Agent's Take: Nine power brokers who'll play a big role in determining the 2019 financial terrain
Wonder who helped Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell get new deals? Here are the agents behind the big contracts
Playing a word association game with the term 'sports agent' probably wouldn't produce flattering results. Some of words that might immediately come to mind from sports fans would include greedy, dishonest, predatory and unethical. A good majority of agents have their clients' best interests at heart and don't fit the negative stereotypes embodied by the most unscrupulous individuals in the profession.
A misconception exists regarding what an agent makes for negotiating contracts. Contrary to popular belief, agents don't receive upwards to 10 percent of their clients' playing contracts. The respective players' associations regulate the fees an agent can charge. The maximum that can be received for negotiating an NFL player contract is three percent.
Here's a look at several agents, presented in alphabetical order, who will have a big role in determining the NFL financial landscape during the offseason. Considerable weight has been given to the magnitude of the player being represented, the number of clients an agent has that will sign new contracts and the actual or anticipated value of those deals.
Adisa Bakari (The Sports & Entertainment Group)
Bakari made Le'Veon Bell the NFL's second-highest paid running back on a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets, averaging $13.25 million per year. The deal is worth a maximum of $60.15 million thanks to incentives and salary escalators.
Bakari has helped edge rusher Dee Ford capitalize on a breakout 2018 season in which he had a career-high 13 sacks. Ford, who was designated as a franchise player by the Chiefs, has reportedly signed a five-year, $87.5 million contract in connection with his trade to the 49ers for a 2020 second-round pick.
Bakari raised the bar for third cornerbacks last month. Tavon Young signed a three-year extension averaging $8,606,667 per year to remain with the Ravens. He's also gotten Tyrod Taylor a two-year, $11 million contract containing $6 million fully guaranteed with the Chargers to become one of better compensated backup quarterbacks.
David Canter (DEC Management)
Canter didn't waste any time in finding five-time All-Pro safety Eric Weddle a home after the Ravens released the 34 year old. Weddle signed a two-year, $10,501,050 deal with the Rams. The maximum value of the deal is just over $12.5 million because of incentives.
Canter is sitting pretty with Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys put a second-straight franchise tag on Lawrence for $20,571,600 after he demonstrated in 2018 he is the "war daddy" pass rusher owner Jerry Jones has been looking for since releasing future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware in 2014.
Canter has a significant amount of leverage because a third franchise tag for Lawrence in 2020 is cost prohibitive. The procedures outlined in the CBA dictate that Lawrence's third franchise designation will be the greater of 144 percent of his current $20,571,600 figure or the largest number at any position, which would be quarterback; 144 percent of Lawrence's 2019 tag number is $29,623,104. These dynamics should give Canter leverage to get Lawrence a long term deal in excess of $20 million per year.
Tom Condon (Creative Artists Agency Football)
The former Chiefs offensive lineman's experience as an agent dates back to the mid-1980s, when he was in the twilight of his own NFL career. Condon is best known for representing franchise quarterbacks, which include Drew Brees, Eli Manning, future first ballot Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford. He made Ryan the NFL's first $30-million-per-year player with the five-year, $150 million contract extension he negotiated last May to re-set the NFL pay scale.
Condon has helped re-define the safety market with the three-year, $42 million contract Tyrann Mathieu received from the Chiefs. Wide receiver Devin Funchess is betting on himself with a high priced one-year "prove-it deal" at $10 million. Incentives make to deal worth up to $13 million.
Todd France (Creative Artists Agency Football)
France established the $20-million-per-year non-quarterback club with two-time reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald at the end of last preseason. The Rams inked Donald to a six-year, $135 million extension with $86.892 million in guarantees, which averages $22.5 million per year.
A long-term deal for Falcons franchise player Grady Jarrett will likely be in the top portion of interior defensive lineman market. The actual six-year extension France did for Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox in 2016, averaging $17.1 million per year, may be a good a barometer for his Jarrett negotiations. Jarrett isn't quite the same caliber of player, but the Cox deal averages approximately $20.75 million per year if adjusted to the 2019 salary cap environment.
France also represents Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who owner Jerry Jones wants to sign to a new deal this offseason. Prescott is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Expect France to try to use Jones' own words against him. Jones proclaimed prior to a mid-November game against the Falcons that he wouldn't consider trading Prescott for two first-round picks even if the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft was included.
The first-round pick proclamation handed France a simple argument on a silver platter. France has justification to insist that the cost of designating Prescott as franchise player in 2020 is the appropriate starting point for negotiations because two first-round picks is the compensation when a player on a non-exclusive franchise tag signs an offer sheet with another team that isn't matched. The 2020 non-exclusive quarterback number projects to $27 million neighborhood if the six- to eight-percent rate of growth in the salary cap from recent years continues to be applicable.
David Mulugheta (Athletes First)
Mulugheta's fingerprints are all over the safety market. He raised the bar for the position with Landon Collins signing a six-year, $84 million contract to go from the Giants to the Redskins. The deal contains $44.45 million in guarantees. Five-time All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, another Mulugheta client, received a four-year, $55 million deal with $32 million fully guaranteed from the Ravens. These two deals will likely be important data points for any contract extension Titans safety Kevin Byard, who is in the last year of his rookie contract, signs. Mulugheta also reportedly got a four-year, $26 million deal for Kenny Vaccaro to keep Tennessee's safety tandem together for at least the 2019 season.
