NFLPA, agents at odds as CBA talks near (and the owners love it)

AP

Lost in the commencement of free agency was the climax to long-lingering hostilities between the NFL Players Association and the agents who represent players in contract negotiations.

A session between a group of players and a group of agents happened on Monday in conjunction with the NFLPA’s annual meetings. Based on communications with multiple sources, it did not go well. With the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring in less than two years, that will be music to the ears of the folks who have billions in their bank accounts.

PFT has obtained a copy of a memo sent by the NFLPA to all registered contract advisors explaining the tone and content of the meeting between approximately 60 players and six agents: Peter Schaffer, Christina Phillips, Jayson Chayut, Steve Caric, Pat Dye Jr., and Adisa Bakari.

“[P]layers were dismayed by the lack of any input by the agents on ‘real world’ options when the Owners are likely to push back strongly on changes to these and other economic and restriction issues,” the memo explains. “For example, there was no discussion on how we should collectively build leverage in order to substantially strengthen players’ ability to effectuate these changes and gains, and/or their plans to prepare players for a lockout or a strike. Rather, at times, the session turned into a lecture on why players ‘should’ believe that these issues are important and almost suggesting that they had the unilateral ability to simply change them. Accordingly, there was a general feeling among the players that the agents came into the session grossly underestimating our players’ understanding of complex CBA/negotiating issues; many of the agents’ remarks focused on emphasizing their value in the CBA negotiation process, and thus the session was clearly not as productive as it could have been.”

More will be written in subsequent items here about the economic and restriction issues. To the extent that the agents shared hard truths with players on key topics (for example, the owners will not relinquish the franchise tag without a major concession in return), the players shouldn’t shoot the messenger. To the extent that the players want to make significant gains in the next CBA (for example, getting rid of the franchise tag), the agents should realize that their role isn’t to tell the players why shouldn’t want these things but how they could at least try to go about getting them.

Based on the memo, it appears that one specific incident caused angst and concern among the players.

“During the meeting Peter Schaffer asserted that he represents the bulk — if not all — agents,” the memo explains. “There was a portion of the meeting when one agent made an unfortunate remark that many players interpreted as extremely condescending, and during a rather heated exchange about the ‘roles’ of the agents in this business, other agents specifically and personally targeted an Executive Committee member about the contract that he signed,” the memo explains. “The Player leadership does not know which agents are members of Mr. Schaffer’s representational group, and it may become important that current players know who these agents are in light of some of the comments and information learned during the meeting (including the existence of a derogatory email extolling agents to publicly attack a current player and his decision to represent himself).”

The member of the Executive Committee mentioned in the memo is Richard Sherman, and the reference is to the contract he negotiated for himself in 2018. A year later, multiple agents continue to believe it was a bad deal, and Sherman and other players (like Russell Okung, another member of the Executive Committee) continue to be upset about the criticism of Sherman’s deal.

The memo concludes with a statement from the NFLPA Executive Committee: “We do believe that agents can play an important role in helping to prepare our men for issues that matter to us, and we will continue to seek input, as we have in the past. We want to emphasize that contract advisors are, above all else, agents of this Player’s Union, and all agents owe a fiduciary duty to their clients and the collective body of players. The invitation extended to the agents to attend the auxiliary meeting was done in the hope of building better relationships and to provide a constructive conversation as we prepare for the expiration of the CBA. However, both the tone and specific statements by some of the agents showed an overall lack of understanding of the role of the elected player leadership and at times specifically demonstrated a lack of respect for the rights of players to represent themselves if they so choose.”

Schaffer provided a statement to PFT regarding the meeting, which as one source in the room explained to PFT ultimately resulted in progress, despite some difficult discussions early in the process.

