Until this week, the most newsworthy thing Kimberly Miale ever did was marry her Suffolk University Law School sweetheart, John Kelley. The two got hitched last August in Newport, R.I., and the wedding announcement made the New York Times.
Now? The 34-year-old attorney from Johnson, R.I., has left a lot of NFL agents crying foul, while wondering if she and her new business partner will revolutionize and dominate the league’s agent community.
Miale’s business partner, of course, is the real headline-grabber — famed rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z, whose entertainment company, Roc Nation, has gotten into the sports agency business this spring. His company, which also has a partnership with powerful sports agency CAA, lured Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano away from Scott Boras, gave Skylar Diggins a new Mercedes-Benz recently after she was taken third overall in the WNBA draft, and now has signed Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith after he dumped his agent earlier this month.
Jay-Z’s appeal as an agent is obvious — he has all the top connections in the entertainment world, and has amassed a fortune estimated at around $500 million.
“It’s the rock-star thing,” former NFL All-Pro Trevor Pryce told USA Today last week. “If you’re one of his guys, it affords you a lot of opportunity to do things off the field.”
But Jay-Z’s involvement in the NFL has many in the agent community up in arms. And that’s where Miale comes in.
Jay-Z hasn’t been certified as an agent by the NFL Players Association, and probably won’t be any time soon — certification requires studying the minutiae of the league’s collective bargaining agreement and passing a two-day test.
In the eyes of several agents we spoke to last week, that makes Jay-Z a “runner” — someone who helps secure clients for an agent but isn’t a certified contract negotiator. In 2012, the NFLPA passed a resolution banning the use of “runners,” with the threat of fine, suspension or permanent banning for any agent who uses one.
Miale, though, is a certified NFLPA agent — just not one who has much experience. Before signing on with Roc Nation, her only two clients never played an NFL snap or even signed a contract — former University of Florida linebacker Brandon Hicks and current Arena Football League kicker Carlos Martinez.
But Miale, listed as an associate at Heifetz Rose LLP in Needham, gives Roc Nation a legitimate pretense to recruit and sign NFL players. She will be listed as Smith’s official agent, not Jay-Z. And if CAA doesn’t want to sign one of Jay-Z’s clients, Miale allows Roc Nation to sign them on its own.
How Miale even connected with Jay-Z remains a mystery. She didn’t return multiple messages from the Globe seeking comment.
Of course, the idea that Miale is doing the recruiting and not Jay-Z is a bit hard to believe. Smith’s adviser, former NFL player John Thornton, even told CBS Sports recently that when Smith was looking for a new agent, “I was in those meetings, and Jay-Z connected with him on many levels.”
Jay-Z’s involvement is a big no-no, and Thornton later backtracked, saying he was misquoted. But many agents are wondering if Jay-Z and Roc Nation are getting preferential treatment from the NFLPA. The organization declined a request for comment.
The NFLPA has already stated that it is OK with Jay-Z’s recruitment of Giants receiver Victor Cruz, given that the two had a “preexisting relationship.” But there’s little reason to think that Smith had any sort of relationship with Jay-Z prior to the pre-draft process.
Of course, if the NFLPA were to come down on Roc Nation, Miale would likely be the one in trouble, not Jay-Z — she’s the regulated agent, after all, while he’s just the “runner.”
From what we can tell, most agents aren’t too threatened by Jay-Z. Roc Nation figures only to pursue the choicest clients.
But Jay-Z could put a dent in the business of high-profile agents such as Joel Segal or Drew Rosenhaus, who often represent multiple first-round picks.
And if the NFLPA doesn’t look at the Jay-Z/Smith relationship closely, what’s to stop Rosenhaus from partnering with, say, Miami rapper Rick Ross?
“The process is being made a mockery of,” said one agent who spoke under the condition of anonymity. “If the PA doesn’t regulate it, it opens a Pandora’s box. They’d have to throw out the runner rule.”
The real head-scratcher in all of this, though — why does Jay-Z even want to get into the NFL agent business?
There’s little money to be made in the NFL, where player contracts aren’t guaranteed and agent commissions are capped at 3 percent.
