As Kam Chancellor’s holdout from the Seattle Seahawks rolls though its fourth week, there’s been no movement from either side. There’s no resolution in sight. Fans are getting restless, and the team is preparing to play meaningful games without him.
A few days ago, following reports that Kam was willing to miss the entire year, I posted this to twitter:
That seemed logical at the time, but is it correct? The role of the NFL player agent is one that is often misunderstood. They’re both the advisor and the employee of the player.
To help get an understanding of an agent’s role in a holdout like Chancellor’s, I talked with two different agents. Both are veteran agents with multiple NFL clients, the second of which has at least one client with the Seahawks.
I offered anonymity, and they both accepted. Recruiting (and keeping) clients is a competitive business for agents. They didn’t want anything published that might hurt them in the future.
One of the first things both agents told me is that Chancellor’s holdout doesn’t make a lot sense. Agent 1 made it very clear: “I have no idea what his agent is doing.”
I need to note that neither agent knew anything about the inner workings of Kam’s situation and negotiations. They both have their own clients that require their attention. Instead, we tried to keep the bulk of our conversations about holdouts in general.
One of the takeaways from talking to the agents is that Alvin Keels, Chancellor’s agent, might not be the one driving this ship, but he is almost certainly at least a willing co-pilot.
I asked both what they would do if a client came to them and said they wanted to hold out when it was a bad idea. Would they be willing to say “no” and risk losing the client to another agent.
"Agent 1: I would TRY my hardest to explain the situation. Try to get them to honor the contract. If I knew I could win, I’d encourage it probably. But [at the] end of the day, I work for him. If he holds out and doesn’t get it, you could lose him anyways. Lose-lose situation."
"Agent 2: To be real, clients leave for any reason. One’s much lower than that, but you’re getting paid to be their agent. They should listen as you have their best interest at heart. I mean, if the opportunity is there, an agent would love to get paid the commission."
So if your agent says its a bad idea, then it really is a bad idea. The idea that Kam is driving this holdout against the recommendation of Keels is unlikely.
While it is easy to say “I wouldn’t recommend it” in a specific case, that doesn’t mean that a holdout wouldn’t be recommended in a slightly different situation. Then it simply becomes a question of degree. One agent might be slightly more aggressive than another.
So when does a holdout become a viable option? Both agents had very similar ideas on that. The keys were that a player was drastically outperforming a contract, and that the player was nearing the end of their deal. Kam Chancellor was actually a good example of this when he was on his rookie contract.
There were a couple of exceptions. The first was if a player signed a free-agent deal worthy of a backup, then later got a chance to play regularly and proved to be an All-Pro. Seeing that Chancellor has a top-3 contract for his position already, that isn’t the case here.
The second situation came from Agent 1. He said there could be an “under-the-table deal where was an agreement in place to redo [the] deal and [the] team didn’t honor it.” There’s no evidence of that in Kam Chancellor’s case, but neither side would openly discuss it if there was.
Agent 2 added that the entire process puts the agent in a tough position with the team. “[It] puts you in a weird position with the team and future negotiations for other clients they might be interested in.”
Instead Agent 2 said he would have recommended a completely different strategy for Chancellor.
"I would have waited another year. Ball out. Wait to see what [Eric] Berry gets, and attack."
Both of the agents indicated that they think that Chancellor’s holdout will likely end soon. It is one thing to miss practices and face potential fines. It is another thing to miss games and miss out on contracted salary.
"Agent 1: They had a plan, [Chancellor] was fine with the plan when he signed. If they don’t cave, he loses a LOT of money."
"Agent 2: I can’t see [the Seahawks] caving. Kam will probably be back when he starts losing real money."
Ultimately, the biggest point here is that everyone is interested to see what the Seahawks will do. Fans, agents, players and even other teams have all taken a very keen interest in what the Seattle Seahawks will do with Kam Chancellor.
Agent 2 said it best. “Believe me, everyone’s watching”
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