As this college football season comes to a close and spring is around the corner, the NFL Draft is near. Many college players will be scrambling for agents while others will have agents texting, calling, emailing and sending any other smoke signal to swoon their prospective guy to their roster. How does a player pick the right agent for them? I’m going to list 4 qualities that I think should be at the top of your list when considering a sports agent.
Tyler Horn, a Free Agent in the NFL and a contributor to the Players Tribune, listed trust and honesty as his top two qualities that an agent must have. An agent who acts with integrity must be somone a player can trust and must be honest. Players often blindly rely on an agent to uphold their fiduciary duty of keeping the player’s best interest in the forefront of the business dealings. Some times agents do not, becuase they may be more focused on building their client roster or could be stretched to thin with existing clients. Some agents offer players monetary advances – where agents will give clients large sums of money in return for signing a long term contract with the agent. If the player does not receive the proper counsel, the player could find themselves making a short-sighted decision choosing immediate money in lieu of the best agent for their career. Sometimes having integrity means telling someone that is used to getting what they want, when they want it – NO...and not wavering. There will already be a multitude of people around the player, family included, that will be yes people. A good agent will be able to say "I know this is what you want but this isn’t what you need right now," and refocus on the ultimate goal.
Building a strong foundation of trust and honesty allows for more open communication between the player and agent. Although the primary relationship is with the player, it inevitably extends to members of the player’s family. There may be times when the player expresses to the agent that this week is a high intensity week and the bandwidth to deal with ‘family’ issues just isn’t there. A player needs an agent to understand this and react accordingly. I’m not saying as an agent, a family member should feel disowned, but the agent can tactfully express the player’s need for focus during this time.
Before every season the player and agent should sit down and discuss some goals that the player wants to accomplish during that year. The agent’s job is to help the player be in the best position to accomplish those goals - on and off the field. While the agent is not the player’s personal assistant, an agent facilitates many of the off-field activities on behalf of the player. Keeping the player abreast of those responsibilities is important in building and maintain the brand that will serve the player long after they’ve retired from their sport.
An agent’s knowledge is also crucial part to picking the right agent. An agent must be aware of the player’s abilities and opportunities for growth. During the draft days an agent must recognize where the player is projected to land and also be aware of selections made by teams that could change where a player is drafted. An agent must also be aware of incentive points and how work with the GM to maximize a player’s contract while not negatively impacting the salary cap. For instance, a cornerback (CB) is in the last year of his contract and his production rating 28 of 119 CBs AND his production rating is higher than his counterpart, but his contract value is 78th of all corners. Could be a point of discussion with the General Manager (GM) during negotiations? Perhaps the GM would point out the differences that his counterpart is only paid less than $500K more and their base salaries are comparable to other CBs in the NFL. The GM could also point out the differences between the other CBs in scheme, conference, opponents, team strategy, team salary cap and so-on but you get the idea.
More important than the knowledge of the sport is knowledge of the player, which often times gets overlooked. In my experience, it is better to have a well-rounded player than a singular minded one. Knowing the player as a person and not as a client is critically important to the longevity of the relationship between the player and agent.
Lastly an agent’s reputation and how they represent a player is another factor when considering the right agent. An agent who has a reputation of being difficult to work with is not someone you want going before the GM and ownership negotiating on your behalf. Conversely an agent that accepts everything that is offered isn’t someone that is likely to maximize a player’s value either. This is also a two-way street the player must also know that their behavior before entering professional sports will be considered as well as an off the field activities. A good agent will know how to leverage the off field activities as a benefit for the player’s goals, the team, and the community.
There are countless other values that are equally important to consider when looking for a sports agent. Hopefully these four values can serve as a guide during your search in picking the right sports agent for you.