Forging NFL football agent relationships or trading for a Champ

Continued from “There’ll be more than football scouting at the Senior Bowl

Most flock to the sidelines of Ladd-Peebles Stadium in hopes of a closer glimpse of the talent.  My favorite vantage point was always the southwest corner of the old rickety aluminum structure.  Here you could see just about everything; all the drills, who was talking whom, the wandering media.  High enough that many didn’t bother with climbing the steps to the cover of the Press Box, our club’s football scouts usually found plenty of room to spread out and take notes.

It was here that one of the all-time player personnel discussions surrounding the Denver Broncos, and certainly within my own career as General Manager, would take place.

Building relationships

NFL Football agent Jack Reale, who runs his sports management agency out of Atlanta, had forged a close relationship with me over the course of contract negotiations for the extension of our Pro Bowl placekicker Jason Elam.  Jack is one of the most even keeled and fair debaters I’ve ever come across.  His temperament and demeanor make you want to quickly pick up where you last left off in any negotiation.  Truly a good man.

Jack’s respect for our organization was reciprocated and he saw an opportunity to perhaps place one of his top clients in a better situation.  My cell phone rang one afternoon.

“They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse”

Trades in the NFL are difficult and discouraged (mostly by CBA rules/ramifications), but they can be a lucrative way of adding to your roster when executed with a “win-win” angle.  Too many front office football executives want to come out on top of every situation, therefore unwilling to bend in most circumstances.  I’ve found you have to “give to get” and in this instance we had something to give.

Huddled from the winds in the upper corner of Ladd-Peebles, Jack and I forged a plan that would send Clinton Portis to the Washington Redskins in exchange for Champ Bailey.  We discussed Snyder and Shanahan, how to present the idea to both.  We discussed parameters of what a new contract might look like and talked about the impact for the Broncos.  Two days we huddled together, occasionally looking at the draft preparation below.  No “1 on 1” drill, or “7 on 7” could produce what these talks ultimately would.  Our club would never in my six seasons as GM pick high enough to acquire this level of NFL talent.

The rest is so called “history”.  I sat with Dan Snyder at the Super Bowl to watch the rival Philadelphia Eagles lose to the New England Patriots.  We talked about the advantages and ramifications for both of our clubs.

The Payoff

Portis answered the bell in his first season in D.C. with 1,315 yards & 5 TD’s.  The following season he added 1,516 yards and 11 TD’s.  The Redskins would advance to the Divisional Playoffs in 2005.  It should be noted that Clinton Portis finished his career as the 27th All-Time rusher in NFL history.

Bailey would go on to lead the Broncos to consecutive playoffs in ’04 & ’05, garnering Pro Bowl honors seven of his eight seasons.  A shoe-in “Ring of Famer” and future NFL Hall of Famer, Champ is one of the all-time greats to wear the orange and blue.

So as we prepare for another addition of the Senior Bowl, pay close attention to those sitting in the upper corners of Ladd-Peebles Stadium.  Front and center is not always the place to be.

You never know what transactions might be transpiring.