Even if Jay-Z charges 15-20 percent on marketing commissions, he’d likely only make a couple hundred thousand dollars a year on a stable of rookie clients. The 3 percent commission the agent will get from Smith will net $148,110 — and that’s over four years.
“He makes that in one night of performance,” another agent pointed out. “Unless he gets a Tom Brady or an Aaron Rodgers, he’s never going to see the kind of money he’ll get in the NBA or baseball.”
Easy to defend going with Rutgers players
The Patriots’ draft class drew a few chuckles when three of the seven players were from Rutgers. If Bill Belichick was going to raid a college program, wouldn’t he choose a school like Alabama or Florida instead of Rutgers?
But Belichick’s fondness of current Buccaneers, and former Rutgers, coach Greg Schiano is no secret, and upon further inspection, maybe it’s not the worst idea that the Patriots have become a landing spot for former Scarlet Knights.
Of the six first- and second-year players from Rutgers on the Patriots’ roster, five are defensive players — tackle Justin Francis, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, and defensive backs Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon, and Brandon Jones.
And Rutgers has been pretty darn solid on defense the last two seasons, particularly against the pass. The Scarlet Knights’ schedule wasn’t too daunting, but their defense was stingy and featured players with good versatility.
In 2012, the Scarlet Knights were 10th out of 124 FBS teams in total defense, fourth in points allowed, 17th in opposing passer rating, and tied for 12th in interceptions. In 2011, they were 12th out of 120 teams in total defense, eighth in scoring defense, fifth in opposing passer rating, and tied for sixth in interceptions.
NFL Films guru Greg Cosell, who watches countless hours of film of hundreds of prospects for producing various draft shows, pointed out that Ryan (third round, 83d overall) is a versatile zone or man-to-man cornerback who is also an aggressive tackler and good blitzer off the corner.
Beauharnais (seventh round) can play defensive end as well as inside and strong-side linebacker, while Harmon (third round, 91st overall) often played man-to-man coverage against tight ends, in addition to his safety duties.
“I thought this kid was a really intriguing prospect, and he was utilized in multiple ways, which again is a Belichick factor,” Cosell said of Harmon. “When I watched him on film I thought to myself, ‘This kid’s a Belichick kind of player.’ ”
Patriots get creative following the draft
The Patriots have taken an interesting approach to this year’s rookie class. Thanks to trading out of the first round, they have the fourth-lowest rookie pool in the NFL — their seven rookies will count just over $3.75 million against the salary cap if they all make the team. Only the Saints, Buccaneers, and Redskins have lower rookie pools.
But as initially pointed out by Yahoo! Sports, the Patriots spent more money on undrafted free agents than any other team — $140,000 on 19 players.
Teams were allowed to spend only $78,170 on signing bonuses for undrafted players this year, but the Patriots were one of several teams to get creative.
Specifically, they were willing to guarantee a small portion of several players’ salaries, even if they don’t make the team. Wide receiver T.J. Moe got $30,000 guaranteed — $22,000 of his base salary, plus an $8,000 signing bonus. Tight end Zach Sudfeld, offensive lineman Elvis Fisher, guard Josh Kline, fullback Ben Bartholomew, and linebacker Kanorris Davis also received five-figure guarantees. That money is a drop in the bucket for the Patriots, but helps them land the undrafted rookies they desire.
The Patriots’ approach seems prudent for this year’s draft, which was short on elite players.
How much of a better value are non-first-round rookies in the new CBA?
The Dolphins offer a perfect example. Defensive end Dion Jordan, taken No. 3 overall, will eventually sign a four-year deal worth just over $20.5 million, fully guaranteed. Cornerback Jamar Taylor, taken in the second round (54th overall), will sign a four-year deal worth about $3.6 million, and it won’t be fully guaranteed. Seventh-round picks, meanwhile, make about $2.2 million over four years.
Second-round pass rusher Jamie Collins, the Patriots’ top draft pick, is expected to sign a four-year deal worth approximately $3.75 million.
Some of their money was not well-spent
Speaking of the Patriots and the salary cap, they’ve got $8.5 million in space and little to worry about for this year. But they’re also carrying $8.35 million in “dead money” from players who were cut but still count against the cap.
