Agent Talk

As many teams in the NFL have concluded mini-camp preparations heading in the 2003 training camp season, an alarming rate of drafted players are not under contract, or discussions have not begun.

In most cases, teams in the league wait until the last minute to get players under contract, numerous reasons play into this scenario. From freeing up salary-cap space to sign the rookies to attempting to pressure the rookie player and his representatives into agreeing to a reduced deal, the game of negotiation in the NFL has hit an all-time low.

The Insiders has recently had the opportunity to discuss the present state of contract talks and progress that has become the norm around the league. From discouragement to disbelief, agents and representatives for the rookies that will enter their first NFL camp are not happy.

"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. 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," one agent said. "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 one of that the time will eventually come and the team will come around in negotiations. An example commonly used within the ranks of representatives, is the demanding negotiating process that is the practice 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 brings some resentment into the process," one high-profile agent said. "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 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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