University of Florida safety Matt Elam is expected to hear his name called in the first forty or so picks of the 2013 NFL draft, which gets underway on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Elam is the No. 31 prospect in the "Shutdown 50" and Shutdown Corner editor Doug Farrar has Elam going to the Minnesota Vikings with the 25th overall pick in his final mock draft.
Elam is one of the more unique players in the draft because he has yet to hire an NFL agent, reports Darren Heitner for Forbes.com.
Of course, Elam is no stranger to the National Football League or agent selection process. His older brother is Abe Elam, a current free agent who has played safety in 104 games in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys (two stints), New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs. Abe Elam has also had five different agents during his seven-year career, including his current agent, Mitch Frankel of Impact Sports Management.
Incoming rookies need an agent to help prepare for workouts and interviews with NFL teams at the combine, as well as pro day and individual workouts, and get feedback from NFL scouts and personnel executives regarding his draft stock. Having an older brother who has spent the last seven years in the league helps take care of the first items and, as Abe Elam noted, Matt Elam's performance for the Gators resulted in a tape resume that has all but assured him of being an early-round draft pick.
"Not to discredit any agent, but Matt has done the things to put himself in a position to have a high draft grade without an agent," said Abe Elam to FORBES. "There is no contract right now to be evaluated because he hasn’t been drafted yet. At some point we will have to address whether Matt should hire an agent or an attorney. We are not biased against agents; we have just been able to delay the process because of the resources he has."
Agents who have been unsuccessful in their attempts to represent Elam will certainly point at least one finger in the direction of the NFLPA, who sacrificed the compensation of incoming rookies during negotiations for the 2011 collective bargaining agreement.
Under the old system, agents and teams could get creative in terms of negotiating not only the base value and guaranteed portion of a contract, but through performance and team-based escalators, they could also pump up the total maximum value of the deal. Since players are not guaranteed a second contract in the NFL, having an experienced, creative agent handle the first contract was a key selling point for agents on the recruiting trail.
The 2011 CBA brought about a "rookie wage scale" that has removed much of the negotiating out of the process as the base and maximum value of the deal, along with the signing bonus, is predetermined by the player's draft position. There may be matters that can still be negotiated — offset language, percentage of guaranteed base salary in year four if the player was selected in the latter half of the first round, roster and workout bonuses — but in the first two years of the new CBA, those issues have largely been dictated by NFL teams in the rookie signing process.
While Elam is certainly the exception to the rule, removing the guesswork from rookie contracts means a player like him may not necessarily need to pay an agent up to three percent to handle those negotiations. At the very least, Elam is in a position to pay far less than three percent to whichever agent he ultimately chooses.