With the NFL Combine less than a month away, just about every 2014 draft eligible prospect has signed a Standard Representation Agreement’s — a contract that denotes the agent that will be representing them in their rookie contract negotiations.
But arguably the most important draft eligible prospect, the likely top pick in May’s draft, notably remains on his own.
Former Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is being advised by Abram Elam, a seven year NFL veteran who was undrafted in 2005. Elam, who is greatly familiar with the process of negotiating an NFL contract from his own playing days, also advised his brother — 2013 Ravens 1st round selection Matt Elam — throughout the draft process last year. Matt Elam made headlines for being the only member out of 254 players drafted in 2013 to not hire an agent.
If you’re unfamiliar with how rookie contracts work in today’s NFL, Matt Elam’s 2013 decision to represent himself might seem risky. However, it actually turned out to be a savvy business move.
The 2011 addition of a rookie wage scale has exhausted an agent’s ability to negotiate a rookie’s contract. Rookie contract lengths are now predetermined (all contracts are four years, while teams have a fifth year option on their 1st rounders), and each team has a Year One Allocation Pool & and a Signing Bonus Allocation that’s determined by where their draft selections are.
In simpler terms, this means that there really isn’t much an agent can do when negotiating a contract for a drafted rookie. Matt Elam realized this truth, and ended up successfully negotiating his rookie deal.
Matt Elam’s $6,767,002 total contract amount, $3,301,456 signing bonus, and $5,439,229 that he received in guaranteed money compared favorably to David Wilson, who was selected in the same slot as Matt Elam (32nd overall) in 2012 — Wilson signed a contract worth $6,683,979 with a $3,301,456 signing bonus and $5,382,979 in guaranteed money.
The maximum ‘cut’ an agent can take from a client is 3 percent of that player’s total contract. By following his brother’s guidance, Matt Elam conceivably saved himself more than $200,000 over the life of his rookie deal.
Under the rookie wage scale, the total contract amount for the draft’s first overall selection — Bridgewater’s likely slot— is greater than $22 million over four years — three percent of that amount equates to almost $700, 000.
In an industry that’s often degraded for its dirty practices, Abram Elam’s relationship with Bridgewater is actually refreshing. Abram Elam, who has endured great hardship throughout his lifetime (three of his siblings have been shot to death), is more than happy to lend a helping hand. The same way he finds solace by serving children in the community via his T.E.A.M. ELAM charity, he likely takes great pride in assisting a future professional like Bridgewater.
Though NFL players are of course paid handsomely, they often have a knack for inevitably incurring financial hardship. Abram Elam’s assistance to Bridgewater not only signifies an effort from Elam to ensure that Bridgewater stays on the right path, but also shows that Bridgewater is intent on developing an understanding of the business side of things.