Conor Orr @ConorTOrr
Interesting/Fun read from @NFL_Bridge, agent for Antwan Barnes. Includes behind-scenes details abt signing process | http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1572878-the-life-of-an-nfl-agent-during-free-agency …
The life of an NFL agent can be exciting at times, but this lifestyle can be stressful at times as well.
Free agency is definitely one of the “freak-out” times.
I do not run a big agency like CAA or Priority Sports. I run my own agency and though I have 20-plus clients in the NFL, I did not have many clients in free agency this year. This year, with so many cap-casualties, the free agent market was flooded with talented players who have logged a lot of NFL game time.
With a market like that, getting the free agent dollars quickly is very important. But there are tiers to free agency and unless an agent represents a player in the top of his position, the money dries up quickly.
Three positions in 2013 proved this drying up of cash. The cornerback, defensive end and offensive tackle market were scarce this spring.
Cornerbacks likes Nnamdi Asomugha, Antoine Winfield and Brent Grimes are still on the street. At defensive end, Osi Umenyiora, Dwight Freeney and Elvis Dumervil are all without contracts. Jake Long needed until Sunday night to make up his mind, which slowed up the offensive tackle market, but players like Sebastian Vollmer and Andre Smith will get less than what their projected value was this late into free agency.
As an agent, having a player out of work takes years off of your life. Not only does an agent need to know how to negotiate a contract, but we must know the rules as well. Look at the case of Marty Magid, the former agent for Elvis Dumervil. In a classic case of “he said, he said”, Dumervil was released due to a lack of communication. Talk about stress. Magid lost his best client over a fax snafu and a compressed time line.
I just wrapped up a free agent deal for one of my clients, outside linebacker Antwan Barnes. He just signed with the New York Jets on Monday. The market for Barnes was decent, but once players like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril took less than what their perceived value was, just getting a contract done was important for Antwan and me. We went into this period with a plan in place but always understanding that free agency is a moving target.
The biggest issue for any free agent is gaining leverage. Even if the leverage is not real, having perceived leverage can work as well. San Diego, Antwan’s past team, let me know earlier this year they were moving in a different direction and would not be signing Barnes back. This helped us formulate a plan for free agency.
Barnes is from Miami and wanted to stay east of the Mississippi River if possible. He would not turn down a job out west, but his hope was that a team on the East Coast would be interested.
After looking at all the possible free agents and the likely movement of players, I targeted eight teams that I believed would be a good fit for Barnes and his skill set. I put out feelers at the NFL Combine that Barnes would not be signing back with the Chargers and worked on gaining interest and leverage.
Most teams viewed Barnes as a potential target after Avril, Paul Kruger and Connor Barwin signed. So I knew we would have to wait until Thursday or Friday for a deal to happen.
I can honestly say the signing that I did not foresee was the Indianapolis Colts signing outside linebacker Erik Walden. As an avid football follower, I know Walden is a solid player, but I would have never envisioned him signing a four year deal worth $16 million.
That is what makes free agency fun yet stressful for agents. If I was Walden’s agent, I would love the deal and of course sell that to future clients. But for the other agents, who have outside linebackers on the market, we have to explain to our clients why we did not get them that deal.
When free agency opened on March 9th, I was in contact with nine teams in terms of their interest in Barnes. Once March 12 hit, I eliminated four of those teams due to signings they made that day. I was happy for Paul Kruger and the deal he received from Cleveland, but knowing the Browns had interest in Barnes left me with an empty feeling.
Once March 14 arrived and the Jets asked to get Barnes on an airplane, I knew that would be our best fit. He knew head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman from their time in Baltimore together.
I had been talking to Scott Cohen, the assistant General Manager, since March 9 and knew the Jets had interest.
What I did not have was much leverage. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril had just signed deals in Seattle for below market value and with Barnes coming off an injury-filled year, I was worried about getting him signed as soon as possible.
After his visit in New York on Friday, Barnes called me and told me to get a deal done. He wanted to be a Jet. As much as I loved his enthusiasm, my job is to try and secure him the best contract possible. Knowing the Jets reciprocated Barnes’ feelings and wanted him as well felt great on Friday night, but free agency is a fickle beast and until the ink is on the paper, nothing is done.
Barnes got his flight back to Miami on Friday night as I tried to drum up more interest from teams needing a pass rusher. I got a couple bites but no one willing to bring him in for a visit until after the owner’s meeting this week in Arizona.
I did not want to wait that long so I was relieved when Cohen called me Sunday to start the negotiations. After working through many different scenarios on structure, length and bonuses, we came to the current deal.
Do not get me wrong, I am happy with the contract and that Barnes is on the team he wanted to go to. But as a competitor, I wanted to get him more money and more guarantees. That is what makes free agency so hard. Every minute, every second deals are getting done. Even if you are prepared, the landscape can change in an instant.
As excited as Barnes is to be New York Jet, I will celebrate this victory for a short time but will feel the stress again tomorrow as I work and worry trying to find homes for my other free agent clients.
The circle can be vicious and as an agent if you are not constantly working, you risk letting down people that have put their trust in you.
Worse yet, you risk losing them as clients.
Just like a player who wins the game on Sunday, Monday brings a new challenge and reviling in the victory too long will get you beat the coming week.