Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Self-representation in salary negotiation.

September 11, 2019 by  
Filed under Business, Money, News, Opinion, Sports, Weekly Columns

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( There is no secret that in terms of the four major professional sports of the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball that the athletes with the biggest challenges to earn their “riches” are the athletes of the National Football League. Largely due to the sheer numbers of the team rosters and the high risk of injury associated with playing football, the contracts in the NFL are not fully guaranteed. Athletes in the NFL know that they have to make the most money that they can in a limited amount of time in terms of years. This is also reflected in the holdouts that occur in the NFL that sports fans do not see in other sports. The salaries in the NFL are significantly higher than the average American worker but there is something that the average American worker can learn from some NFL players and that is the art of negotiating salary. There have been numerous NFL players who have represented themselves, without an agent, in salary talks with their respective teams and had success.

There is value in the high-profile professional sports agent. Their lives have been glamorized in movies and television and they can create such a stir that they can cause large organizations to make ridiculous rules to curtail their effectiveness and influence. However, they can also be costly and hard to trust if the relationship between the professional athlete and agent is not a good one. There are a multitude reasons why an athlete might decide to represent themselves and forgo hiring an agent like Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, and Los Angeles Chargers offensive lineman Russell Okung chose to. The various situations they faced can give lessons to the general public when it comes to discussing salaries with an employer.

Cornerback Richard Sherman found himself in a befuddling spot when he was a free agent in 2018. He was a free agent who was leaving the only team he had ever known, the Seattle Seahawks, as one of the cornerstone players on one of the best defenses in NFL history. He suffered a torn Achilles tendon which is a devastating injury, during the 2017 NFL season, that can depress the value of any free agent, regardless of their athletic resume. When he made the choice to represent himself, he researched several NFL contracts and studied the language of the contracts before agreeing to a contract with a new team, the San Francisco 49ers.

It was a bold move for one of Sherman’s former Seahawks teammates, offensive lineman Russell Okung to go into free agency in 2015 without an agent. At the time, Okung mentioned that he knew his “worth” and said, “I can look at the market and go directly to a team without an agent and tell that team my worth. And I can do so with confidence because I’ve done my research, I’ve educated myself and I’ve questioned the answers I’ve been given.” He eventually struck a deal with the Denver Broncos that didn’t turn out very well and he played only one year there. His next contract that he also negotiated himself following the Denver Broncos’ contract was with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017 and was a better deal for Okung than the Denver one.

The player with the most leverage in recent NFL history who represented himself in contract talks is current Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, who resigned with the team. While most of the core from the highly successful Seahawks teams of earlier this decade are gone, only Wagner and quarterback Russell Wilson can be viewed as the current faces of the franchise, with Wilson on offense and Wagner on defense. Bobby Wagner isn’t just one of the best players on the Seahawks, he is one of the best defensive players in the entire NFL. He did a very good job with his new contract by most accounts with his total salary, cash flow, and getting his market value based on his accolades and tenure with his team. These NFL players’ experiences in salary negotiations can be lessons that can be applied in the circumstances of everyday people.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines

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