By not hiring an agent and negotiating his own contract, Ravens rookie first-round safety Matt Elam saved roughly $202,800 in commission fees over the course of a $6.767 million deal that includes a $3.301 million signing bonus.
The value of the deal is approximately what the former consensus University of Florida All-American selection was supposed to be paid under the slotting system mandated by the NFL collective bargaining agreement.
"Yeah, I saved a lot of money," said Elam, a potential immediate starter at strong safety drafted with the 32nd pick of the first round. "It was beneficial to be and my family. I'm invested in the program and to the organization. I built the team that helped me, that gave me the knowledge and taught me a lot of things for me to look over in the contract and know it to a T."
Elam got advice from his older brother, former NFL safety Abram Elam, NFL Players Association officials and a team of advisors, educating himself about the business of football.
"I felt like I built a great team that gave me knowledge and taught me a lot that I didn't know," Elam said. "That helped me learn a lot of things about a contract. I knew all the language and everything about the contract."
The contract includes $5.439 million in total guaranteed money.
Elam's base salaries for the first three years, $405,000, $712,591, $1.02 million, are fully guaranteed for skill, injury and salary cap protection. In 2016, the fourth year of the contract, he's due a nonguaranteed $1.327 million base salary. The team holds an option for a fifth year.
That's similar to the contracts directly above Elam for Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick (31st overall, $6.87 million total, $3.37 million signing bonus) and St. Louis Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree (30th overall, $7.03 million total, $3.492 million signing bonus). Frederick's 2016 base salary also isn't guaranteed. Neither is Ogletree's, and his $344,319 roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year is tied to workout attendance.
Elam has drawn praise for taking a novel approach to hammering out the deal without formal representation. He's expected to eventually hire an agent for his second NFL contract down the road.
"The negotiations have been boiled down to really almost nothing, so it's pretty cut and dry," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I thought it was really interesting what Matt did, he had his brother as his primary advisor, and he got the same contract he would've gotten with an agent. I don't know that anyone's ever done that before in the modern era." He did it, and it was kind of interesting."
Elam hasn't neglected his conditioning while honing his boardroom savvy.
Listed at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds when the Ravens drafted him, Elam says he lost eight pounds over the summer and is now down to 200 pounds.
"Yeah, I feel like I had to," Elam said. "I had to run around a little more."
Harbaugh was complimentary of Elam's play, which is highlighted by a hard-hitting approach to the game.
"Nothing negative whatsoever, positive in every way," Harbaugh said. "Certainly young, certainly he'll make a few mistakes here and there, but Matt will make them fast. He's a very aggressive player, very smart, and he's going to be a key contributor for us."
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