“Open letter” from NFL agent to NFL fans

[Editor’s note: From time to time, agents and other NFL insiders submit columns to PFT for potential posting. Sometimes we post it, sometimes we don’t. In the case of an open letter from agent David Mulugheta of Athletes First to all NFL fans regarding the manner in which players who seek more money are viewed by the public, the ideas expressed by Mulugheta mesh with a sentiment that PFT has articulated many times in recent years. The full letter, with minor edits, appears below.]

Letter to NFL Fans:

So I woke up Friday morning and began my daily routine. My workday starts with reading a few emails, sending a few dozen text messages, and accepting/making more calls than a telemarketer. After an hour or so, I’m usually settled in, which allows me time to scroll through my social media channels. On Friday morning, it seemed that a particular NFL player’s contract negotiations had taken the forefront on my Twitter feed. A

After only a few seconds of browsing, frustration began to set in. As expected and without delay, fans began to lash out against the player. And for what? Pursuing his option to enter into contract negotiations with his employer? Attempting to capitalize on years and years of hard work and after completing his contractual obligations? Utilizing the very little leverage he has against a multi-billion-dollar enterprise? Having the audacity to realize his worth and demand just compensation for his objective productivity on the field?

Do these fans demonstrate the same resentment when their favorite cashier at Walgreens decides to discuss wages with his/her supervisor? Or how about their favorite actor turning down a movie role because it doesn’t include a “pay or play” commitment? I can continue to speculate as to the root cause of fans’ frustration, but I’d rather use this moment to provide some context on NFL contract negotiations.

Far too often we hear that a given player “was offered a five-year, $100 million deal.” Now it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the player will have received $100 million at the conclusion of the five years. Well, if the player were basketball’s Kyrie Irving or baseball’s Bryce Harper, that would be correct. However, unlike the NBA and MLB, the NFL typically does not execute “fully guaranteed contracts.”

In short, fully guaranteed contracts ensure that the player would receive the full amount of his contract, regardless of whether he becomes injured or waived early by the team. However, NFL players don’t have the luxury of signing these fully guaranteed contracts (although not prohibited by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are a number of reasons for this; it happens primarily because teams and owners are against them). Rather, upon executing a five-year, $100 million contract, an NFL player can be released for any reason and barred from receiving the remainder of his contract.

That leads to the topic of “guaranteed money” (not to be confused with “fully guaranteed contracts”). Guaranteed money means just that; the dollars in the total contract that the player definitely will receive. Therefore, guaranteed money and other structural points are vitally important when negotiating an NFL contract. The goal is to negotiate as much guaranteed money as possible, while also creating a cash flow that will enable a player to collect as much of the $100 million as quickly as possible, in order to avoid the possibility of getting cut due to diminishing skills, salary cap restrictions, or injury.

In other words, don’t be fooled. One hundred million doesn’t really mean one hundred million in NFL contracts.

Keep this in mind when digesting your daily dose of sports news. For example, when a team claims that it has offered to make a player the highest paid in the league at his position, immediately ask yourself, “How much of that it truly guaranteed?” When you see your favorite player “holding out” or refusing to sign a “record breaking contract,” keep in mind that the reality may not mesh with the inflated, artificial numbers the team has leaked.

Remember, that man has become your favorite player for a reason. He’s passionate about the game and produces, week in and week out. Realize the multi-billion-dollar enterprises are attempting to influence the negotiation process by using the raw emotion of the fan base against the players. Ask yourself, could it be possible the player is asking for a fair “guaranteed” value of his skills? Could it be possible that the owners are leveraging the media in order to coerce players into signing below market contracts?

You’ve never sided with Goliath over David in the past, so why start now?

Sincerely Yours,

David Mulugheta
NFL Agent & NFL Fan

33 responses to ““Open letter” from NFL agent to NFL fans

  1. These people have been told this before. They choose to ignore it because if they accept it, they can’t get outraged and say stupid things.

  2. It blows my mind that this agent doesn’t understand why NFL fans are critical of players seeking every last dollar. It’s the salary cap. If you overpay for one player, you have less money to acquire/keep others. It’s that simple.

    Fans are typically fans of a team, not a player. They are aligned with the GM when it comes to contract negotiations. They’d much rather see a player underpaid so the team can spend the saved money elsewhere.

    Throw in the fact that a star player is going to make more money in their signing bonus than most fans will see in their entire lifetime of work and it’s easy for resentment to set in. And it certainly doesn’t help to have so many stories of players who made hundreds of millions and lost it all within a few years of retiring.