Jonathan Fanene is still on the books for $2.56 million, Chad Johnson counts for $1.583 million, and cutting Kyle Love last week cost the Patriots $250,000 in cap dollars.
The biggest dead weight, though, is Brandon Lloyd, who will count $3.5 million against the cap this year. But his dead money comes with an asterisk — the Patriots are taking on an extra $1.5 million this year from Lloyd’s option bonus, and will be given a $1.5 million credit in 2014.
Consider us not surprised to see Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes absent from voluntary organized team activities last week. He often played by his own rules under Urban Meyer at the University of Florida, which the coaching staff tolerated when he earned All-America honors and helped lead the team to a BCS championship.
But when the Gators celebrated their 2008 championship in The Swamp in January 2009, who was the only player from the entire team not in attendance? Yup, Spikes, who decided to celebrate in Miami that weekend.
But many NFL veterans, especially those confident with their roles, train on their own in the offseason. Spikes’s absence only becomes a real story if he skips the mandatory minicamp June 11-13, which seems unlikely.
This year’s draft may test which agents are truly the most skilled negotiators. Several second-round picks will be “underpaid,” so to speak, because of two vacated second-round picks — the Browns used theirs on receiver Josh Gordon in last year’s supplemental draft, and the Saints lost theirs in the Bountygate scandal.
The Patriots’ Jamie Collins, for instance, was the 52d player drafted but will be paid like the 54th pick — a difference of about $45,000 per year. It will be interesting to see if any agents can convince teams to kick in a few extra dollars.
Another area in which the owners beat the NFLPA at the negotiating table during the 2011 lockout — rookie contracts have largely remained unchanged for the last three years.
The minimum salary has increased by $15,000 each year, but the signing bonuses are exactly the same. The $5,234,328 signing bonus received by Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro is the same signing bonus received by last year’s 15th overall pick, Bruce Irvin, and the same as 2011’s No. 15 pick, Mike Pouncey.
Speaking of Pouncey, he and some of his Dolphins teammates are brimming with confidence after the team spent more than $98 million guaranteed on 13 free agents, and then traded up to No. 3 overall to nab Dion Jordan.
“I think our football team is going to be great this year,” Pouncey told NFL Network earlier this month. “We added a lot of key additions to our football team. We look good on paper right now, but it takes chemistry to get where we want to be, and that’s in the playoffs.”
Receiver Brian Hartline also said that the Dolphins, who added Pittsburgh speedster Mike Wallace and St. Louis possession receiver Brandon Gibson this offseason, “absolutely” have the best receiver corps in the AFC East.
“Add Dustin Keller in there, Lamar Miller’s a great back, and Daniel Thomas is a great back out of the backfield. The whole passing game is an advantage of ours,” Hartline said.
That’s not exactly Broadway Joe guaranteeing a Super Bowl victory, but the Dolphins might want to keep quiet until they actually accomplish something on the field.
The Dolphins have had a losing record for four straight seasons, a feat they haven’t matched since their first four years as an expansion franchise (1966-69). And ask the Eagles and Redskins how much it means to be the offseason free agency champs.
The NFL struck a partnership with Microsoft last week to provide exclusive interactive gameday content on Xbox One and Surface, the company’s tablet offering. The league hopes that in the near future coaches will use tablets on the sidelines to view still photos and call plays, replacing the laminated call sheet. Bill Belichick might be willing to adapt, as long as he can still hold the Surface up to his face when calling plays . . . In light of Jovan Belcher’s murder/suicide last November, and the ex-wife of Mario Williams claiming in a messy divorce settlement that he was addicted to pain pills and contemplated suicide last season, Giants owner John Mara said the NFL has “made a lot of improvements” in terms of offering players assistance with their problems, either through counseling or anonymous hotlines. “We’re going to continue to be very conscious of those issues, because it affects all of us, and you never know until the second it’s going to happen,” Mara said . . . The NFL’s version of Groundhog Day: Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions at the Jets’ OTAs last week, and an anonymous player later ripped on Sanchez to CBSSports.com.Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.