While I was working as an NFL agent under Jim Steiner, I remember the agony of watching the Detroit Lions refusing to meet the market value of one of our clients, Jeff Hartings (guard, Penn State), who was selected as the No. 23 pick by the Detroit Lions in the 1996 draft.
The problem for Jeff was we had another first-round selection, Reggie Brown (linebacker, Texas A&M), taken at No. 17, also by the Lions. We got Brown signed first but then the bad news for Hartings was that the Lions claimed Jim had done such a good job with Reggie’s contract that there was no money left for Jeff.
Obviously, it was an unusual set of circumstances but all we were asking for in Jeff’s case was an appropriate contract, given his draft slot. Hartings, under Jim’s advisement, held out until late September before signing.
The longer I’m in the business the more convinced I am that too often holding out seems to be in the best interest of the agent – rather than the player’s best opportunity to become a successful NFL player.
We will never know the “what if” if Brady Quinn had reported on time with the Cleveland Browns. Today he is still the backup to Derek Anderson and the jury is out on his NFL future. I remember when Akili Smith held out for 30 days before signing with the Bengals. Again, we have no way of knowing what that cost him in his career but I’m certain that players who get started late are usually at a very distinct disadvantage. I believe some of them never catch up.
I realize Michael Crabtree is a receiver and thus in a little different situation. Perhaps he can step right in and contribute immediately for the San Francisco 49ers. His NFL agent, veteran Eugene Parker, was overseeing the relationship Michael has with his cousin’s influence – and they were demanding more money than the rookie market would bear.
People ask me what I would do if one of our agent advisors (trained by SMWW) demanded his client hold out like Crabtree. What would I do?
Based on my 15 years experience and what I have witnessed during that time, I would have to say the risk of jeopardizing your client’s long-term career for a small, short-term monetary gain is just not worth the risk. There is too much at stake.
I would have walked away from representing Michael Crabtree if he and the advisor insisted on those demands. I have fiduciary responsibility to my client and if you look at the monetary gains a player accumulates over a longer career, I would make the length of his career my top priority. If you get him into camp noticeably late, I believe you put that career at risk.
I want the prospective draft picks we may be recruiting for next season to see that our philosophy is measured on the welfare of the athlete – not only in immediate dollars but in the length of that career!