    Trying to win the PR battle with fans to get sympathy for millionaire players at their favorite team’s expense is never going to happen.

  3. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m an IT Consultant and every dollar adds up. One dollar to a full time worker is $2080 per year. There are no guarantees in the life sense. Gotta grab everything you can for your family i.e. Sell it while it’s hot. There’s no such thing as too much money.

  4. The mere fact that he had to write this, and people like him and I have to continue explaining this in 2016 just shows you that jealousy blinds logic for those who spew the venom toward the players.

  5. gabrosin says:
    Jun 18, 2016 2:47 PM
    It blows my mind that this agent doesn’t understand why NFL fans are critical of players seeking every last dollar. It’s the salary cap. If you overpay for one player, you have less money to acquire/keep others. It’s that simple.

    No, it’s not that simple. The entire sentiment is rooted in jealousy. Period.

  6. I don’t think most fans begrudge a player attempting to maximize his guaranteed money. The dumbest contract comments here aren’t usually the greedy player ones but rather the just pay the guy comments that ignore the reality of the cap. The reason most fans are so conscious of what an NFL player gets paid is the % of our favorite team’s cap space that one contract may take up, not because we don’t want a guy to get his.

  7. Mr. Wright 212 says:
    Jun 18, 2016 3:36 PM
    No, it’s not that simple. The entire sentiment is rooted in jealousy. Period.

    If it were purely jealousy, fans would resent players regardless of whether they were living up to their contracts. Russell Wilson was a steal on his rookie deal, but he was still earning at least ten times as much as the average fan per year. Go see if anyone in Pittsburgh is griping about Antonio Brown’s millions… no way, they’re ecstatic that he costs so much less than Julio Jones or Demaryius Thomas.

    The player is right to try to get every dollar they can and the agent is right to fight for their client. But the fan is also right to root for hometown discounts and cheap deals because they make their team better. This agent needs to tell his player to ignore fan sentiment, NOT waste time on a futile campaign to change it.

  8. My only issue is when a player seeking a league-leading contract expresses resentment with management. Many players with these contracts had to find another team to get them, as it’s a minority of teams that set the bar on this. Your current team either will or it won’t–they are not wrong to shy away from these giant contracts. Treat it like strictly business. You may have to find another team to match the league ceiling, as is common. No one is obligated to give you the contract you want. I do not in any way mean to suggest the player doesn’t deserve what he seeks. Live and let live.

  9. I think the frustration comes from the explanations that players give for wanting to renegotiate their contract after one year into a contract they just agreed to, or with a couple of years still left. The explanations of “I have to feed my family” or “my career might only last x-number of years”. With the pay that even the lowest paid veteran makes, a lot of mouths could be fed for a lot of years. They make more in one year than a great majority of everyday workers will make in their working lifetimes, and still they complain about their financial security? Perhaps if they lived a lifestyle that didn’t include 20 exotic cars, “making it rain” at the strip clubs, multiple mansions and numerous children whose names they can’t remember, usually by several different women, the fan might not be so irritated by their salary demands.

  10. I’ve happily sided with Goliath (America) instead of David (ISIS). The little guy or underdog isn’t always right. With that out of the way…

    The letter makes the point that players want guaranteed money, which is understandable. Who wouldn’t want their salary guaranteed for unavailability (injury/suspension) or ineffectiveness (diminishing skills) or economic forces (salary cap)? The difference between the players and the fans is that none of our money is guaranteed in our jobs so, yeah, it’s hard to get worked up about it from our vantage point.

    Florio has been banging the drum for the idiotic idea of tying contracts to the percentage of the salary cap. How about instead tying contracts to player effectiveness? Lead the league in TD passes and get a nice bonus. Lead the league in INTs thrown and watch that salary plummet. Agents are all for locking in guaranteed money for players regardless of effectiveness, as the letter makes clear. Fans, on the other hand, aren’t going to be persuaded that is in the best interest of their favorite teams.

  11. People saying that they dont earn guaranteed money in their own job (mechanic, engineer, etc), are missing the point. We who work normal jobs didnt sign a contract. Typically our employer hires us “at will” meaning they can terminate us whenever they want, with cause.

    With that said, these players are signing contracts. A contract typically is something that cannot be reneged. For example, i can hire a carpenter to make me cupboards, and we would work out a contract, “x dollars paid for producing said cupboards.”

    Sports players sign contracts, but without these kind of stipulations on what they will produce. I pay the carpenter the contract amount after he produces my cupboards. Thats how sports contracts should be structured.

