Wednesday whys: Agents put the rush on

Why is this an important time for player agents in the NFL?

Now is the “it” time for agents to corral college players in the final push of the recruiting phase. Virtually all players have played their bowl games, and for seniors, eligibility has expired. For juniors, the chase has been on for a while.

Previous to this year, the NFL Players Association had the so-called “Junior Rule,” which prohibited agents from having any communication with a player or anyone advising a player until he had announced his eligibility for the NFL Draft. As of March, that rule was revised to allow agent communication – recruiting – after the player’s bowl game or Dec. 1, whichever is later, in the year the player would be eligible for the draft. Thus, agents have been hard at work recruiting not only seniors but – as opposed to the two previous years (in theory) – also juniors eligible for the 2010 draft.

Most, if not all, highly rated players will have representation by the Senior Bowl in late January, if not sooner.

The early leader in the clubhouse for the most top players recruited at this point is Gary Wichard, now the agent for Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame, C.J. Spiller of Clemson, Taylor Mays of USC and Arrelious Benn of Illinois.

Why are front offices busy signing players now when the new league year doesn’t begin until March?

All teams – both playoff and non-playoff – can and have started signing players to what are called reserve-future contracts. These are typically players who were in training camps last offseason and have not found homes with teams through the season. Some get small bonuses; most sign for minimum salary and offseason workout per diems. In the past, many of these players would be sent to NFL Europe; that’s no longer the case.

This is where NFL pro scouting departments can really separate themselves by identifying and signing these players whom most fans have never heard of. In Green Bay, I remember signing Cullen Jenkins, a reserve/future signing, in January. Some pretty good scouting there.

Why do playoff teams get the advantage of an extra evaluation of practice squad players?

Playoff teams can offer the practice squad minimum of $5,200 per week to players they may want to evaluate for potential signing as reserve/future free agents following the conclusion of their season.

As teams regularly swap out P.S. players throughout the season in their evaluations, this gives them an additional week or weeks to continue to evaluate players. The carrot of $5,200 a week is nice for the players as well, often with the implicit understanding that the player will sign with the team for the next year following the playoff run.

One such signing took place today when the Patriots added Nick Moore, a wide receiver. Moore will get a good look at practice to see if he’s worth a future contract.

And for my pet peeve Why of the Week….

Why do sham interviews continue to be in compliance with the Rooney Rule?

Obviously, this is not what was intended with the rule designed to encourage more minority interviews for senior positions in football coaching and management. Unfortunately, the rule is being deftly skirted. The Redskins have made a mockery of it, and it obviously needs to be adjusted.

The problem is that teams and ownership know who they want to hire for these positions and are not going to be deterred, whether because of the Rooney Rule or otherwise.

Perhaps one idea is for an independent body to do an evaluation and analysis of the minority hiring in all phases of each organization and then determine how each can be a more representative and inclusive franchise, whether through positions at the top or throughout the infrastructure of the organization. Just a thought.

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