Being a successful agent can be difficult in any major sport. This is especially true in the NFL. While it can be a lucrative endeavor — the top 40 sports agencies managed over $43 billion in player salaries last year — it’s not the certain path to riches some fans think. Let’s look at how much NFL agents make and what goes into their jobs.
What do NFL agents do?
An NFL agent has many responsibilities when handling a client’s affairs, including:
- Negotiation: NFL agents negotiate with teams on behalf of clients to secure the largest contract possible within the confines of the salary cap. They do this with free agency and potential contract extensions.
- Public relations: Agents often advise players on public relations issues to ensure athletes don’t make foolish comments or do anything to jeopardize their careers in any way.
- Financial management: Some agents assist players in handling money.
- Post-football career: NFL careers are notoriously short. When athletes transition to a post-NFL job in a field like broadcasting, often their agent helps with this move.
Depending on the client, an NFL agent can also act as a manager, babysitter, accountant, or de facto attorney. The job requires flexibility and versatility, as day-to-day tasks can vary.
The reality of being an NFL agent
Many sports fans assume NFL agents are filthy rich, doing minimal work for a 15% cut of a player’s contract. The truth is far different. The tasks above are all responsibilities agents must perform for all clients. Make no mistake: They need a diverse, large client base to make a successful living.
NFL agents also make much less than 15% for representing athletes (more on that below). They also must invest a lot of money back into their clients to ensure success. One NFL agent wrote about those investments in the National Football Post:
“Additionally agents have high overhead. I, for example employ a full time marketer and attorney to handle marketing and to just make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Agents also have to invest 15k to 25k on average to train and prepare rookie players. Very few agents if any charge their players for expenses. Travel, marketing, office space, and entertaining clients can be costly.
I’d say NFL agents are at par with successful real estate agents and some attorneys. An agent representing about five new clients a year and managing about twenty clients overall has estimated expenses of about $200,000 to $250,000 per year. Some agents also have to share fees with partners and their agency.”
It’s clear that being an agent is about more than negotiating a contract and sitting back while the cash rolls in. But when NFL agents do negotiate a contract, what type of cut do they get back?
How much do NFL agents make?
According to Chron.com, sports agents make between 4-10% of a player’s contract. This dips slightly for the NFL, however, where rules prohibit agents from taking home more than a 3% commission of the player’s salary. The agent’s final take home depends on the contract, which in the NFL can range anywhere from $60,000 to millions of dollars.
Agents can also make up to 10-20% of endorsement contracts they negotiate for clients as well. It’s a job that can certainly pay well, but it doesn’t come without long hours and hard work.
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