Thursday, March 13, 2014

4 comments Peter King Pimps Out a Marvin Demoff Client Just a Little Bit

We currently have 8 teams in our BotB Fantasy Baseball League and I'd like to have two more. If anyone wants to join then the ID is 69631 and the password is "eckstein."

If you remember MMQB from a couple weeks ago, Peter predicted Alex Mack would strike it rich in free agency. Peter said,

1. Cleveland center Alex Mack (either with the Browns or elsewhere), a sturdy 28-year-old line leader and solid run blocker, should average $8 million a year, minimum.

No big deal, right? Well it turns out that in his mailbag from this past Tuesday Peter follows up this previous Mack-related comment with a whole section about Alex Mack's pending free agency. Again, no big deal. But wait, who is Mack's agent again? Marvin Demoff. Who is Peter King's agent again? Marvin Demoff. To Peter's credit, he does point this out in this Tuesday mailbag, but that doesn't do much to alleviate my suspicions that Peter is pimping out Demoff's clients. I have hinted around a few times that Peter goes easy on Jeff Fisher and the Rams organization, or at least provides them with favorable coverage, because of his affiliation with Marvin Demoff (Fisher is a Demoff client also and Kevin Demoff is the COO of the Rams and is Marvin Demoff's son). So it sets off my conflict of interest detector when I see Peter King doing an entire mailbag feature on how Alex Mack is a free agent and detailing the potential contract Mack would sign with an NFL organization, while including assurances from Marvin Demoff that he would structure the contract he's requesting for Mack to where the Browns wouldn't match it. It's a little too inside information-oriented for me and leads me to believe that Peter doesn't mind doing a little pimping for one of his fellow clients of Marvin Demoff.

I realize it is hard to not have a conflict of interest at times when it comes to sportswriters and their agents, but there are other people who work at THE MMQB who could have done this small feature on Alex Mack. Peter chose not to do that, then admits he has a conflict of interest since he's including quotes from his agent (who also happens to be Mack's agent), which is supposed to make his readers believe he's not pimping out Mack in the interest of their fellow agent. I'm not sure it alleviates the concern I have since Peter seems to take special regard to highlight Mack's free agency and does his best to alleviate the concerns of NFL GM's that any offer to Mack would be easily matched up the Browns. It seems pretty coincidental to me Peter writes about Mack in such detail and both he and Peter are clients of Marvin Demoff. Regardless, here is Peter's Tuesday mailbag.

Suppose, at the dawn of free agency today at 4 p.m. ET, you could buy a 28-year-old player, injury-free and a solid leader. All analysts would say this guy is a top-five player at his position, with seven or eight prime seasons ahead.

Please read what Peter says about Alex Mack while knowing they share the same agent and then tell me it isn't hard to feel like Peter is pimping out one of Marvin Demoff's clients. Mack is a great center, but I think Peter should have chosen someone else at THE MMQB to write this column on Mack. It really feels like he's using his professional position to pump up the market for Alex Mack, and that's no secret. This first sentence sounds like something an agent would say to NFL teams in order to start the bidding for Mack.

Suppose he wanted to leave his current team and would structure a contract to make that happen.

And of course Peter knows Mack will structure a contract to leave the Browns because he has access to Marvin Demoff to know this. So far in the first two sentences, Peter King has used his professional position to try and pump up the market for Alex Mack, as well as tried to calm the nerves of NFL teams who may be afraid Mack (who has the transition tag applied to him) would simply have any contract offer matched by the Browns. I'm trying to think of another time when Peter King has advocated for a specific free agent AND tried to allay the fears of NFL teams that this player will simply have any contractual offers matched by his current team. I'm drawing a blank. It's not hard to connect the dots to see why Peter is advocating and allaying in this certain situation. Marvin Demoff, that's why.

Suppose he’d been in the NFL for 80 games and started every one of them. And suppose you could do a deal with this player for, say, about 8 percent of your salary cap over the next four or five years.

