Oh Agent, My Agent: What Role Did Drew Rosenhaus Play In The Antonio Brown Saga?

Image from: Ryan Dunleavy/NJ Advance Media

Generally, professional athletes receive the airtime originating from their respective sports, however some agents have become household names due to their negotiating skills, savvy use of the media, and high profile clients. Drew Rosenhaus, Scott Boras, and Rich Paul, among others, fall into this “super agent” category. Most recently, Drew Rosenhaus has been in the news after orchestrating a series of moves which led to Antonio Brown being released by the Oakland Raiders a mere six months after the Raiders traded for him and signed him to a new contract. As we all know, Brown ultimately signed a contract with the New England Patriots hours after being released, in what will go down as one of the most bizarre offseason stories in NFL history.

Currently, Drew Rosenhaus is the most well known NFL agent, whose agency represents over 110 clients amounting to roughly $1.1 billion in current NFL contracts. Rosenhaus attended the University of Miami for undergrad and later graduated from Duke University School of Law in 1990. Shortly after, he stayed true to his Miami roots by opening Rosenhaus Sports Representation in Miami with his brother. To date, Rosenhaus has represented many star players in the NFL, many of which attended the University of Miami. Namely, Rosenhaus has represented Antonio Brown, Chad Johnson, Frank Gore, Rob Gronkowski, LeSean McCoy, Plaxico Burress, Terrell Owens, and Tyreek Hill, among others.

A fiduciary relationship exists between a sports agent and an athlete upon the signing of an agency contract. In other words, this relationship derives from the athlete’s consent allowing the agent to act on the athlete’s behalf and subject to the athlete’s control. Moreover, a sports agent has a duty to discover and disclose to his clients material information that is reasonably obtainable. Agent competence and diligence is fundamental to the financial health of athletes, because they are required to focus on other tasks such as nutrition, training, recovery, practicing, film study, enhancing their skills, and playing games. An agent handles several tasks on behalf of a client such as negotiating contracts, arranging pre draft workouts, marketing needs, endorsements, and media relations. Simply put, as Jason Belzer of Forbes reported, “Agents speak the language of the leagues collective bargaining agreement (CBA), endorsement, and marketing contracts in the same vein as a player’s understanding of the playbook.”

Image Credit: Bob Ford/ The Philadelphia Inquirer

Rosenhaus has been known to use the media to leverage the demand for many of his clients. Notably, on August 10, 2005, his client, Terrell Owens conducted a staged media event outside his home. Owens, who earlier in the day was suspended by the Eagles after getting into a shouting match with head coach Andy Reid at training camp, answered questions from the media while doing sit-ups. As you can expect, the staged shirtless media session, argument with the head coach, and frequent criticism of quarterback Donovan McNabb led to the end of Owens’s stint with the Eagles. Subsequently, Owens played for the Cowboys, Bills, and Bengals, however his media antics stopped him from continuing to play in the NFL, despite his desire to extend his career. Moreover, Owens made $80 million throughout his career, but as of 2019, Owens has blown through that money and has a current net worth of around $100,000. While Owens takes responsibility for his antics and much of the turmoil it caused in his career, it is fair to look at Drew Rosenhaus, who had a duty to provide Owens with the best representation to further his career on and off the field.

More recently, another Rosenhaus client is following in the infamous footsteps of Terrell Owens and attempting to use antics and the media to get what he wants. One year after signing an extension that made Brown the highest paid wide reciever in the league with a historic franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown forced his way out of the Steelers to the Raiders. John Breech of CBS reported that the separation was anything but amicable as Brown was benched for a must win matchup against the Bengals in the regular season finale after getting into a heated argument with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during practice. However, Pittsburgh appeared to be a match made in heaven for Brown on the field, as he amassed more receptions over a four-year span (481) than any player in NFL history. Moreover, since 2011, Brown led the league in targets, receptions and receiving yards.

The similarities to Owens’s NFL demise do not stop here, as the Antonio Brown circus continued once he arrived in Oakland. Following the trade, Brown received yet another contract extension which made him the highest paid wide receiver in the league and substantially increased his guaranteed dollars. However, Brown not only received $0 from that deal, he actually had to pay Oakland for various fines, which he is currently appealing, as a result of his antics during his short-lived stint with the team. Namely, Brown missed almost all of training camp and did not play in any preseason games as a result of his cryotherapy mishap and a helmet controversy. Like Owens, Brown was released shortly after a heated argument at a team practice. According to Ian Rapoport, the argument between Brown and Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock did not get physical, but after a screaming match, Brown told Mayock that he would hit him in the face, then punted a ball, and said “fine me for that.”

Following the incident between Brown and Mayock, the Raiders voided the contract with Brown, who signed with the Patriots shortly thereafter. While Rosenhaus was able to get his client work after numerous displays of immaturity and toxic antics, he did so at a steep discount and lack of future security. Unlike the previously mentioned contracts Brown signed, this most recent contract with New England does not make Brown the highest paid wide receiver in the league; rather it puts New England in control. The contract is for 1 year worth up to $15 million with a team option worth $20 million for next season. The maximum value of $35 million is far less than what Brown would have earned had he stayed with either the Steelers or Raiders. Moreover, Brown is expected to have a substantial decrease in production on the field, as the Patriots spread the ball around on offense. Simply put, New England can easily part ways if they are unhappy with Brown.

While Rosenhaus has clearly been successful in his career, it may be fair to ask if he guided Terrell Owens and Antonio Brown properly. However, the Antonio Brown saga is far from over and while there is a chance Brown loses out on money and future opportunities in the NFL, like Owens, there too is great upside in this opportunity for Brown. If Brown can assimilate into the Patriots culture and show he can still produce at a high level, he likely will be a hot commodity on the free agent market in just 2 years with a chance to make up for some of that money he lost due to his behavior in Pittsburgh and Oakland. It is fair to be critical of Brown and Rosenhaus for the way this offseason played out, but before saying Rosenhaus misguided Brown, we need to see how this season shakes out. Fortunately as fans, we get to lay back and enjoy football, whereas Drew Rosenhaus has to constantly monitor what Brown and his other clients are doing throughout the season.

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