Now the Fun Begins!

The dust has settled on the Super Bowl, the free agent talk is heating up as we enter the NFL Combines. For the most part, this week is designated to prodding, running and interrogating prospective college players who want to make the jump into the money rounds of the April Draft. But it's also designed for agents to start shopping their clients by setting up deals that will no doubt get their clients a leg up in the free agent circus set for March 2nd.

Generally speaking agents are not allowed at the NFL Combines but they are all over the hotels. While General Managers and Coaches are evaluating players with their medical staff and scouts. NFL Agents are working the hotels, the phones and using every single inside contact they have to set the table for trying to lure as many teams as possible to be interested in their clients.

This year with an expected cap of $85 million, these agents know that their big time clients need to find homes at the start of free agent. With over half of the NFL teams under the projected cap as of today, these agents are lining the walls of the hotels in Indianapolis throwing around numbers and what-if scenarios to NFL teams.

At last years combine the foundation was laid for the blockbuster trade between the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos. At the Combines last year, the Broncos agreed to acquire cornerback Champ Bailey in exchange for running back Clinton Portis. This deal was formed and consummated by the agents who convinced both teams this was a trade worth making. As it turned out, neither player had the kind of impact that each team was hoping this trade would produce. Instead a pair of agents negotiated outlandish contracts for their clients.

That's life in the NFL. In most sports agents don't really have the power like they do in the NFL. In other sports only super baseball agent Scott Boras has that kind of power to orchestrate big time contracts. In the NFL, they are starting to get more notorious and that means one thing; they'll go for the biggest buck instead of trying to land their clients on an NFL roster where they can win and contribute to a Championship team.

The NFL believe it or not is facing a quandary. With the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire after the 2007 season, agents are positioning themselves towards getting their clients signed to three year contracts. That would coincide with the end of the current agreement between the two sides. But even more significant is the fact that the 2006 cap could reach $100 million and in 2007 for one year; their will be no salary cap in the NFL.

That means teams like the Washington Redskins could sign a plethora of free agents to one-year $10 million contracts in 2007 with no reproductions to the new CBA that could extend into 2011 if both sides can agree on the total compensation package that will determine the salary cap.

Agents aren't stupid for the most part and they'll use this time of uncertainty to extract large sums of cash from NFL teams and back load the contracts to follow suit with the end of the current CBA.

A good number of deals will be made this week even though the two sides are not supposed to talk until March 2nd. But agents need to get the jump on other agents and the premier players generally find new homes within the first three to five days of Free Agency.

For the Chiefs, they probably already have an idea as to whom they'll make a run; though generally they tend to let free agency run its course for a week or so before they get into the mix. The only time they broke that mold was three years ago when they signed Shawn Barber and Dexter McCleon at the onset of free agency. Neither has worked out all that well for the Chiefs and there is usually no correlation between signing a player the first few days of free agency or weeks later.

In fact some of the Chiefs better free agent pick-ups have been in April and beyond. James Hasty, Mark Collins and Marcus Allen were all signed well after the free agent bonanza began. But this year is different and agents know what the Chiefs are looking for and they'll be buzzing around Carl Peterson and Dick Vermeil this week as both parties exchange interest in their respective clients.

So this week at the NFL Combines is not all about ‘turning your head and coughing' for potential draft picks. Yes these potential draftees will be evaluated but not many will rise or fall based on this weeks performance. Very few in fact will move out of the projected slot NFL teams have already placed these players.

Instead they'll do their due diligence all the while conferring with agents behind the scenes and start to formulate which players might be sign-able. For the Chiefs their needs are plentiful this off-season; two shit down cornerbacks, a starting middle linebacker, a pass rushing defensive end who can put pressure on a quarterback and a game breaking wide receiver.

I've said it all off-season to date. If the Chiefs can get that done in free agency or in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, they'll win the AFC West in 2005. It's really that simple and so is there work this week at the NFL Combines.

They'll be ready and so will the agents. Lets the games begin!


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