Peter is now outlining the terms of the contract that Alex Mack is willing to sign. If this isn't advocating for a player then I don't know what advocating for a player is. This is a clear conflict of interest and not very professional for Peter to be using his Tuesday mailbag to drum up business for one of his agent's clients.

And suppose the average NFL team, as of this morning, has $21.3 million to spend under the salary cap.
It would be tempting.

(Marvin Demoff smiles over Peter's shoulder and gives Peter a thumbs up sign, as Peter looks fondly back at Demoff and clasps his hand over Demoff's)

Come on. The way Peter is writing this column is clearly advocating for Alex Mack. That's fine, but he's also letting teams who may want to hand out a contract to Mack know that Demoff is willing to structure the deal to where the Browns wouldn't match, is giving the approximate amount of the cap Mack's contract would require, gives the length of the deal Mack wants and then tries to set a market to where Mack can make more money away from the Browns. Peter is setting up a way for his agent's client to get away from the Browns and still get a large contract. It's clearly using his position at THE MMQB to help one of his agent's clients get signed. I don't see a way around it.

Anyone else could have written a small blurb about Mack on the THE MMQB site, but Demoff wanted Peter to write it because he has the name recognition and large readership when he writes a column that Demoff requires to create a market for Alex Mack. It's not the conflict of interest that irritates me necessarily, but the blatant advocating for Mack by Peter King. It's unprofessional.

That is the case of center Alex Mack.

"Somebody sign Alex Mack! He's a steal! Marvin Demoff says so! He didn't at all request I write this column about what a steal Alex Mack is!"

The Browns took a chance with Mack in the days before free agency dawned, placing the little-used transition tag on him rather than the costlier (by $1 million) franchise tag.

Peter King says the Browns are cheap, so make them pay for it. Some NFL GM, please give Alex Mack a huge contract, you know, just to show the Browns they can't simply be cheap.

But with the transition tag, the rules are different. The Browns committed to paying Mack $10 million in 2014, the average of the 10 highest-paid offensive linemen; if another team makes Mack a contract offer, Cleveland would have five days to match. If the Browns match, they would retain Mack. If they didn’t match, they’d lose him, and would get nothing in compensation from the signing team.

So don't be afraid to bid on Mack, NFL GM's. Let the offers start pouring in! Marvin Dem---I mean, Peter King really wants you to know that Alex Mack may have the transition tag on him, but Marv---I mean, Peter King also wants you to know this doesn't mean you shouldn't try to make a contract offer to Mack. It's very nice of Peter to be the middleman between Mack's (and Peter's) agent and NFL teams. Very nice, yet a blatant conflict of interest too.

Late Monday, Mack’s agent, Marvin Demoff, told me he thinks he could write a deal that would be tough for the Browns to match.

Then Marvin Demoff told Peter the general terms of this deal and to publish it in Tuesday's mailbag so that Demoff will in essence have a way of negotiating with all 32 NFL teams before the free agent season has actually begun. Not that Peter would ever be a puppet for his agent or anything. Not at all.

“I’m confident we can come up with a structure that would have a reasonable likelihood to not be matched by the Browns—and would be in full compliance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement,’’ Demoff said by phone from his Los Angeles office.

You see what Peter is doing here, right? When has Peter ever gone this in-depth to discuss a free agent or a player who has been tagged with the transition tag? When has Peter ever discussed the strategy that player's agent will use, while also advocating for this player to be signed away by a team, transition tag be damned? It's a clear conflict of interest and Peter is embracing the shit out of it.

(Fairness in journalism here: Demoff is also my agent. Each time I write about a client of his, I make sure you know of the potential conflict of interest, so you can make your own decision whether to believe I am writing the story fairly or not.

