Leigh Steinberg has been contributing articles to Forbes.com since June 2012. His most read article since joining the Forbes team is titled, How To Be A Great Sports Agent. Based on that article’s success, Steinberg has decided to continue with additional posts on the same topic. Last week, he wrote Part Three in the series.
The focus of the article is on the negotiation component that is a part of any player/team/company relationship. Steinberg cites to the median family income of an American family on the one hand, and the public attention paid to millionaires fighting billionaires in collective bargaining, on the other. The article seems to stress cooperation between agents and owners, as opposed to the perceived competition and angst that the general public discerns from reading websites or watching interviews.
Roughly half way through the article, Steinberg shifts to talking about free agency in the NFL, where the true superstars rarely become free agents, irreplaceable players have their contracts restructured, franchise tags are applied, and then the rest of the players enter free agency. As stated by Steinberg,
The role of the agent in this process is profound. The first job is to contemplate the prospect of free agency in the negotiation of a prior contract. The goal is to time a player’s maximum arc in respect to achievement and future promise at the point of complete contractual freedom. Knowing free agency is coming gives an agent ample time to research and anticipate who the most interested parties will be. Injuries and other signings can alter the possibilities. Research into the coach, general manager, pay structure, and ‘modus operandi’ of each team is vital.
Steinberg goes on to say that “it is all about pleasing a client.” True, because without the client being pleased, he will not be a client much longer (see: Elvis Dumervil and Marty Magid). However, I am a big believer that managing a client’s expectations at the outset of the relationship, and continuing to remind the player about realistic possibilities (including those surrounding free agency), is of utmost important to the agent-client relationship. Having the athlete prioritize values and considerations, as Steinberg suggests, is also an excellent idea.
The end of Steinberg’s most recent article says that there is more to come. We will be watching.