“We want to thank the NFL Players Association for inviting several agents to attend the recent auxiliary meeting of the NFLPA Board of Representatives,” Schaffer said. “The agents in attendance were selected by the NFLPA, and represented a cross-section on the agent community and participated in the interest of solidarity and cohesion with all members of the NFLPA, in order to work together to build a strong relationship to identify both problems within our common interest profession, and solutions. The opportunity to have such varying perspectives and sharing of viewpoints in one room, particularly as we prepare for the upcoming expiration of our labor agreement, is rare and unique. It is step forward that the NFLPA allowed for and heard suggestions that led to spirited debates, without which there can be no real solutions and transparency. The agents attending shared with the players a common heartfelt passion for both the business and game of professional football. We look forward to future opportunities for various groups of agents and members of the NFLPA to gather and continue a dialogue for the betterment of all current, former and future NFL players.”

However it plays out from here, the union and the agents need to find a way to work together. Relentless criticism by agents of the 2011 CBA — criticism which often ignores the reality that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith negotiated the best deal possible when faced with a workforce not inclined to miss a single game check — has slowly and surely pushed the two parties apart. It’s time for them to resolve those difference and get on the same page.

Which means that, initially, the players need to get on the same page about the agents, and the agents need to get on the same page about the players. Eventually, they will be facing a group of NFL and ownership representatives who have been on the same page for decades. And they will be intent on keeping the gains made in 2011 (they’ll say the current agreement works for both sides), they will try to get more, possibly under the threat of a lockout, and absent a lockout they will dare players to strike.

Unless players are willing to strike and make it stick for a full season, they need to be ready to use all other available tools in order to get the best possible deal, the kind of deal that both sides will be happy with over the long haul, ensuring the kind of labor peace that will fuel the ongoing growth of a game from which players, agents, owners, and many others benefit. That won’t happen until players and agents are operating in unison, the way that the owners always do and always will.

And if the players and agents can’t come together, the owners will win. Again.

51 responses to “NFLPA, agents at odds as CBA talks near (and the owners love it)

  1. I hope the players just strike for an entire year, let fans see they can live with out the NFL especially will alternative options to go watch.

  2. Sherman couldn’t have done any worse for himself than Le’Veon Bell did with an agent. Instead of worrying about one player on the Executive Committee who negotiated his own contract, the agents should be thinking about how best to serve their clients. Several issues need to be discussed–probably chief among them whether or not teams should continue to tag players and whether Goodell should continue to have sole discretion for doling out player punishments. No time for this kind of pettiness.

  3. That will never, ever happen. Most of the players in the league don’t make a fraction of what the so called “Super Stars” make. To live without a check for any time will be almost impossible for the average players This is JMHO.

  4. It’s always been a three headed monster, NFL, NFLPA, and the agents. The agents job isn’t to side with the NLLPA, it’s to get the best contract for their clients. Getting into the politics, policies and procedures of the league is up to the NFLPA. I wouldn’t be happy if I was the NFL. I’m sure they realize the battle with the NFLPA will continue as long as there is a league, it’s just SOP.

  5. Deb says: “Several issues need to be discussed–probably chief among them whether or not teams should continue to tag players and whether Goodall should continue to have sole discretion for doling out player punishments.”
    ——————————

    The ‘franchise tag’ affects 5-10 superstar players a year that already makes tens of million more than most of the 1,700+ union members. No one will go to bat for them.

    Same with player punishment. Less than 5% of players get in trouble with PEDs or the Personal Conduct Policy and the other 95% that keeps their noses clean don’t care enough to risk losing money to fight this against Goodell.

  6. Good for the agents. Sherman – we all have to work together except I’m doing it myself.

  7. Sorry. I will not feel badly for a player that signs a contract. It is binding. In this day and age as a player, if you are “taken” then you were foolish to begin with. As for Sherman? Hahahahahahaha. Hahahahahahaha. Upset his contract is still being criticized. Hahahahahaha.

  8. I’d like to see something that limits the highest paid players so the middle and lower players can get more $. flies in the face of a free market but 40 million quarterbacks I think are bad for the game.

  9. NFLPA has traditionally been the WORST of the player associations in all the sports because the careers of the players it represents are the shortest (so they think short term) and their leadership has been the least qualified professionally and intellectually.

    Nothing has changed.