The cornerback market is due for a major re-set. Jalen Ramsey, the 2016 fifth-overall pick, has expressed interest in getting a new deal this offseason. The Jaguars are going to exercise the option for a fifth year in 2020 with the two-time Pro Bowler. Ramsey's option salary will be $13.703 million.
Drew Rosenhaus (Rosenhaus Sports Representation)
Rosenhaus has been in the athlete representation business for 30 years. He landed his first client, cornerback Robert Massey, in 1989 as a law school student at Duke University.
Rosenhaus successfully helped wide receiver Antonio Brown a force a trade from the Steelers to the Raiders. He got the Raiders to give Brown an $11.2 million raise over the three remaining years of his contract to bring his total compensation during this span to $50.125 million.
Brown isn't Rosenhaus' only dealing with the Raiders in the last few days. He got offensive tackle Trent Brown a four-year, $66 million contract with $36.25 million fully guaranteed. This deal makes Brown the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman at $16.5 million per year.
Rosenhaus briefly raised the bar for what had been a stagnant inside linebacker market with Kwon Alexander, who tore the ACL in his left knee during the middle of last season. Alexander signed a four-year, $54 million deal containing $27.5 million in guarantees with the 49ers.
The Chiefs have reportedly had preliminary talks with Rosenhaus about a contract extension for wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Negotiations will surely be put on hold as long as Hill is under investigation for an alleged battery against his three year old son. If Hill isn't cleared, a new contract will be the least of his worries.
A contract extension for middle linebacker Deion Jones is on the Falcons' offseason agenda. Rosenhaus will likely insist that Alexander's deal is the appropriate starting point for serious discussions.
Joel Segal (Lagardere Unlimited)
The six-year, $141 million extension containing $90 million of guarantees Segal negotiated on behalf of edge rusher Khalil Mack in conjunction with his trade to Bears from the Raiders last Labor Day weekend is the standard for non-quarterbacks. Mack's $60 million fully guaranteed at signing established a new record for non-quarterbacks as well as one for average yearly salary at $23.5 million. His $90 million is the fourth-most overall guarantees ever in an NFL contract.
Segal is having a busy offseason. He's negotiated new deals for Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham ($13,333,333 million per year), Steelers offensive guard Ramon Foster ($4.125 million per year), Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey ($11 million per year), Texans cornerback Bradley Roby ($10 million for one year). Cardinals edge rusher Terrell Suggs (one year reportedly worth $7 million) and offensive tackle Daryl Williams (one year worth up to $6.5 million).
An Amari Cooper extension has seemed inevitable ever since the Cowboys gave the Raiders their 2019 first-round pick (27th overall) to get the wide receiver as the late October trading deadline was approaching last season. Segal will likely drive an extremely hard bargain for Cooper, who is under contract in 2019 for $13.924 million thanks to Oakland exercising its option for a fifth year last April. He has leverage because the Cowboys didn't make the trade for Cooper not to be in Dallas long-term. Cooper's deal should be north of the five-year, $81 million extension (worth up to $84.5 million through salary escalators) with $50.459 million in guarantees Brandin Cooks received from the Rams last July.
Jimmy Sexton (Creative Artists Agency Football)
Sexton has taken the inside linebacker market to unprecedented heights with C.J. Mosley's Jets contract. Mosley reportedly signed a five-year, $85 million contract with $51 million in guarantees.
Tight end Jason Witten, a long-time Sexton client, is returning to help give the Cowboys passing game a boost after a year in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth. He signed a one-year, $4.25 million deal with another $750,000 in incentives.
Sexton is going to help re-define the wide receiver market with Julio Jones this offseason. The Falcons are honoring a commitment made last July to renegotiate Jones' contract when his salary for 2018 was increased by $2.9 million right before training camp opened to avert a holdout. It wouldn't be surprising if Jones became the NFL's first $20 million-per-year wide receiver with a contract extension.
Bruce Tollner/Ryan Tollner (Rep1 Sports)
The Tollners are going to play a hand in shaping the quarterback market this offseason. Negotiations between the Steelers and the Tollners have reportedly been ongoing for a Ben Roethlisberger contract extension. Since Roethlisberger has suggested he is more concerned about winning more Super Bowls than a record-breaking contract, it will be interesting to see whether the 37 year old will cut the Steelers a financial break for the first time in numerous contract dealings with the franchise, like a then-39-year-old Drew Brees did with the Saints last March.
Extending 2016 first-overall pick Jared Goff's contract could be a Rams priority. The Rams have a track record of signing first-round picks to new deals after their third NFL season. The Tollners will likely be looking to get Goff in the $30-million-per-year quarterback club.
Anything done for Goff will impact the next contract of 2016 second-overall pick Carson Wentz, who is another client. The Eagles, who are also extremely pro-active with extensions of rookie contracts, may take a wait and see approach with Wentz because he's ended the last two seasons on injured reserve. Durability concerns may make an extension between the Titans and the Tollners for 2015 second-overall pick Marcus Mariota difficult. Mariota is scheduled to make $20.922 million in 2019 with his fifth year option.
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