In March, when the NFL Players Association’s leadership gathered in Hawaii for an annual meeting, agents on the mainland sweated out a possible drop in agent fees. Common sense prevailed, with the players who run the union deciding to keep the fee at three percent.
But the union is nevertheless taking action to undermine the three-percent fee. According to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal, new Standard Representation Agreements include a default fee of 1.5 percent. This compels agents to negotiate the fee percentage upward, if they want the maximum of three percent.
“The ‘new’ form will change in this way: It will have some wording that will say that, unless agreed upon, the default language will be 1.5 percent,” NFLPA president Eric Winston told Mullen via email. “So basically the agent and player will both have to sign off on any fee change from the 1.5 percent. The new form will still have the boxes the old form had. The new form will just make it specific to each SRA that the fee has to be agreed upon.”
Some agents see it as a step toward cutting the maximum fee in half.
“They can say what they want, but at the end of the day, it’s implicit that the union believes the fee should be 1.5 percent,” an unnamed veteran NFL agent told Mullen.
Mullen explains that the prior SRA contained multiple boxes for the free: 1 percent, 1.5 percent, 2 percent, 2.5 percent, 3 percent, and “other.”
One agent wasn’t bothered by the move, viewing the fee glass as half full (literally, it is).
“As long as we don’t have to lower the fees, what you put on the SRA . . . . I don’t have a lot of anxiety over that. If that is the compromise for them not to lower the fees, then, I’m happy about it,” an unnamed agent told Mullen.
The NFLPA should tread lightly in this area, frankly. At a certain point, agent fees become sufficiently low to force the best agents into other lines of work, especially since the maximum fees are lower in the other major sports.
“If that becomes the standard, what agent in his right mind would choose football to represent, instead of baseball, which has totally guaranteed contracts where you can charge 5 percent, or basketball, with guaranteed contracts where you could charge 4 percent?” an unnamed agent told Mullen.
The move comes in the wake of tackle Russell Okung’s much-hyped decision to represent himself in free agency. And the end result was a shamefully bad contract with the Broncos, who surely persuaded Okung that he was driving a hard bargain when in reality he negotiated one of the worst veteran deals of all time.