More Grumbling Than Usual

First come the smiles and the pictures, and then later comes the game of hardball. Agents, usually grumpy about NFL teams prior to getting their clients signed, are grumbling more than usual about the difficulties of negotiating with the NFL as the Summer of 2003 drags on...

As many teams in the NFL wrap up mini-camps and get ready for the opening of training camps, an alarming number of drafted players are not under contract, or even in discussions.

For numerous reasons, most teams in the league wait until the last minute to get players under contract. From freeing up salary-cap space to sign the rookies to pressuring the rookies and their representatives into reduced deals, agents perceive that the game of negotiation in the NFL has hit an all-time low.

TheInsiders recently had the opportunity to discuss the present state of contract talks and progress that has become the norm around the league. Agents and representatives for NFL rookies sound discouraged and generally unhappy with recent changes in the usual game of negotiation.

"What was once thought to be just a way of doing business with some specific teams has become an avenue of consistency in the league", an agent told TheInsiders, "From teams that have carried the 'cheap' or extremely frugal type negotiators, to the San Francisco, Washington, and Cleveland's of the league that generally talk tough - but in the end are fair teams, the landscape in the league has changed for the worse."

"These young players are hurt because they end up worrying about their contracts rather than having the kid in camp, gaining experience and dealing with the competition, which only makes the young rooks better. Furthermore, the team loses in the end, generally, because the players miss valuable practice time, they fall behind, and the pressure ends up on the organization to get the player ready."

Generally, the feeling from the rookie players and their representatives is that the time will eventually come and the team will come around to what they consider a fair deal.

An negative example commonly used within the ranks of representatives are the demanding negotiating processes in Minnesota, Cincinnati, and Arizona.

"Some teams have a great working relationship with many of the representatives in the business. While we all understand the process, a few teams create an atmosphere that ultimately creates some resentment", one high-profile agent told us.

"Dealing with a team like Minnesota is a demanding process that can really test the fortitude of the player, the representative, and the collective bargaining process. I personally have negotiated over 1000 contracts and by far the worst talks are with the personnel in Minnesota. A deal is rarely complete with Minnesota until the contract is submitted to the league... they have a tendency of changing the agreed-upon terms while in verbal spats that generally occur when working towards finalizing a contract."

"Cincinnati and Arizona are just organizations that have shown the ability to be extremely cheap. They have, in the past, basically refused to pay market value until the options were at an end. That is part of the negotiation process, but these teams take that to another level."

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