept to a lawyer. Bet he leads a comfortable life after football and doesn’t end up broke.

  9. “At this point in my career – my agent and stuff – it wasn’t about that,” Smith said, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “It was about wanting to be here, wanting to play, having an opportunity to be on a great team. And go for the championship. That’s what it’s all about. Having that opportunity, I feel real lucky. Real fortunate.”

    I hope people realize the significance behind that statement. He is literally saying is wasn’t about the money but more about the team and winning that ring. What strikes me also about this is the guy just made him self a SF guy for life, meaning he will forever be taken care of in the sense of stuff like comp meals/drinks/ect when out in the SF public, endless radio/tv gigs with SF affiliates, and anything along those lines of forever keeping him employed in some magnitude. Long story short… he’s “their guy” in SF and people will never forget that. Rare to see these days.

  10. Good for him. Most likely slightly over minimum base, with incentives that he can reach if he is a full time starter.

    When a young player wins a Super Bowl, they go make as much money as they can.

    When an older player who hasn’t won a ring has a chance to, then he is willing to play for less to get it.

    He has a great chance in SF, so why not go for it?

  11. Should have gone with dick Sherman’s agent, would have got a bottle of adderall and a get out of jail free card with his contract.

  12. I think what some people have to realize is that Smith probably had a figure in mind, or else figured out what the market value roughly would be for him and knew he’d be okay with less (let’s not forget, the less he gets, the more there is for making the team better). He doesn’t need an agent if he isn’t trying to get every dollar he can.

    Let’s also not forget that no agent = no commission, so, again, if he knew what he wanted, and it wasn’t a lot, he’s now earned more in his pocket.

    As for him maybe or maybe not asking the right questions…this isn’t rocket science, and anyone who payed attention in school knows how to research the questions that need asking, or how to make contacts to learn what is needed (or maybe he just payed attention to his agent during prior negotiations?). Perhaps he’s even thinking about his future off the field, and he viewed this as an opportunity to get his feet wet in that arena.

  13. Keep in mind he’s coming off a big contract so it’s not like he was making pennies before the extension.

    Also he probably saw the market for older veterans isn’t a very fruitful one in free agency as well.

    He’s happy to be there and if he’s happy with the contract it’s splitting hairs worrying about how much money you left on the table. 9ers front office gives pretty fair contracts so I doubt they low balled him.

  14. Justin Smith, pictured here flipping over a small house.

    Seriously though, he’s a class act and my favorite player. Honored to have him on my team.

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