I’ve been agent since 1986 and I can tell you that the majority of my time has been spent managing damage control, educating, recruiting new clients and helping clients with personal situations. Just a modest percentage of our time is actually spent doing contracts and marketing deals. That’s the reality of the business that agents prefer not to talk about. It can truly be an intimate business with our clients that is bonded solely by trust. However, many agents don’t deliver where and when clients need it most and the blame can be shared by both parties because of the lack of diligence done during the hiring of the agent.
So what should players be asking their prospective agents?
Are they financially stressed in any way? When people have financial stress, obligations and/or pressures, they become desperate and may make some bad decisions. If an agent is in need of money to feed his/her debts, lifestyle, and/or ego, the first place they may look is towards his/her clients. Aside from directly milking the client for cash, a quick way to make a score is to do a contract and collect a fee. It may be in the client’s best interest not to do a contract until after the following season, or even sign a tender for a guaranteed one year deal.
Players should realize that the timing of their deals should be based on certain market conditions and not be done when an agent simply says so. However, many players will fire an agent when he is telling his client to be patient for a new deal. Mainly because there is another agent with nothing to lose telling your client he can get the deal done right away. There have been rumors floating around the agent community that two high profile agents are dramatically in debt. No one knows for sure if they are but I wouldn’t want anyone in need of money doing my contract. An agent who is financially secure will be less likely to put his/her own interests before his clients.
How is their time divided amongst their clients? Every agent of course will always sell the fact that the client they are pitching will be a priority. But will they? The truth is that if an agent has high profile clients who are dramatically high maintenance, they won’t. If an agent is constantly being reactive to his clients needs because of unforeseen issues, he/she will have little time to be proactive in managing his new client’s career. Sometimes having a huge star-studded clientele could mean very little time for new clients.
So players should take a good look at a clientele and try to imagine where they might fit in the pecking order.
What is the damage control plan? Any agent will tell you that if you talk too much to a prospect about the things that can go wrong, you usually won’t get the new client. Potential draftees want to hear about the positive and exciting parts of becoming a NFL player and many agents are happy to sell them the sunshine. The reality is that for the majority of players coming into the league, something will go wrong in their first three years. They could be demoted, released, injured, playing for a horrible team/coach and/or the career could end abruptly.
This is when agents are needed most. An agent can shine and this is when we have to work the hardest. A good agent will always have a contingency plan for every scenario but unfortunately many don’t. Why not? Well, if a player gets injured, released and his career is over the income stream is dead and the financial incentive to help is gone. Even though it’s an agent’s job and duty to make sure a player is taken care of medically and financially from the league, the team, the state (workers comp), most agents move on to the next new client leaving the player to dangle in the wind.
Draftees and their confidants need to ask tough questions before signing with an agent. It’s always best to measure twice and cut once.
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