2012. május 8., kedd

Interview with David Canter

(If you are interested in the Hungarian version of this article, please use this link.)

Three months after I have interviewed Andrew Brandt (available in Hungarian here), I had the opportunity to interview David Canter, who has been representing NFL clients for more than a decade now. He is possibly best known for being the agent of two-time All-Pro safety, Eric Weddle (S, San Diego Chargers) and one-time Pro Bowler DT, Paul Soliai (NT, Miami Dolphins). Before I get to the interview, I would like to introduce David to you.

The logo of DEC
David Evyn Canter was born on the 4th of January 1973. The agent who is representing mainly NFL clients now, was the student of Ithaca College, where he graduated from Sports Management in 1995. After that, he got his law degree at the University Of Miami School Of Law in 1998. He has started working for the Total Entertainer and Athlete Management (TEAAM), where he became the President. Despite all the efforts of Canter, this story ended bad because of his partners. He has lost money and most of his clients. Canter went on with his life and founded his own company, DEC Management, where he is the Chairman and CEO now. 
After this short intro, I would like to give the floor to David.

-How did you get involved in the world of agents?
While attending law school, I had a chance to meet at a Shell gas station with former University of Miami standout wide receiver and Miami Dolphin, Lamar Thomas. After our short discussion Lamar Thomas has decided, that I should be his agent. He became my first client.

-What do you want to achieve in the industry?
I think the biggest facet of why I am still in this industry is that I get to help young men achieve their dreams and full potential. I would hope that my legacy will be the lasting impact from a personal, financial, and professional perspective on all of my clients.
The young Canter and Tiger Woods

-What were the top five greatest moments of your career so far?
1. My first ever top 10 draft pick (Travis Taylor, 2000)
2. Negotiating the largest NFL contract in history (9 years, $135.75 million, Stephen Davis, 2000, Redskins)
3. My second top 10 draft pick (Troy Williamson, 2005)
4. Eric Weddle’s career, from being a draft pick to the highest veteran free agent safety deal ever.
5. The relationships that I’ve built with all of my clients - they are my extended family.

-Can you list the top 5 deals (with the most value) you have negotiated for your clients?
1. Stephen Davis (RB), Washington Redskins, 2000, 9 years $135.75 million
2. Eric Weddle (S), San Diego Chargers, 2011, 5 years $40 million 19 million guaranteed
3. Stephen Davis (RB), Carolina Panthers, 2003, 5 years $36 million
4. Paul Soliai (NT), Miami Dolphins, 2011, 1 year $12.476 million, fully guaranteed
5. This past year I did two of my favorite deals not because they were massive amounts, but because they meant so much to the clients I did them for:
Blake Costanzo (LB), Chicago Bears, 2012, 2 years $1.96 million
Steve Gregory (S), New England Patriots, 2012, 3 years $8.8 million

-How many clients do you represent now? Do you think there is an ideal number for an agency?
I feel like anywhere between 25-45 is my comfort zone, currently we have 22 clients in the NFL and another 6-10 in the CFL or fighting to get into the NFL, plus 4-6 veterans who will most likely get signed during training camp.

Costanzo signs with the Bears
-Who are your most notable clients?
Sean Smith (CB, Dolphins), Eric Weddle (S, Chargers), Paul Soliai (NT, Dolphins), Brandon Siler (LB, Chiefs), Legedu Naanee (WR, Dolphins), Steve Gregory (S, Patriots)

-What can your company offer to an NFL client?

We are a full service management firm, we have the ability to handle everything from their contract and marketing, all the way to planning their wedding or football camp. We like to be involved in every intimate detail of their life and career and help guide them along the way.

-Dramatic changes are part of the agent landscape. Some agents join bigger firms and take their client base with them, sometimes leaving their partners in despair. We all remember the Steinberg-Dunn incident (which went to the courtroom), but there are less noisy breakups. Also sometimes agencies disappear because of the arguments between the founders or because of the suspension of agents. Do you have an experience in such a process?
Yes. At one point in my career, I had partners and we have represented over 70 players in the NFL. Unfortunately my partners were not ethical, stole millions of dollars and nearly all of my clients from me. They are no longer relevant in the industry and I am thriving. Success truly is the best revenge.

-Last year you have negotiated the highest value free agent deal for a safety in NFL history. Some experts questioned if Eric Weddle was good enough to receive a deal like that. I think even the mention of this is a compliment to you. Since then Eric has silenced every critique he had. How does it help to have a client like Eric Weddle in the development of the agency and the client base?
Eric is not only a massively valuable client, but he is my best friend. Seeing how hard he works and how much he has succeeded has made me and my families dreams come true as well.  No single client has had a bigger impact on me personally nor professionally then Eric. The majority of the clients I represent are directly connected to him, he is promoting me to his friends, college teammates, and NFL teammates.

-This year, you had one premier free agent too. Dolphins nose tackle, Paul Soliai was one of the highest rated free agent defensive linemen. You have negotiated a two year deal for him in Miami. Was it his priority to stay with the Dolphins? Did you plan on the effects of the future jump in TV revenue (more money available for player contracts) while negotiating his contract?   
Canter and Soliai signing the contract in Miami
We have planned on the 2014 TV jump as part of doing a smaller term contract. Plus we have weighed the 3 year value including last years franchise tag in the decision.  It equated to 24 million over 3 years with 18 million guaranteed.  No other player on the defensive line in the entire NFL has ever had 75% of their contract guaranteed, so that weighed heavily in the decision as well.  The biggest factor was that, Paul did not want to leave his friends, his teammates, his fans, and this city that he loves so much.

-You also had Steve Gregory as an FA client this year. I remember, you have stated that you intend to set him up in a situation, where he can be a starter. Were there teams who have envisioned him as a starter besides the Patriots? How close was the race for his services?
Once Coach Belichick called me I knew the Patriots were going to get Steve. It’s a perfect storm for him and his family and a dream come true. He gets to go back to the east coast which is where he grew up, be close to both sides of his and his wives family, and contend for a Super Bowl every year while getting the respect he deserves and competing to start. In San Diego he was never going to start at his more natural position (FS), so we were very fortunate to find a great fit for him. The Patriots acted faster and more aggressively than the other teams in the market, so there never really was a race once Steve landed in Boston.

The draft of Weddle's contract numbers, used in the negotiation period by Canter
-Who was your highest draft pick ever?
Troy Williamson (WR) in 2005, he was selected seventh in the first round by the Vikings.

-Did you have a drafted client this year? Were you able to secure deals for your undrafted free agents?

We had no clients drafted this year, but that was expected. We don’t put a lot of finances and effort into the draft anymore, since the structure and dollar amounts have changed, We had 5 players get post draft contracts and 3 of them could see significant time and make the 53 man roster. The other two should make the practice squad roster.


-At the end of the interview, I would like to ask you about the NFL’s future in Europe. We have a game now at Wembley year-by-year. But the NFL suggested that, this is just the beginning. Do you see an NFL franchise in London in this or the next decade?
I really hope that the NFL moves or starts to play more games overseas. As you know, I am a massive supporter of international soccer, the EPL and La Liga, so to be able to have a presence across the pond would be fantastic for me too. Although I do think, it will be another 10-15 years before we see a franchise overseas.

David, thank you for the interview!

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