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NFL Player Agents: It's that time of year...

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My long term interest coming out of law school is to eventually work in sports labor, whether that be for one of the players' associations or one of the league offices. When I mentioned sports labor to many people, the first thing they think of is the world of the sports agent. While I don't want to become an agent, I can see why people ask about that first and foremost. As contracts have skyrocketed in value, and endorsement opportunities have increased exponentially, the agent has become that much more prominent.

One of the longest running stories of the summer will be the signing (or lack there of) of first round draft choices. The 49ers had their own immensely "entertaining" experience last year dealing Eugene Parker, as they tried to get Michael Crabtree signed, sealed and delivered. The 49ers certainly aren't the only team to deal with a recalcitrant agent and player. Now that the 49ers have a pair of first round picks, one hopes they will be able to get them signed and into camp on time.

Other teams might not have it so easy. The folks at Pro Football Talk had a post about Ndamukong Suh and his comments about not wanting to hold out. Suh is represented by our old friend, Parker, who had some thoughts on the matter that really can't inspire confidence with the Lions:

"Typically what happens," Eugene Parker told Kaipust, "is when there's a sense of urgency by both parties, things get done."

How one defines urgency certainly differs from person-to-person. As PFT reported, out of Parker's last 18 first round picks, only Dustin Keller was in camp on time. Parker continues to represent high draft choices, so clearly the players are not all that concerned about it. I'm very curious to know how the discussion went when Parker was speaking with Suh and his family about representing him. The Crabtree holdout had to have come up at some point.

After the jump, we look at the value of this, and another agent issue.

Has any player really benefited from holding out? Ndamukong Suh is an extremely talented football player, but given the speed in the NFL, it would seem foolish for him to hold out. His contract situation is of particular interest because he was the top non-QB draft choice. Given that Bradford would likely get significantly higher than non-QBs, Suh's contract would seem to be the one to set the initial benchmark for remaining first round picks. And, of course, the 49ers would seem to need some kind of benchmark for Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati. At the same time, teams often take the previous year's pick at that position and inflate it accordingly.

While this annual dance of draft picks and front offices continues on, there's another interesting agent-related story coming down the pike. Randy Moss will be a free agent at the end of this 2010 season. Recently he announced he was parting ways with his career-long agent, and according to said agent, Moss has apparently now decided to finish his career without an agent:

"Randy has talked to me for a while about finishing his career without an agent and recently told me that as a veteran entering his entering his 13th season, he no longer believed he needs an agent," DiPiero said in a press release sent to us via e-mail.  "He told me he would be sending me official notice of his decision which he did last week."

The folks at PFT don't think it's such a good idea given Moss' temperament. While I can see reasons it might not be a great idea, I also am surprised more players don't go this route. Or at the very least, simply hire an attorney at an hourly rate to handle contract deals. I realize the big time agents have a lot of experience in this area; but if you could find a lawyer who is generally an excellent negotiator, why not save that 8% or 10%, or whatever commission you have to pay.

One upside to having an agent is that if you can find someone to handle everything for you (contract, endorsements, personal assistant type stuff, etc...), that commission might very well be worth it. When you're trying to learn a particular playbook, and want to focus strictly on football, it makes sense to have somebody who can handle all the little things that can be distractions.

However, for a guy like Randy Moss who knows he is approaching the end of his career, and knows what he needs to do on a daily basis, it might be smart to just skip the middle man and handle his own business. I'd like to think he's going to have an attorney double-check the details. If not, I'm not so sure it's the wisest idea. Although, if he's financially secure at this point, maybe it's worth the risk.

I'm curious if this ever gains in prominence. Maybe after getting some general negotiating experience, I can turn the NFL agency game on its ear, offering my services at an hourly rate to negotiate player contracts. I have no interest in becoming a sports agent, but it might be entertaining to undercut them, wouldn't you think?

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