3 Steps to Winning a Free Agency Negotiation

David Meltzer discussed negotiation in the NFL
Negotiation Tactics in NFL Free Agency

After running the most notable sports agency in the world, I’ve been blessed to negotiate with some of the biggest names in sports and business. Negotiating free agency and business contracts with sports idols like Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, the Hunt family, and the Rooneys, I came to understand the intricacies and art of a deal. It takes relationship capital and situational knowledge to utilize leverage in a negotiation. These principles help shape how we do business at Sports 1 Marketing and will help prepare you for your next negotiation.

One of the best mentors I’ve had in my career is Leigh Steinberg. That’s right, the real Jerry Maguire himself. He taught me three important rules for negotiating, which I carry with me today:

“Never negotiate to the last penny”

Shifting the paradigm of value is crucial, not losing sight of what’s important, being of service, and providing value to get a deal done. Fighting over pennies means you have limited attitude and energy and have not put the ball in their court (pun intended).

”Always be fair”

One of the core ideas of Sports 1 Marketing is, “there is always enough to make everybody happy.” Empowering others to empower others to be happy, within a deal that has a fair amount of value on both sides, is our goal.  Avoid back-end selling, over-selling, over promising and under delivering. You will thank yourself later down the road when your business relationships continue to grow because you managed expectations properly.

“Don’t do business with dicks”

This is important to remember because negotiating can be frustrating enough.  If you’re doing business with the wrong people it’ll be even more frustrating. So, avoid the hassle entirely and don’t do business with that kind of person—don’t be afraid to walk away.

Utilizing these strategies will help you meet whatever goals you have set for the upcoming year. Protecting yourself from the outcome will allow things to happen the right way at the perfect time.

Free Agency Negotiation

I’ve noticed since the start of NFL free agency there have been a few recurring patterns of negotiation that are quite interesting:

  1. Prove-it” deals for wideouts – Many of the receivers are taking less money to try and prove their value. Alshon Jeffery and Terrelle Pryor took one-year deals at a perceived discount to play for their respective teams. They are betting on themselves to succeed and hoping to cash in on the next free agency cycle.
  2. The Patriots understand value – The free agency cycle has showcased the Patriot Way, leveraging their hoarded resources for the undervalued resources of other teams. The Pats are great at valuating picks and players and take advantage of teams who have glaring needs of their own.
  3. No country for young and old men – One of the interesting patterns is not which players are signing, but which players are retiring. Unlike the NFL of old, players are not retiring when their bodies simply cannot handle the game. More and more football players are stepping away from football while citing their future health.

When it comes to negotiating during free agency, knowing the value you bring is important. Understanding how to set yourself apart from those who can provide similar value can mean the difference between a successful or failed negotiation.

By: David Meltzer

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