Over the weekend the Broncos and free-agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders reached a three-year, $15 million deal. It wasn't without drama, though. According to a report from NFL.com, Sanders agent, Steve Weinberg, "accepted a deal in principle with the Chiefs" before taking the Broncos deal.
On Tuesday, Weinberg issued a statement refuting those claims and saying there were "absolutely no handshakes" or "verbal agreements."
"If we reached or agreed to terms with the Chiefs, we would have signed with Kansas City and never turned back," Weinberg said. "There were absolutely no handshakes, verbal agreements or signed documents when Sanders left the Chiefs facility. Emmanuel was on his way to the airport when teams called us. We didn't ‘shop any deals' or ‘reach out' to a single team."
This statement was part of a lengthy press release from the agent's publicist which detailed the negotiations between Sanders and the Chiefs.
Among those details are the following claims from Weinberg and Sanders team:
- Weinberg was asked for a comment on the story and told Ian Rapoport of NFL.com that the story was "untrue" -- when asked what parts were false Weinberg told him "all of it."
- "Sanders and agent Steve Weinberg were bombarded with calls" after teams learned they left the Chiefs facility.
- One of those calls was from Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith who told Sanders that they were interested in him and to “have your agent call us.”
- While Sanders was "en route to the airport" (he was leaving Kansas City and trying to catch a flight to the 49ers facility in San Francisco) Weinberg got a call from the Chiefs who told Weinberg if Sanders "would turn the car around and return to the building, the Chiefs were prepared to improve their offer."
- Sanders did turn the car around, but when he talked with the Chiefs, they were told the Chiefs offer "was $4 million less than it had been just moments ago."
- Sanders then turned the car back around to go to the airport and San Francisco, at which point in time Weinberg got a call "out of the blue" from the Broncos.
- The Broncos were Sanders' "first choice of teams from the very beginning."
- While waiting on the Broncos to call, Weinberg says his phone was blowing up with calls, to the point that he "was simply unable to take every call, and planned on checking his voicemail as soon as he could. Weinberg noticed the Chiefs had called, but there was no message."
- Weinberg emailed the Chiefs and told them he would review their offer that evening along with the other teams' offers.
- The Chiefs then told Weinberg "No need to review it, Steve. Had you picked up your phone when we were calling, you would know that we have pulled the offer."
- Weinberg says he received "a series of angry and threatening text messages" which he believes indicate the Chiefs "misinterpreted what was happening and jumped to unreasonable conclusions."
- Sanders spoke with the 49ers later and informed them he was signing with the Broncos. "Unfortunately, the 49ers were not aware how quickly everything came together, and assumed Weinberg was not being truthful with them in his earlier email."
- Weinberg called the Buccaneers to let them know that a deal with the Broncos was going down.
It's quite the hairy situation we don't know the full truth about. And, clearly, there's a case of an NFL club (or clubs) not being thrilled with Weinberg.
He's essentially making a case -- it seems to me -- of confusion rather than deception. No telling how well that would hold up with those clubs or with the NFL. But it's certainly not, according to Weinberg's account, a case of malicious intent.
As CBSSports.com's Joel Corry detailed, the business of being an agent in the free-agency period can reveal a shady side of things.
This situation only further emphasizes how difficult the process can be.