'The NFL Beat': The End of the Super Agent
New CBA, new ball game
By Alex Dunlap, 6:26PM, Wed. May. 23, 2012
I have actually been around Drew Rosenhaus more than the average American, and I can tell you one thing is true. The whole phone thing, the thing about him always being on the phone: This is true. In fact, I am under the impression that the bluetooth conspicuously implanted in his ear is actually dedicated to a separate line than his handheld blackberry.
The NFL Super Agent. Not the one that inspired the blockbuster movie Jerry McGuire. That is Leigh Steinberg (who has his own issues). Rosenhaus is an agent of a much less cuddly variety if we are talking cinematic comparisons. He is a cocky, arrogant, fast-talking charmer with Gordon Gekko's telephone manners. If you watch him closely enough, you can actually picture the snake oil oozing out of his cranial pores, providing a greasy shell of slicked-back hair strong enough to contain one of the world's most over-inflated egos.
Rosenhaus "owns" the recruitment of South Florida NFL prospects in much the same way that Jimmy Sexton and CAA own Alabama. It is no coincidence that Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban is represented by Sexton. Furthermore, it should be of no surprise to anyone next year when Ohio State players start opting to be represented by Jimmy Sexton, Ben Dogra, Tom Condon, etc. with a much higher frequency than previously. Why? For the same reason so many key University of Florida players did so during Urban Meyer's tenure in Gainesville. Put two and two together.
This is a greasy business, and as long as we're talking about snake oil, let me segue into pipelines. Your client base is built through pipelines as an NFL agent, and it is your lifeblood. "The U" has been very good to Rosenhaus, much like the bubbling crude serendipitously discovered one fine day by Jed Clampett of The Beverly Hillbillies. But, with the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement in place, and given recent trends, it appears that his pipeline may be drying up.
Rosenhaus would like you to think he has been busy getting LeSean McCoy's deal wrapped up, recently solidifying (via a large contract extension) the young running back's future with the Eagles franchise at the position. What he might not like you to know is that he has been just as busy losing clients lately. London Fletcher, Beanie Wells, and Willis McGahee, among many others. By my count, Rosenhaus has lost close to 20 clients during this offseason alone.
His 2012 draft was nothing to crow about, either. Miami running back Lamar Miller had arguably the most drastic fall of any player in this year's draft, a perceived late first round talent that fell to round four. Fellow University of Miami teammate, wide receiver Tommy Streeter, was projected by many as second/third round talent. He is 6-feet, 5-inches tall and runs a sub-4.4 40-yard dash. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Ravens. Rosenhaus' highest-drafted prospect in 2012 was Devon Still, a defensive end from Penn State. A projected late-first-round beast, Still was drafted at the end of the second round, at pick 53 by the Bengals. An absolute steal for the Bengals, but a further indictment of Rosenhaus' decreasing capability to effectively solicit the services of his elite talents to NFL front offices.
As an agent, how much can you really do for a client during the predraft player evaluation process? The Senior Bowl and the Combine, the workouts with teams, the interviews. Agents can't do these very important tasks for any player. What a good agent can do is prepare their player. Not just in training and coaching, either. A good agent sets realistic expectations for their prospects, and directs their efforts toward a player's true needs. Rosenhaus just gives the kid $50,000.
This $50,000 is a ball and chain disguised as a "marketing advance." Any certified NFL agent will tell you that under the new CBA, things have changed. The game has really, really changed. They will also tell you that if you give a kid a $50,000 advance, you will lose your shirt (under the new rules) if that player is not drafted by the midsecond round.
On the other hand, that player is now "stuck" with that agent, because of the money owed. The hope from the agent's side, in this case, is that the player overperforms in one year so they can go in for a contract renegotiation. Until that breakout, though, the player remains on the shelf, getting little attention from the person steering one of their life's most important vessels: their career earnings.
Is it any wonder why every time you hear about a player going broke or being in financial distress, it's usually a Rosenhaus guy? Sure, that is a blanket statement, but it holds some truth. It's like saying every time you hear about a dog attacking an old man, a pit bull is involved. It's not true, but it seems true. DeSean Jackson, Warren Sapp, Terrell Owens. How are these guys not advised regarding "how not to go broke" when they have like $70 million dollars?
By May 18 of this year, 147 NFL draftees had signed their contracts. To show historical perspective, only 13 draftees had signed by the beginning of June last season. Only 11 were signed by June in 2009, and only seven in 2008. Their agents were holding out to play the old game. This is the new game. Rookie salaries are, as of 2012, firmly set and not open for "expert" negotiation. Rookie contracts are cookie-cutter agreements attached to lump financial sums assigned to a player's draft slot. The only details to work out include incentive, dispersal, and administrative tweaks.
It's time for a new business model. The days of complacent, old-guard agents, collecting athletic spaghetti and throwing it against the wall to see what sticks are coming to an end. This is the beginning of athlete enlightenment through real-life planning and oversight. The discovery of true, trusted advisory counsel. This is the end of the NFL Super Agent.
[Alex Dunlap is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, the host of RosterWatch on 104.9FM ESPN Radio Austin, founder of Rosterwatch.com, and a featured expert contributor to the FantasyPros.com network.]