NFL Contracts – 15 Ways NFL Players and Teams Gain Leverage in
Negotiations – Part One
By Alvin Grier, Sports Agent, ESA
When it Comes to Negotiations, it’s All About Leverage
Let’s talk contract leverage for a second.
Now granted, if you ever get lucky enough to get drafted (or make a
team as an undrafted free agent) you’ll have to wait at least four or
five years before you’d probably ever have to deal with this, but it
doesn’t hurt to know it anyways.
Today I’m going to share a few examples of situations that shift the
leverage to either the player or team’s side, when it comes to asking
for, or negotiating a contract with an NFL team.
Quite often, leverage is out of your control, but when you control it,
you’d better take advantage of it.
It’s not about being deceitful, it’s just the way it goes when it comes
to negotiations in any industry, not just pro football.
Because of all of the different scenarios that could exist, this is not
intended to be an exhaustive list of all of the different scenarios
that could take place.
What I’ll do is list a high-level explanation of the scenario in bold
letters, followed by a brief example of a situation that occured
recently in contract negotiations between a player and an NFL team.
Note: I don’t have inside knowledge of the strategy of the players in
these situations, so I’m only going off of how things appear from the
outside. The players and their respective agents (as well as
the teams involved) could very well have other plans.
Leverage just tends to be something that’s available for the world to
see when it comes to pro sports because details, such as acquisitions,
salary cap space, and contract details are pretty much readily
available for public knowledge).
Let’s start out with some of the ways a player can gain leverage.
How Players Can Gain Leverage
1. Holding Out
Even when a player lacks any true leverage, holding out is something
players do anyways.
It’s like a trump card that the player always holds.
While it’s indeed similar to a trump card, it doesn’t always work.
When players lack true leverage, it doesn’t have as much of an effect,
but when it’s all you have, it’s all you have.
The player can hold out, hoping that the team wants him there so bad
that they’d be willing to rework his deal or give him an extension.
As I type this, in mid-May 2012, Dwayne Bowe appears to be going this
He was given the franchise tag by the Chiefs earlier this off season,
and he still hasn’t signed it.
It appears that he’s going to holdout, to try to see if him missing
workouts is going to convince the Chiefs to do a new deal with him so
he can report.
2. Being a Pro Bowler, All Pro and/or Super Bowl
Even though he’s 37, linebacker London Fletcher has some pretty decent
leverage in his attempt to get what will likely be the last deal of his
As a three-time Pro Bowler, and being in the Pro Bowl as an alternate
as recently as the 2012 Pro Bowl, it sweetens the deal for him, because
it’s proof that he’s still a top-level linebacker, despite his age.
Don’t get me wrong, being a pro bowler and having a Super Bowl on your
resume doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to get anything you
want in a negotiation.
Still, the leadership, experience, productivity, and pedigree someone
like London can bring to your defense can definitely give you some
much-needed leverage when it comes to negotiating for a new contract.
3. Being Irreplaceable
Now this one kinda goes along with the previous point, but you don’t
always have to be a current Pro Bowler.
Yes, Wes Welker has been to the Pro Bowl four times now, and he didn’t
go to the 2012 Pro Bowl, but it doesn’t take a football genius to know
that Wes Welker is irreplaceable.
Unfortunately for Wes, he’s trying to get a new contract with the
Patriots, which is a team that is known to make any player feel
Wes might’ve normally been able to use that leverage for a new contract
with any other team but the Patriots.
In fact, he’s already publicly stated that there’s no way he’s going to
miss games in the 2012 season.
4. Being a Leader in Important Statistical
Some say Wes Welker could’ve threatened not to report to camp and
holdout for his new contract partially due to leading the league in
receptions, yards after catch, for several years in a row, even though
he was offered a $9.5 million one year deal as a franchise player.
On the flip side, as we already discussed, he gave up some leverage by
making it clear that he didn’t plan on holding out of any games during
the 2012 season.
5. Threatening to Retire
You can gain leverage by threatening retirement, if you’re a future
hall of famer type player like Ed Reed, espcially since Terrell Suggs
is injured, and may be gone for the entire 2012 NFL season.
Ed Reed has said that he wants a new contract.
He’s also flirted around with retirement. Situations like
this can put the team in a position where they need the player more
than the average player, which gives Mr. Reed the leverage in this
You can only get away with this one when you’re an irreplaceable player
like Ed Reed, who’s arguably the best safety in the history of the NFL.
I’m not saying Ed’s been bluffing on his thoughts of retiring, but even
if he’s serious, it’s smart to play your cards right, and it appears
that Ed Reed intends on doing just that.
6. Team Lacks Solid Options on the Roster at Your
Even though it appears Forte is serious about holding out now in 2012,
many believe that the 2011 season provided more leverage for Forte,
because not only was he a year younger (and we know that every year
counts as a running back, especially), but the only other running backs
the Bears had was an aging Marion Barber and Khalil Bell.
Forte was holding out, but decided to come back and join his teammates
in training camp in 2011.
That very well could’ve been a great opportunity to get what he wanted.
In part two, we’ll continue looking at some more ways
players can gain
leverage, then take a look at ways the teams can gain leverage.
Grier's colums appear on Scout.com with permission.
More at Get2TheLeague.com
Alvin Grier serves as the Director
of Midwest Operations for Elite
Sports Agency (ESA), that services 15 current NFL players, and several
UFL and CFL players. As a collegiate football player, Alvin
earned his Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees (in Information
Technology) from Ferris State University. (Bio),
you can also find him on Twitter @alvingrier,
or facebook: Get2TheLeague