  10. The weakness the NFLPA has compared to the NBA and MLB is their careers are MUCH shorter.
    Unless I’m a good player, I’d rather make 2.5M/year for a few years than miss a year and hope to make that back (which I wouldn’t in 3 years, even with a 500K raise.). With the passing of a year there is another draft class available, so some of us will be out of jobs.

  11. 40 million quarterbacks should be “40 million dollar quarterbacks”. the max contract idea might work but the NBA has a soft cap which I don’t think the owners will go. Do you think anyone will be able to outbid the Seahawk’s Allen trust fund?

  12. These players of today are ruining a game we all like so well. Let them go on strike see how fast the fans turn.

  13. Can’t wait to see the players strike and stick it to the billionaire owners.

    I root for the players and no one else!

  14. Wayne Rice says:
    March 17, 2019 at 4:12 pm
    I’d like to see something that limits the highest paid players so the middle and lower players can get more $. flies in the face of a free market but 40 million quarterbacks I think are bad for the game.

    —————————————————————————————–
    Have you seen the massive overpays for mediocre talent so far in free agency? That’s because agents are good at their jobs. What the players don’t understand is being an agent is a lot more than showing up to sign a contract. It’s about building and maintaining relationships across the NFL. That’s why a bunch of athletes that didn’t listen in school shouldn’t pretend to be a lawyer when millions of dollars are on the line. Hire a professional and let them use their relationships to get the best possible deal.

  15. “NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith negotiated the best deal possible ”

    The deal was brutal and its D Smith’s fault… he negotiated it …. OWN IT. If you signed a bad deal… FIND someone else to rep the NFLPA, don’t blame the agents… give me a break.

    Goodell as judge jury and executioner was a BIG mistake in last CBA. Rice – two week oh wait, lets make that 6 weeks or year!
    Brady and deflategate? AP out a season? Winston suspended on non-criminal unsubstantiated BS? Tanking rookie salaries….etc…

    Time to move on from D Smith ASAP

  16. Go owners!
    When players win, fans lose. They will just try to gain the ability for the star players to take 90% of the rake. How does that make watching the game better for me? Not at all.
    The NFL is the only sport where teams can cut their dead weight. That’s the way it should be. It is in the business world…

  17. The agents sound like sensible and rational human beings. In a negotiation if you want something you have to be prepared to relent in other areas.

    As such logic does not fit with the typical NFLPA narative i am not even a little surprised the views of the agents were consideted unpalatable.

    I dont recall the NFLPA under De Smith ever stating that they were willing to make a concession. They just issue unrealistic demands and trot off to court the moment reality smacks them in the jaw.

    I can’t believe Smith was re-elected

  18. That will never, ever happen. Most of the players in the league don’t make a fraction of what the so called “Super Stars” make. To live without a check for any time will be almost impossible for the average players This is JMHO.
    ————————————————————————————
    People pay to see the superstars not the 2nd and 3rd stringers. If Brady, brees, Wilson,mahomes and players of that ilk supported the strike I bet things would be a bit different for the owners. No one cares if Case Keenum or Ryan Fitzpatrick is striking.

  19. play, don’t play.
    Belichick and Brady have 6 in the bank, I’m good. Bring on the replacements for a change of pace and year of wild west variety. I like it.

  20. Denverallday37 says:
    March 17, 2019 at 2:46 pm
    I hope the players just strike for an entire year, let fans see they can live with out the NFL especially will alternative options to go watch.

    —————————
    They cancelled Spongebob. I would be lost.

  21. The greedy QBs are ruining the game. In some cases they monopolize a quarter of a teams salary cap, even less than average options make more that the highest paid rb. Now tell me how that makes sense? Vested veterans are the ones getting screwed by the agents and high priced QBs. They usually have two options, take what is offered or you will be replaced by someone younger and cheaper. Now please do not confuse me as a socialist, but the salaries of certain players (most notably QBs) who have the longest expectancy of all players, need to be reeled in. The fact that they are further protect for the sole reason they are paid so well is aggravating. They’re is about 1600/1700 players who would love to be franchise tagged for a year and as an above poster mentioned about 95 percent of the league keeps their nose cleaned so why would they go to bat for the 5 percent of morons who have no common sense? I think the players association should fight to have a minimum of vested veterans that must be rostered on the team and if they play for the veteran minimum or slightly above the contracts are guaranteed for the season. No more sign after week one and prorate a players contract week by week.

