Agentgate: How Far Does It Go?

One of the players currently at the center of the Agentgage investigation is South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders. Unlike high-profile players such as Marcell Dareus and Marvin Austin, Saunders is a bit of an unknown player around the rest of the SEC and the nation as a whole, so a bit of background information would perhaps be useful.

Saunders signed with South Carolina in the 2007 recruiting class out of Durham, North Carolina, and came to Columbia sporting four-star prospect ratings and a solid offer list. He excited many observers with his impressive physical build, weighing in at roughly 6'5 and 270 pounds. As a true freshman, he snagged 12 catches for 151 yards, and he followed that up as a sophomore by snagging another 16 catches for 214 yards. Last year, he had a bit of a "breakout" campaign, bringing in 32 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns (i.e. slightly more than the numbers Colin Peek amassed). He considered leaving early for the NFL Draft after his junior season, but ultimately decided to return as a senior. Furthermore, as an additional note, Saunders has a few character flags. His eyes have apparently been on the NFL since arriving in Columbia, and he was suspended earlier this year for missing a team meeting and having a poor attitude.

And that is the type of player that the agent-in-question was breaking all of the rules to sign?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to criticize Saunders as a player mind you. He has potential and draft stock is notoriously volatile. But even so, Saunders is not that kind of prospect. Players like Marcell Dareus and Marvin Austin are easily potential top five draft picks, and accordingly are players that could earn guaranteed contracts of above 40 million dollars. It's not intended as a shot at someone like Saunders, but frankly he is simply not at that level. Perhaps with a good senior season and an impressive combine workout he fights his way into the latter stages of the first round, but based on what we have seen out of him so far that is probably his ceiling at the moment. And, obviously, late first round tight ends don't get 40 million plus guaranteed, they get more like eight or nine million, thus making an agent's three-percent commission rate a fraction of what you would receive from signing someone like Dareus or Austin.

Simply put, signing a guy like Dareus or Austin is a career-making deal for an agent, one that can instantly transform you from a nobody to a power player. That one signing alone will net a potential agent well over a one million dollar windfall in and of itself, and doing a 40 million plus deal for a high-profile prospect brings a slew of additional clients (and money) along with it. But for a guy like Saunders? There you likely get a couple hundred thousand and no one notices moving forward. Thus, in effect, a sleazy agent probably has sufficient incentive to run the risk of breaking all the rules to get a guy like Dareus or Austin, but you wouldn't think the incentives would be high enough to justify the risk for someone like Saunders. Right?

Nevertheless, apparently Saunders was involved in the now infamous South Beach party as well. And that begs the question... if whoever orchestrated all of this was willing to break all the rules to get someone like Weslye Saunders, then who else could be involved? Rationally speaking, I imagine if you are willing to believe that he did this for Saunders, odds are he would have done it for just about any legitimate draft prospect out there. So exactly how far could this thing go?

Now, I'm not going to name any specific names simply because it would serve no purpose at best and would at worst perhaps wrongly accuse innocent parties. Nevertheless, the underlying point remains. Furthermore, while again I'm not going to make specific reference to any particular player aside from those already named, it doesn't take a rather lengthy perusal of the Internetz to find several more names floating around regarding players who may have also been in attendance (and by that I am not referring to Alabama players).

Furthermore, on a note driven by common sense, keep in mind that this was a party. Consider that for a moment from the perspective of your own experience. This get-together was apparently on the swanky side, hosted at a high-end South Beach hotel. To date, though, we really only have a handful of names as likely attendants, basically Dareus, Saunders, and a couple of guys from North Carolina. But it was party. Now, let me ask you, based on your own personal experience, how many parties did you attend in your formative years where only a handful of people showed up? Even those with a bad social life probably attended few parties that small; hell, it takes more people than that these days to play a video game on Xbox Live. Are we really supposed to legitimately believe that the agent-in-question went through all of this expense and trouble to only host about four or five players? I tend to think not. I imagine the odds are that there were several more players in attendance than have not yet been publicly identified.

Rivals fan have been pretty quiet during this ordeal, and with good reason. As someone wrote on Twitter recently, no one wants to make jokes until they are certain that a player from their school is not involved, and at this point I think the intuitive feeling with most is that their school could very well be next. Admittedly we don't know for certain how far Agentgate goes, but I imagine the smart money for now is on its scope being wider than is currently being reported.

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