NFL Debrief: Contracts, agents and all kinds of draft rumors

Sam Greenwood

With three days until the NFL Draft, there are more signs that things are changing -- some things anyway.

What else is there left to say about the Darrelle Revis deal? Plenty, but much of it has already been said over the last 24 hours. You've heard the various arguments for winners and losers. Those opinions are going to be swayed until we get past the draft and into the season. I'm more interested in the six-year, $96 million deal Revis got from the Buccaneers ... with ZERO guaranteed money.

It's been a rough year for veteran free agents. (Ask Captain Munnerlyn about it). Offer amounts are way down. The one constant has been contracts for the biggest stars, e.g. Joe Flacco's $120 million deal, with guaranteed money mixed in at a normal rate of inflation. And then Revis, one of the best defensive players in the game right now, signs a deal with absolutely no guarantees.

Revis gets a win because it virtually guarantees $32 million for this season and next. Recovering from a torn ACL isn't the career-killer it used to be. Even if he isn't back to full speed to start the season, as long as he's on his way, the Bucs would have no reason to keep around for a second season. Then again, it's not guaranteed.

What I wonder: Is the Revis deal is a special case or the start of a new trend?

NFL contracts are essentially year to year as it is. Guaranteed money was a means for players to alleviate some of the financial uncertainty that comes with contracts under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. It's not unusual for agents and teams to get bogged down in negotiating the guaranteed amounts for players.

At first glance, the Revis deal has opened the door for teams to replace guaranteed money for higher annual salaries for any player that's dealing with injuries. Think about how many players could be lumped into that category if this really is a new trend. And where does it go from torn knee ligaments?

None of this presents the specter or guaranteed money disappearing completely from contracts. Nevertheless, couple the new frontier opened with Revis' contract with the overall decline in player salaries, and it's hard to not wonder what the NFL's economic structure will look like five years from now. I suspect the next round of CBA talks, set for 2022, will be even more contentious than the last round.

Who needs an agent?

Florida safety Matt Elam doesn't, that's who. He is entering the draft without a certified contract adviser, something no draft pick did last year, according to a report from Forbes. He does have his brother, NFL veteran Abe Elam, helping him out, as well as a marketing and public relations firm.

The idea is that with rookie deals determined by the new slotting system, a player doesn't need an agent. Salaries are basically predetermined. Why give up another three percent if you don't have to?

There are other things to negotiate, even in a rookie deal. There are things like guarantees and roster bonuses that can vary in a rookie contract. Another factor is the time involved in negotiating a deal and the potential to be a distraction for a player who should be primarily concerned with learning the playbook.

Elam has plenty of time to reverse course. Teams and players won't start working out contracts until the summer. Maybe he doesn't change course, choosing to represent himself through the process. Pay attention to see if this is the start of something bigger among rookies.

Anatomy of a rumor, draft edition

April is tough month for draft prospects. Mysterious scouting reports appear. Gossip from rival agents or team scouts finds its way onto the prospect profiles. New narratives are born.

Geno Smith had the dubious honor of being the first this month to get tarred and feathered on the sports page. Nolan Nawrocki from Pro Football Weekly reprinted, verbatim and without caveat, the words of some insiders who questioned Smith's work ethic, leadership and smarts for the game.

Last Tuesday, Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen saw his name get some unwelcome association when Adam Schefter reported that Allen had been red flagged for a drug test at the Combine. Allen's agent T.J. Johnson began pushing back immediately. Johnson made it clear to SB Nation and other outlets that Allen had not raised any red flags with his drug test and he was not scheduled to be re-tested. Allen was simply back in Indianapolis to give concerned teams a second look at his ankle.

No matter. Almost everything that's been written about Allen since then has included some mention of the drug test incident. He is, unfairly, carrying around the "character questions" label now because of the initial incorrect report.

Last week also saw the first leaked Wonderlic scores of the spring when Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported scores for Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson. The numbers was part of the Dumb and Dumber picture painted by scouts or a rival agent that McGinn was trying report.

McGinn was at it again over the weekend. This time, Jonathan Cooper had a "disappointing workout at the Combine." Did he? Actually, the UNC guard pumped out 35 reps on the bench press. His 40 time and broad jump ranked among the 10 best for offensive linemen, and his position drills drew praise from pundits like Mike Mayock and others. Pretty disappointing workout, you guys.

So where does this stuff come from? The most common answer is rival teams hoping to drive down draft stock for coveted players and reshape draft boards for their own interests. Sometimes it happens just because scouts, like all people, like to talk.

Allen's agent presented another potential source, rival agents trying to boost their client's draft stock at the expense of other players. (See what else you're missing out on here, Matt Elam?)

The problem here is that people roll with the info. They report that information as-is, like Nawrocki and McGinn did, without any accompanying context or counterpoint. From there, it becomes something close to fact. Subsequent reports may refute the information, as with Allen, or the game tape shows a player with considerable football acumen, a la Austin. It doesn't matter. From that point on, those players are labeled.

"Print the legend," is the famous line from John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Print the legend indeed.

More from SB Nation:

NFL mock draft: Thursday looms

NFL mock draft: 7 full rounds!

Darrelle Revis is a Buccaneer

An early look at fantasy rookies

The 10 best games from the 2013 NFL schedule

2013 NFL schedules: Monday night | Sunday night | Thursday night

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