The three-year deal the Denver Broncos made for receiver Emmanuel Sanders over the weekend, which the team officially announced on Sunday morning, could have Sanders' agent in quite a bit of hot water. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and the NFL Network, agent Steve Weinberg accepted a deal in principle from the Kansas City Chiefs on behalf of the former Pittsburgh Steelers player. Then, he opened negotiations with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Sanders, without telling Tampa Bay executives that a agreement had been struck with the Chiefs.
According to Rapoport, Weinberg shopped the Kansas City offer to Tampa Bay without informing the Bucs that the offer had become an agreement. Then, Weinberg accepted an offer from the Broncos, which ultimately became Sanders' new contract. In the process, according to Rapoport, Weinberg managed to anger executives in the San Francisco 49ers organization by blowing off a meeting about Sanders that had been scheduled.
"This was one of the worst situations in modern football negotiations," one team executive involved in the deal told Rapoport. "Totally wrong. This needs to be stopped."
Rapoport reached Weinberg at his home on Saturday, and Weinberg declined to comment on the allegations.
“That entire situation is a business ordeal that some people will turn into a personal matter," Sanders said at the press conference announcing his signing in Denver. "Situations like that happen all the time over the National Football League. There was no handshake. There was no kind of agreement in terms of—we were close to a deal, but it wasn’t anything official just yet. In terms of shopping around, we didn’t shop around. Teams were still calling. Teams were still trying to get involved. That’s what happened. Steve Weinberg, he did an exceptional job in terms of the whole free-agency process. At times, I was like, ‘Steve, what is going on? Am I flying East Coast or West Coast?’ But I believe in him. Everything that he said was going to happen, happened. I ended up at the place that I needed to be. I’m excited and he’s excited also.”
Weinberg has a complicated professional history. In Feb., 2003, he lost his certification as an agent after the NFLPA charged that he violated various union regulations agents must follow. A dispute with former business partner Howard F. Silber escalated to the Fifth U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a lower court ruling that Weinberg pay $2.1 million to Silber related to the commission on running back Stephen Davis' contract with the Washington Redskins.
Then, from the Dallas Business Journal:
The NFLPA charges that, in an attempt to avoid a financial judgment to Silber, Weinberg diverted assets into an off-shore trust, thus leaving Weinberg's clients open to having some of their wages garnished. The union says some of his clients were "served with writs of garnishment" and were "subjected to unnecessary legal proceedings."
"Players aren't lawyers. They're players," said Richard Berthelsen, general counsel for the players association in Washington, D.C. "They get something that's served on them by a process server that says they must account for something in court. That's disconcerting ... at the very least, the agent has an obligation to keep his players from being interfered with as they prepare for an important game."
Weinberg also purportedly arranged to get Davis to make an early payment on a $115,000 fee before it was due, which violates another union regulation, the NFLPA charges.
Technically, Weinberg broke no CBA laws or NFLPA provisions with his alleged actions in Sanders' free agency process. But the agent, who had 42 clients before he was decertified and now has just a handful, may find dealing with NFL teams difficult in future.
"When a man gives you his word and pulls out," one executive told Rapoport, "then gives another team your word and pulls out, then gives another team his word ... Not proper."
Andrew Brandt, sports business expert for TheMMQB.com, gave a bit of background on deals like this, via Twitter.
Re player/agent reneging on one deal/team to sign w/another, it happens, been there. Learned a deal's never a deal until signed.
— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) March 16, 2014
So frustrating. Can tell the agent "We'll never do business again" but reality is if he's got good players, unrealistic to say that.
— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) March 16, 2014
Yes, as my agent friends point out, teams play dirty on contracts also. Free agency does not come with an ethics/etiquette manual. — Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) March 16, 2014