RSP Writers Project GM Scenario No.2: “Leveraging Dirt”

T.J. Ward A4

Your team captain and the Walter Payton Man of The Year is entering the final year of his contract, but you have dirt on him. Do you use it to leverage a new deal in your favor ?

What is 2014’s Writer’s Project?

This year’s RSPWP is a different take on team building. I will have 15-20 written scenarios based on true NFL stories provided to me from current and former NFL employees (scouts, players, and consultants). In each scenario, the participating writer is the general manager of an NFL team has a decision to make. Each scenario will have at least two different writers. I will post the writers’ responses and the actual outcome of the case study (if applicable).

Find out more about RSPWP3.

GM Scenario No.2: Leveraging Dirt

It’s July and you’re the general manager of a young team that has been to the conference championships two of the past three years. The core of this team is your rising star at running back; a great trio of edge rushers—one who can also play inside on passing downs; and a fantastic, ball-hawking free safety that earned his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl and he makes your cornerbacks look much better than they are.

This team captain is entering the final year of his contract and his agent has initiated negotiations with you. The player is a Walter Payton Man of The Year winner for his work in the community. He is now featured as a pitch man for a consumer product’s national marketing campaign. The brand he’s hawking has an image that is based heavily on quality, integrity, and trust.

However, you know a couple of things about this player that others don’t.

For starters, this married man is routinely unfaithful to his wife. This year team security caught him having sex with an advertising intern on a road trip. The team fired the intern, but no disciplinary action was imposed on the player.

The safety has also been spotted around town with other women. One of these women is a sideline reporter for a major television network and the place they were spotted did not include a camera crew. They appeared surprised to run into the team employee and it was a bit of an awkward moment for everyone involved.

The second thing you know about your star safety that others don’t is that he has a degenerative shoulder condition. It’s manageable at this point and likely to slip through a team physical if a team isn’t specifically looking for it. However, it’s inevitable that it will be discovered (and problematic) later in his career.

You want to keep the player because he’s a huge reason why your defense has an advantage in this conference. If you let him walk he’ll be hard to replace. However, affording him is tricky matter.

If you can’t get the safety to give your organization a hometown discount then you’ll have difficulty re-signing key veterans on offense and having bargaining power in free agency next year. It’s possible that you’ll have to let him walk.

One potential way to approach this negotiation is to leverage this player’s infidelities and degenerative condition into a deal in your favor. You could inform his agent that you’re expecting a hometown discount because the team has helped the player protect and maintain the image that is generating endorsement income. You could also focus on the injury and tell the player and agent that if other teams knew about the shoulder it’s unlikely the player would earn a big-money, long-term deal.

When you worked for another GM you saw a similar situation play out where the team used this knowledge to aid its negotiation. This GM informed the player and agent together about his knowledge of sensitive information regarding the player. When this tactic didn’t move the needle in the team’s favor the GM threatened to leak the player’s degenerative condition to the media.

The GM got the hometown discount and it helped that team win a Super Bowl because of the players they could also sign due to the savings. However, the negotiation tactic ruined the relationship with the player. By year two, the team had to deal the player. Still, the discount helped make the trade doable.

One of the underlying reasons this tactic worked for this GM in the first place is that another player tried to call that GM’s bluff only to find out it wasn’t one. The player walked from the negotiations only for this GM to leak sensitive information about that player’s injury to the media. Several teams that were interested in negotiating long-term, big-money deals weren’t offering the same contracts after the news broke.

Now it’s your turn. Do you negotiate straight up? Do you leverage that dirt into a discount? Do you use both issues or focus on one? If so, how do you go about it and why? What lengths are you willing to go if the player initially turns you down? Would you retaliate by leaking this news to the media? Explain your thought process.



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