Recently, there have been reports that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has tried to negotiate contract extensions with players without their agents present. Jones is accused of speaking directly to players about taking team-friendly deals. Former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant confirmed that Jones tried this tactic with him several years ago.
Why would Jones try to avoid agents? Why would players not use their agents to negotiate contracts? And how do agents help players?
Jerry Jones’s tactics to avoid NFL agents
The majority of NFL players are represented by an agent. One of the main duties of an NFL agent is to represent the financial interests of a player. Part of this duty is to deal with contract negotiations.
This may involve negotiating a contract before a player joins a new team or working on extending an existing contract. If a player has an agent, team representatives must deal directly with the agent. They cannot talk to the player about his contract.
What Jones tried to do isn’t directly negotiate the contract with the player. Instead, he tried to convince the player to take a lower salary, which would allow the Cowboys to sign more players. Jones hoped that once he convinced the player to take less money, the player would direct his agent to agree to a smaller contract.
Jones does this because he knows there is a better chance to influence a player. Players have divided loyalties. On one hand, they are working as part of a team to win a championship. On the other hand, they are trying to do what’s best for their own personal situation.
This can lead to conflicts. When a player is going for a huge contract, he may be doing what is best for his own personal financial situation. However, it also may limit the ability of a team to sign more top-tier players. Agents don’t have this problem. Their only duty is to the client’s best interest, not the team.
This happened with Bryant when he was negotiating his contract extension with the Cowboys. Jones brought Bryant to a private location to discuss his contract. Bryant resisted discussing the upcoming deal.
What NFL agents do for players
As discussed above, agents serve as representatives during contract negotiations. But they provide other benefits. They help players with the pre-draft process. They develop a player’s image and work on getting paid endorsements. They help a player with financial planning and post-NFL career planning. They also provide the player with another person to advise them.
All agents are different. Some work for large firms while others work for themselves. Some agents deal with certain types of clients or provide different services. In the long run, the right agent can help a player’s career and finances.
Dez Bryant perfectly summed up this relationship recently. In recalling his interaction with Jerry Jones without an agent Dez said, “Mr. Jones, what would happen if you tried to cover me on that field?”
By comparing an NFL owner trying to cover an NFL player, Dez summed up what it’s like for an NFL player to try to negotiate a contract with an owner. It’s just out of their league.
Do all players have an agent?
Some players choose not to use an NFL agent. Whether it’s to avoid fees or because they can’t find an agent they trust, several notable players have negotiated contracts by themselves.
Recently, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett negotiated a contract extension himself. When quarterback Andrew Luck suddenly retired, Brissett negotiated a two-year, $30 million extension, of which $20 million is guaranteed. Brissett also negotiated his rookie contract. However, since the value of a rookie contract is set by the league, there wasn’t much negotiating.
Was it a good deal? Brissett was a free agent after this year. While he had positive reviews during training camp, he is largely unproven. If he had a good year as the Colt’s starting quarterback, he could have turned that into a massive new deal. However, it appears that Brissett wanted to have some security. This extension gives Brissett his first major payday.
Signing an extension was a good idea for Brissett, but the money might be a little low. Brissett’s $15 million a year average puts him in the bottom half of quarterback compensation. An agent might have been able to squeeze more money out of a desperate Colts team. However, Brissett seems happy. He got the security of the extension and says he is happy getting rid of this distraction.