  22. It’s no different than any other business. The owner makes more than the employee. The owner also incurs all risks. The owner will still be there after the (temporary) employee is gone.
    The owner is still going to own the team if a player decides to not honor a contract and sit out week 17 and then demand a trade.
    The owner is still ultimately responsible for ticket sales, stadium naming rights, hiring all personnel–on and off the field, and any/all charity work, etc
    I for one am ok w the owner, who will own the team for decades, making more money than a player, who-on average-will be employed by the team for about 2.5 years.

  23. mysterytonite says: “The greedy QBs are ruining the game. In some cases they monopolize a quarter of a teams salary cap”
    —————————-

    No, they don’t. MMQB did a salary cap comparison with 1997 QBs and Favre, Aikman & Bledsoe were in the 15%-16% range too. So essentially, top paid QBs 20 years later (cousins, Rodgers, Stafford, etc) are being paid at the same rate historically, even though quarterbacks today are asked to do MORE (more pass attempts/gm, more yardage, higher completion percentage, less INT turnovers).

  24. Its not like anybody in the general fandom looks at current player conditions and says “wow, things are so unfair for the players they really got ripped off in 2011” They don’t have to show up until April for barely anything except a check-in and they limit the amount of practices in pads during the season for pity’s sake. The salary cap has skyrocketed, and the franchise tag is typically used by fewer than 1 in 3 teams each year. Forgive me for not seeing how this last CBA was a shambles from the players perspective.

  25. billinva says:
    March 17, 2019 at 4:53 pm
    Can’t wait to see the players strike and stick it to the billionaire owners.

    I root for the players and no one else!
    The players will never be able to stick it to the owners. The owners are billionaires from from other businesses and that’s how they make and have money. For the majority of them their team is nothing more than a hobby or tax write off. Sure they’d lose millions if there was a strike but they will always be able to out last the players because in the end it has no real effect on their bottom line.

  26. “And if the players and agents can’t come together, the owners will win. Again.”

    ——————

    That would be a positive thing.

    I don’t care how much the owners make. They’re the owners and they can pay the players whatever they feel their services are worth. If the players don’t like it, find another line of work (I’m sure those college degrees can be put to good use somewhere).

  27. akira1971 says:

    Deb says: “Several issues need to be discussed–probably chief among them whether or not teams should continue to tag players and whether Goodell should continue to have sole discretion for doling out player punishments.”
    ——————————

    The ‘franchise tag’ affects 5-10 superstar players a year that already makes tens of million more than most of the 1,700+ union members. No one will go to bat for them. Same with player punishment. Less than 5% of players get in trouble with PEDs or the Personal Conduct Policy and the other 95% that keeps their noses clean don’t care enough to risk losing money to fight this against Goodell.

    —————————————————–
    In terms of punishment, I was thinking more about how Goodell fines on-field hits, etc., than issues involving the Personal Conduct Policy. Otherwise, you make excellent points.

  28. No more sharing the profits with the employees and see how the sense of entitlement works for these players then.

  29. I never understood why “the players” would be against the franchise tag. 95% of them will never even be considered as franchise tag candidates and probably have little sympathy for the handful of players getting a one year contract for more than they’ll make in their career. In fact, the franchise tag keeps more of the money OUT of the hands of the few superstars and available to pay other players.

  30. Players don’t care. They spend the offseason in Florida or Montana and send their agents to deal with the PA and owners. The agents in turn work to make things beneficial to them and the players glance at the agreement in an email, say whatever and go back to doing what they do. Years later they bellyache how the ownership railroaded them. Go to these meetings yourselves.

