Last year, the notion that the Cardinals would select quarterback Kyler Murray gained significant credence when Murray hired the same agent who represents Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury. This year, the decision of Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill to hire Brian Ayrault and Todd France of CAA suggests that Tannehill likely will be staying put.
As pointed out by Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, Ayrault also represents Titans G.M. Jon Robinson, who doesn’t sign the checks in Tennessee but determines who will get the checks and how much money they’ll be worth.
It’s a fairly common dynamic in NFL circles, even though it’s a clear and obvious conflict of interest. CAA, which represents the best interests of Robinson, will be negotiating with Robinson on a new deal for Tannehill, while representing his best interests. Which in theory means that when it comes to pushing for the best deal possible for Tannehill there may be a point beyond which the agents won’t go for fear of angering their other client.
That said, CAA has a reputation for driving a hard bargain under any and all circumstances. The fact that CAA also represents running back Derrick Henry significantly enhances the leverage of both players. CAA can refuse to do a deal for either player before the deadline for application of the franchise tag, forcing them to tag one and to let the other test the market. (Absent a new CBA, the Titans would be able to apply the transition tag to the player who isn’t franchise-tagged. The transition tag, however, carries with it only a right to match.)
The NFL Players Association has no rules of any kind regarding the simultaneous representation of coaches/executives and players; it’s basically the wild west. In some situations, like this one, it’s entirely possible that the player hired the firm that represents the G.M. in order to ensure that a deal gets done to stay in Tennessee.
Regardless of whether other industries (like, for example, the legal profession) would ever allow it, the NFL and NFLPA do. And that dynamic, given Tannehill’s decision to hire CAA, could help ensure that Tannehill remains the quarterback of the Titans, despite the availability of guys like Philip Rivers, who has long been linked to the Titans as a second-act team — and who also is represented by CAA.
Indeed, it may not be a coincidence that, on the day after the Chargers announced that Rivers won’t be back the news came out that Tannehill is now represented by the agency that handles both Robinson and Rivers. If Tannehill were represented by a firm other than CAA and if that firm had driven too hard of a bargain for the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year, CAA could have tried to arrange a marriage between a pair of clients, with Robinson signing Rivers and moving on from Tannehill.