I appreciate Peter telling us about this conflict of interest and willingness to let us decide whether he is writing the story fairly or not. That's great and at least he is out front about his conflict of interest (there is no "potential" in there, it's a conflict of interest in this situation). The problem is that being honest and acknowledging the conflict of interest doesn't make it any less professional to write about Mack's free agency in the terms that Peter does. He uses his access (or Demoff uses him) to give NFL teams specific contractual information that Mack may be looking for on behalf of Demoff. This column isn't just about mentioning how great Mack is at playing center and how he deserves a large contract, but Peter goes into detail explaining that Demoff has an offer sheet the Browns wouldn't match and even goes on to say the specific length and contractual amount Mack would accept. Someone else should have written this column.

In this case, you might believe I am writing this column strictly to help Demoff drum up business for Mack. But I feel writing about it shines a light on a player who might be, other than Jimmy Graham, the best player at his position on the market this season,

Fine, shine a light. But don't outline terms of the contract and assure NFL GM's that the transition tag may not be a problem given the specific contract for Mack that Demoff may request, which could only have been known through conversations with Demoff. This screams of drumming up business for Demoff.

and in a free-agency season in which teams have more money under the cap collectively than they have in years, I believe a column about Mack is valid.)

Yes, it is valid. Someone else should have written the column though. Either Peter King is doing Demoff's bidding or he is the most naive person in the world to believe Demoff doesn't share this information so Peter can publish it and drum up business for one of Demoff's other clients.

How will Demoff structure such an offer sheet? That’s publicly unknown right now, but clearly it has to be a structure that lives within in the rules of the CBA—and doesn’t contain a so-called fluky “poison pill’’ clause that some teams have tried to insert in contracts for tagged free-agent players in the past

Is this unknown? Because from what Peter King wrote in this column the offer sheet would be 4-5 years, take up 8% of a team's cap, and we know from what Peter has written that Demoff/Mack are completely willing to structure an offer sheet to make this happen. So just having a basic grip of math I can see the offer sheet would be 4 years $43 million or 5 years $53.2 million, with the amount guaranteed unknown, though since it is known Marvin Demoff has stated he can get around the Browns matching (which again, isn't information NFL teams would know if Peter wasn't disseminating it as a reporter/client of Demoff) and teams have an average of $21 million in cap room, I could assume a lot of this money would be guaranteed up front. So Peter has given enough information where the structure of the offer sheet isn't completely known, but a vivid outline can be assumed.

So if Demoff has an idea up his sleeve, one he is currently unwilling to publicize to other teams till today at 4 p.m., it’s likely he’s researched it and found it passes NFL muster.

How is this not a conflict of interest???? How? Peter is doing the due diligence for NFL teams right now. NFL teams don't have to wonder if Demoff and Mack are willing to structure a deal to where the Browns won't match, they don't have to wonder if it passes NFL muster and they don't have to wonder about the exact contractual amount because Peter has provided all of this information. It's a clear conflict of interest. He is providing information to NFL teams that they will not have to research and is doing so on behalf of one of his agent's clients. There's a chance if Peter King isn't a Demoff client, this information isn't available. He's the middleman between Demoff and NFL teams. It's egregious.

Any such offer would have to be painful or overly restrictive to Cleveland, a team that has enough money to match any deal and clearly has a ton of respect for Mack—but also a team that has had multiple chances to re-sign Mack and hasn’t gotten it done.

It can be done, NFL teams! Make an offer! The Browns may not be able to match! Peter just keeps advocating.

The most likely team to pursue Mack is cash-rich Jacksonville, with a center (Brad Meester) who just retired and a gaping hole there. But I don’t believe the Jags would want to pay a center gigantic money.

Hint, hint, Jacksonville. Do you want to pay a center gigantic money? Peter's asking for a friend.

We’ll see if another team steps up. If I had to guess, I’d guess no team would step up to give Mack an offer sheet.

But hey, maybe Peter has increased this odds this could happen. He's doing his best.

But if one does, it will be one of the great stories of a wealthy free-agency season.