  31. I am hoping as hard as I can hope that there is a very long strike or lock out in two years. I cannot wait for it to happen. The owners and players all need a big dose of reality, as far as I am concerned. They’ve all stuck it to the fans for so long, that the only way the fans ever get a chance to watch them all suffer is if there’s a strike or lock out.
    So I am very glad the players and agents had this meeting and it did nothing to ease their tensions.
    And when it happens, I hope the fans don’t fall into the trap the players will use by playing on their sympathies as they have done in the past. We all know the owners don’t give a damn about the fans. Well, neither do the players. If you think they do, I havbe a very long bridge to sell you.
    So I am counting down the days until it happens. My hope is it’s the longest strike or lock out ever and the walls come tumbling down on the NFL. And if the owners use scabs again to play the games, count me out. I won’t be watching those games either. I’ve already cut my NFL viewing time way down and found out it’s easier than I thought not to watch it anymore. The NFL I loved is dead anyway. This game I see today is not the NFL I grew up loving. I suggest all fans cut their viewing time down, too. You’ll find you won’t miss it nearly as much as you thought you would.

  32. nyneal says:
    March 18, 2019 at 6:07 am
    I am hoping as hard as I can hope that there is a very long strike or lock out in two years. I cannot wait for it to happen.
    ….
    This game I see today is not the NFL I grew up loving. I suggest all fans cut their viewing time down, too. You’ll find you won’t miss it nearly as much as you thought you would.
    ———————–
    My nephew just finished his Div 1 college career. While I’m not hooked on the college game, the college game is very good. I wasn’t really a fan of college football before his team was on TV every week. They don’t play with the intensity of the pros, but they do play with more enthusiasm.

    I’ve no trouble with the players attempting to max out their earnings. But at the end of the day this is just entertainment. Entertainment is a want in life not a need. No one needs to watch the NFL, you watch because you want to. Your life will not end with no NFL to watch. I found that out with the nephew. I gave up my Saturday afternoon because I had skin in the game. I wasn’t about to give my Sunday afternoons to the NFL when the weather is nice.

  33. How can agents owe a fiduciary duty to both their client and the Union? That logic doesn’t pass muster.

  34. Wake up! agents are lawyers its in their best intrest to work for the league not the players. players last 3.5 years on average and new clients come every draft wake up and smell the toast dump the suits and read and negotiate your own deals.

  35. They should add a provision that limits the percentage of the salary cap a single player can use thus capping the highest paid player(s) on the team. This will open up more cash for other players lower on the totem pole and help GMs set the market. Adding in a midlevel exemption clause to remove one players salary from the salary cap within a specific range specifically for signing a player returning to the team would allow the team to resign their own and remove the franchise tag.

  36. Most players will suffer if there is ever a work stoppage again. And because of that stunt Rosenhaus and Brown did, the owners will set up something to prevent that from happening again. You can’t have players get 38 million and then two years later, want another 30 plus million or they want out. There will have to be language put in contracts that some of that upfront money comes back to the team.

  37. I used to support the owners, but watching their proxy Goodell destroy the league through his corrosive mix of CBA-authorized shenanigans and general incompetence has pushed me into the player camp. If the owners had the league’s best interest in mind they would have fired him years ago, but instead they gave him a raise. I hope the players band together to dramatically improve the CBA, and if not I fully support a strike.

  38. I don’t think the agents should have a role, other than advice, in the Player’s CBA with Ownership. Any more than the referees association, the radio and TV station owners, the venders and sponsors, the venue owners, etc…..Everyone is reliant on the NFL continuing to prosper in order for everyone to get paid or make a buck. You can argue that agents directly get paid on the percentage of the contracts. However, The $ pie is divided up for everyone involved. The more the players make, the less the owners profit and others can make or have to pay. Heck, is fans end up paying more if everyone else makes more. Fans should be at the negotiating table too.

    If you think the agents are worried about the players rather than their own percentage $, you are naive.

  39. Players need to Forget striking as much of a leverage and worry about an NFLPA Lockout. The replacements are being groomed by the AAF. We know they will play for much less already. That, the XFL, the CFL and I drafted players will flock to the teams.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!