    For example, 5 year 50 million contract, which includes the stipulation that the player plays in 80% of the games, and produces certain kinds of stats. If contracts were structured in that manner, the money would be guaranteed as long as the player produces up to the standards set forth in the contract.

  12. It doesnt matter whether the money is guaranteed or not. The fact remains that all top entertainers, athletes, bankers, Wall Streeters, most CEO’s, etc are grossly overpaid while the average citizen who basically pays their outlandish salaries are struggling just to make ends meet. When is the last time you heard of a cop, fireman, teacher, social worker, nurse sign a contract for 750 million over 5 years with 50 million guaranteed? Are their jobs less important than one who can throw a football? Let’s get real here.


  13. I knew it wouldn’t take long before someone cut the nonsense soliloquies and let the envious cat out of the bag.

    The minute you mention “grossly overpaid” it is clear that the business just goes over your head and you begin to equate pushing a broom or dumping fries at Burger King — something literally anyone with functioning limbs can do — with playing a sport at a professional level where only a few hundred are able at one time.

  14. It’s the attitude of the players and the loyalty to the team that pushes many fans to the management side of this issue. Many players waste enormous amounts of money and then try to make it up in a new contract. Guaranteed money is something everybody wants but nobody truly deserves. How can some people have no issue if a guy gets paid millions and then does something stupid and is injured and can’t play, but screams bloody murder if a guy gets cut because he is paid more than he produces? There are two sides to this. (3 if you count the agents motivations)

    Using the total revenue of the league/teams as justification for players making oodles of many is false logic designed to tug at the emotions and stir up an everyone against ‘the man’ mentality. That same logic applied to Walmart would justify every truck driver making 10s of millions of dollars since absolutely nothing is sold without the truckers bringing the products to the stores or warehouses.

    Fans root for teams, not players. Players are merely a temporary addition to the teams we root for. To think otherwise would mean that millions of football fans stop watching when their favorite player retires or gets traded or cut. That simply does not happen.

    Greed is a huge problem in society. Most people think that the purpose is to make evwry last dollar they can. I think it is better to sign a contract that i could comfortably live off of rather than squeeze a few more dollars out, be viewed as a jerk and damage relationships in the process.

    It is odd when a greedy person supports either the player or owner for no other reason than the side they oppose is too greedy.

  15. “Do these fans demonstrate the same resentment when their favorite cashier at Walgreens decides to discuss wages with his/her supervisor?”

    Really surprised at the absurdity of this analogy from an NFL agent. I thought these guys were supposed to be smart?

    Anyway, if you don’t like their salaries or the overwhelming undercurrent of GREED in the NFL from all people involved with contract negotiations, don’t watch the games.
    We won’t miss you

  16. I think this article touches on a larger problem in today’s world, which helped fuel Bernie Sanders’ campaign. More and more people are feeling like the gap between the wealthy and the average is increasing and is unfair. Yes, NFL players are elite athletes that beat out a lot of very skilled athletes for very few positions. Those rare skills should be rewarded. Same for a CEO. But when the multiple between the high-profile salary and the average salary keeps rising and when the real increase in the high-profile salaries rises nicely, while average wages are stagnating, yes people get envious and resentful, especially considering how rewarding it is to do even a below average job of catching a football or running a company. So sorry Mr. Football agent, we might have bigger concerns than worrying whether your client is only super-rich and not ultra-rich.

  17. The problem with so many comments here is that I NEVER hear anyone complain about the owners “making too much money” when they make per annum 10 times more than the highest player on the team’s entire contract value. I mean come on now. Are they just accepted to be billionaires as a benchmark and only the players are criticized for exercising their bargained rights and limited leverage? If the argument about how much anyone made included the owners, the gripes would have more merit. As it is, however, these arguments are hollow and… again… reek of jealousy.

  18. Mr. Wright 212 says:
    Jun 19, 2016 8:02 PM
    The problem with so many comments here is that I NEVER hear anyone complain about the owners “making too much money” when they make per annum 10 times more than the highest player on the team’s entire contract value. I mean come on now. Are they just accepted to be billionaires as a benchmark and only the players are criticized for exercising their bargained rights and limited leverage? If the argument about how much anyone made included the owners, the gripes would have more merit. As it is, however, these arguments are hollow and… again… reek of jealousy.
    I’ve never once seen a player put up hundreds of millions of dollars in A) payroll B) stadium upgrades

    They should make more

  19. The issue is not taking the NFL’s side over the players. Simply put, almost no average American worker gets any guaranteed money at all… ever. Almost all of us live in an AT WILL employment state and can be terminated just like a football player for no cause and no guaranteed anything. Sometimes you do not even get your vacation or sick time paid out to you…

    While I do not like many sports guaranteeing all money in a contract, I agree NFL players get the short end of the stick….but no worse than the rest of us in the REAL world.