Of course it would. Be a great story, unknown NFL team. But most of all, Peter wants you to know that Marvin Demoff has told him that he's open for business. He can get around the transition tag and now teams know an outline of the contract he expects. Good job Peter, "reporting" on Mack like you did.

I DON’T GET IT. Teams go too crazy for free-agency. It’s been proven time and time again that the way to build a team is through the draft. So why do we get sucked in every year around this time?

—Chad, Nashville

PK: Great question.

"You aren't quite as stupid as I anticipate most of my readers are."

I am almost on your side on this, but then I see a team like Seattle, and how much the Seahawks helped themselves with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett last year.

But the Seahawks didn't sign either player to a long-term contract where they guaranteed a lot of money. Combined the contracts for these two players didn't exceed $18 million and Bennett got a one-year deal while Avril got a two-year deal. Plus, the Seahawks totally built the rest of their team through the draft. So the Seahawks made free agent signings, but they were smart signings and not expensive, long-term deals.

Free agency is fun, but too many teams aren't smart about how they spend their money. Today's expensive Day 1 free agents are salary cap casualties 2-3 years from now.


Anonymous said...

Ben, you're a fan of a team from the NFC South. Am I correct in reading that the Bucs signed Josh McCown to be their starter? Am I the only person who thinks Mike Glennon has real potential, while McCown's play last year was heavily aided by a flukily low INT total that cannot hold? I don't have a problem with signing McCown, but are they really going to bench a young QB who showed real promise to do so?

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I usually think when a new coach comes along a new QB is brought in also. Still, I thought the Bucs would bring in a QB from the draft and not sign one. If I'm not wrong McCown was on the Bears roster when Smith was the coach there two years ago. Maybe he really liked McCown.

I don't know. I feel like signing McCown isn't a terrible decision, but they have already named him the starter. That's my biggest issue with it. It's March 13 and you tell Mike Glennon he isn't going to be able to compete for the job? That's not good in my opinion.

DG said...

I laughed at your comment "I have hinted around a few times that Peter goes easy on Jeff Fisher and the Rams organization." I wouldn't exactly call it hinting. At any rate, I have always thought you had a valid point about it but I don't think it has ever been so obvious that the case is open and shut. This article is, in your words, particularily egregious. It is a conflict of interest for sure! Even though he 'runs' the MMQB I am surprised this was allowed to reach print.

Bengoodfella said...

DG, I wrote I "hinted" at it because I don't think I've ever actually written the exact words in the same sentence, "Peter King goes easy on the Rams and Jeff Fisher." I do skits, make jokes and at any available time point out that Peter is repped by Kevin Demoff's yes, I probably don't hint very much.

There are times I'm simply joking around or being light-hearted about it. I don't think Peter wakes up and says, "How can I pimp out the Rams today?" I do think he goes easier on them, but I don't think it affects his coverage of them every time he mentions them.

For me, I know why Peter was able to get in the Rams draft room. I'm jaded, so I think, "Well Peter got in the draft room because his agent knew it was a no-lose situation and Peter wouldn't write something the Rams didn't want written." So while I don't think it's egregious, it strikes me a little funny as to how much I will really learn from Peter's story about the Rams. I was very careful when reading that story about the Rams draft to see through what I may see as cheerleading. You know? It's just I know how Peter got in the room and so I know it's not going to be a "real" story there will be a certain amount of information we aren't privy the phone call that was made during the draft which wasn't shared with Peter. It's fishy, but not egregious.

This column though...someone else should have written it. There's too much information that can lead the reader to believe Peter is basically giving NFL teams a blueprint on how to pry Mack away from the Browns. There's a certain amount of legwork Peter has done for teams they don't have to do. It seems like a huge conflict of interest.

It's funny, because this is the most popular thing I have written in a while because it got posted on a Browns message board and I really thought I had a good point. Usually when I think I have a good point it's not a very well read post. Regardless, I thought this was a huge conflict of interest and should have been written by someone else.