Friday, January 27, 2017

Bill Belichick the alpha negotiator

The MMQB spoke with seven agents who have negotiated multiple player contracts with the Patriots since Bill Belichick took the head-coaching job in 2000. ... These frustrated agents recall a go-to refrain from the 64-year-old coach/executive who delivered four Super Bowl titles to a once-moribund franchise.

“It’s simple,” Belichick says in his curt monotone, according to men who have been on the other end of the phone. “Does your guy want to win a Super Bowl, or doesn’t he?” ...

There is another essential piece to the puzzle, a person without whom Belichick might lack the necessary influence: Tom Brady. The three-time Super Bowl MVP’s 2017 cap hit of $13.7 million ranks No. 27 in the NFL, according to Sportrac.com. That’s about $200,000 less than Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson.

“They use Tom Brady’s deal in every negotiation they do in the sense that Tom has never demanded to be the highest-paid quarterback,” one agent says. “So because of that, they never want to make someone the highest-paid at their position.” ...

When Brady’s contract influences players such as Julian Edelman to agree to below-market deals—another of Yee’s clients, he earns $4.25 million per year—it has a chilling effect on the rest of the roster. ...

Belichick, according to several agents, has been known to let his No. 2 man, Nick Caserio, nail down free-agent deals or contract extensions and then interject himself into the negotiations at the 11th hour, offering less money and little explanation. He and Caserio will also call up the representatives of mid-tier free agents who are sure starters elsewhere and offer contracts for part-time roles and half the compensation that other teams are willing to spend, unconcerned with whom they might offend.

“They’re not as active as other teams; they usually get the castoffs,” an agent says. “They know—not feel—know they’re going to win regardless of who they have. It’s not arrogance because it’s a fact. You can’t go down their roster and say it’s a more talented roster than half the teams in the NFL.”

Belichick, exercising his abundance of leverage, will often go on vacation in the heat of free agency and make his take-it-or-leave-it offers from faraway beaches while other coaches are flying around the country on private jets to court players. When prospective players visit Foxborough, they express to their agents a sense of fear but often leave feeling as if they have just met the lone coach who understands their true purpose on a football field.
--Robert Klemko, MMQB, on the Matthew effect in Foxborough