    The fact that this agent made the case he made without the reason to understand that most of us live that way is disheartening.

  20. Regardless of how much they get and how much is guaranteed, I love a good “bankrupt athlete” story.

  21. No one, and I mean no one should have a guaranteed contract. You work, you get paid, you don’t perform, you employment is terminated.

  22. I am a capitalist. I have no issue with anyone trying to make as much money as they can while they are able to make it. I also do not subscribe to the “every person with more money than me is evil, and every person with less money than me is a leech” doctrine that the politicians want us all to subscribe to so they can continue to pit the US citizens in a civil war against one another based on income levels.

    That being said, this agent has lost touch with the real world while living in his multi-million-dollar-commission bubble.

    To compare the plight of a pro athlete to that of a minimum wage worker in any fashion is nonsensical and an insult to the intelligence of everyone hearing or reading his words.

    Further – and I can only speak for myself here – any outrage toward the players is not the dollar amount of their contract demands, it’s the insistence of being the highest-paid. That’s what Josh Norman wanted, and it sounds like that’s what Kawaan Short wants also. Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Charles Johnson all signed new contracts with the Panthers in spite of a much larger payday that would have been waiting for them had they held out/played out the current contract and looked elsewhere (CJ actually got cut, and still came back for less money). These players got contracts for good money – not necessarily “highest-paid (position here)” but still good value, because they wanted decent value and a chance to stay with a winning team. Those are the guys I can get behind. Cam just had big chunks of a classic car overlaid with gold. Fine. Doesn’t bother me a bit. If he wanted, he could have refused his extension and waited for free agency (would have been last offseason) and probably got a $25M per year deal. But he took the $20M per year deal with the team that stuck with him through the bad times, and now the team is a Super Bowl team.

    But when you have guys who are only happy when they are the highest-paid, and actually say out loud, “I’d play better if I got paid better” (Dickerson, Eric) then that’s where some outrage comes in.

  23. To be honest, I think most of your serious fans get guaranteed money…but some get tired of hearing people talk about not getting what they are worth and have 30 million in guaranteed money.

    I think that people see complaining about 30 million as greed. While I don’t agree, I think that is the case. Players should be fight for every cent they want. It is the right of who lives in our society. Fans want loyalty…but what team is loyal to the players who are at the end of a big contract and are getting old? To us, the fans, it is a hobby. To the players and the owners, it’s a business….a lucrative business….and everyone is fighting for what they get. Von Miller will have around 10-12 year to earn his money…the owners have 50 years.

  24. I dislike the idea that the vocal minority is the “most fans think…”. As with anything, we’re all individual. But, as a rabid member of the NFL fan fraternity, I see many more educated fans that understand that NFL contracts are the least committed contracts in the sports world.

    Many of us also see players that are humble and charitable members of our community. Now that said, wouldn’t it be prescient to begin from a standpoint that everyone inherently “gets” it, and raise the bar?

    An agent would be best served by assuming fans are more intelligent then we’re given credit for. That’s how you get people in your corner, stop feeding the trolls.


  25. Good letter- all salient points- all probably understood by the group of fans who also understand business and economics.

    But then you consider how insulting it will be to the Rabble-rabble crowd you are trying to educate… and you get back to square one, which is that you’ll never teach the rabble-rabble crowd to stop rabbling, and any attempt to only fuels the fire.

    “Illogical reasoning can never be defeated by logical reasoning, because illogical reasoning doesn’t have to play by the logical rules.” – I made that quote up.

  26. I have always understood the concept of non guaranteed contracts, and I support it. I have also understood the terms salary cap hell, and dead money. If a player decides to stop offseason conditioning, or doesn’t put in the necessary effort to maintain the level of his contract – end it! A couple of players could set the team back 3-4 years.

    Don’t compare baseball that doesn’t have a salary cap. And while basketball does have a cap – there is always the luxury tax, the Larry Bird rule, minimum salary exception, traded player exception…. and a host of others. That is how the ‘superteams’ have come into play.

    Football teams can load up for a run, and pay the price down the road, essentially crippling their ability to be competitive.

    Without mentioning teams, one team has consistently made the hard decisions necessary to remain competitive annually, while staying within the salary cap confines.

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