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Drew Rosenhaus: Agent Of Change

National Football Post

 Our friend Drew Rosenhaus is in the news for a couple of reasons.   He has secured a new contract for client Plaxico Burress – only after Burress completed all requirements of training camp and was quiet and professional about his contract wishes.  The deal seems fair, with millions tied to “earnable” adjustments such as 45-man active roster bonuses and minicamp and training camp completion requirements.  He has made known the increasing level of discontent by client Anquan Boldin with his employer, the Arizona Cardinals, saying as to the prospect of re-signing, as only he can, "..that bridge has been blown up."

 Drew has also raised the stakes in Philadelphia with a YouTube video in his long-running attempt to secure a new contract and/or a new team for his client Lito Sheppard, upsetting Sheppard’s teammate, Sheldon Brown, in the process.  Certainly, in procuring Lito as a client, Drew made promises about what could be done compared to what had been done by Sheppard’s prior representation.  Now that Sheppard has not been traded nor had his contract upgraded (nor is he a starting cornerback), Drew has released a video airing his gripes with the Eagles on the matter.

 Let me first say this:  Drew Rosenhaus can be an absolute pleasure to work with.  Many reading this will do a double-take, but everyone in the NFL will tell you this to be true.  He is as pleasant and polite as any agent in the business.  Drew is a dealmaker in the truest sense.  While other agents hem and haw and are reluctant to pull the trigger, Drew makes deals.  For that reason alone, Drew is – contrary to his perceived image and perhaps even his desired image – a favorite of most NFL general managers and contract negotiators.  Simply, Drew gets deals done.

 All of the above, however, assumes one thing: that the team wants to do a deal.  To the contrary, when the team does not want any change of status for that player, then Drew becomes an issue.  He has marketed himself as an agent of change, the white knight that rescues a player from a situation where the player wants out.  Enter Drew to try to make that change happen.

 The game plan usually takes shape as follows:  Drew will, on behalf of the player, privately express dissatisfaction with the team, the city and/or the contract.  Absent a reaction from the team, there may be a more public display of discontent to stir up some level of static among the front office, the coaches and the media.  The greater the angst, the more Drew is doing his job.  At some point, a test of wills is staged and if the player is traded or the contract is upgraded, Drew has accomplished his goal and the player is happy.

 The tipping point for Drew and for the rest of the league was not Terrell Owens and the Eagles in 2005, although that episode raised the profile of Drew – and the entire agent community – to new heights.  Nor is it his continuing involvement with another diva wide receiver, Chad Johnson (aka Ochocinco).  Rather, Drew’s apex for being the agent of change involved Clinton Portis and the Broncos/Redskins in 2004.  Prior to that season, Portis made his discontent in Denver known in no uncertain terms, wanting a new contract after two years in the league and wanting out of Denver.  With Drew’s purposeful assistance, Portis hit the jackpot – a trade to Washington for Champ Bailey and a blockbuster contract that became the envy of every running back in the league.  Drew had accomplished the daily double for all the world – especially other discontented players – to see.

 Mike McKenzie was one of those players.  Mike arrived in Green Bay the year I did, in 1999, and was a good player for us and from what I could tell, a good person. We went to Mike at the end of his third season in Green Bay and negotiated an 17M extension comparable to then-recent veteran free agent cornerback deals.   Mike was happy then, but at some point he became unhappy.  I can honestly say I do not know exactly what caused his unhappiness in Green Bay – Drew mentioned flippant remarks from fans and coaches about Mike’s hair, disagreement over which player was selected as the team’s union rep, not feeling welcome around town, and so on — but he was adamant that it wasn’t about the contract or the money.  He wanted out.  Thus, exit his prior representation, enter Drew.

 Drew worked to raise the level of angst in Green Bay, first holding Mike out of camp, then coming in with him to meet myself and Mike Sherman and continue to make the case for change.  After a couple of weeks of half-hearted effort as a potential virus in our locker room, we listened to trade offers, with the New Orleans Saints becoming our lifeline, trading a second-round pick (which became Nick Collins) for Mike.  After the trade, Drew’s comment to the media was:  “Mission Accomplished.”  He knew the world of discontented players was watching.

 By not sending Mike to the Saints prior to the Sunday game – the trade was agreed to on Friday night/Saturday morning – we were able to garnish his $162,000 game check for the week to satisfy built-up fines and potential bonus forfeiture, funds we then used to build a nice player lounge off of the locker room, a lasting memory to Mike and Drew.

 Having said all of this, I return to my opening comment:  Drew is fine.  Dealing with him just requires knowing his act, which is usually playing to the cameras, to potential buyers of his book, and to college and pro players he hopes will be future clients.

 And as much as he doesn’t want anyone to know it, there’s a nice guy there under that shark suit.

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