How Michael Jordan's advice helped NFL star Bobby Wagner negotiate his $54 million contract himself

Bobby Wagner #54 of the Seattle Seahawks stretches before a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 10, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Joe Robbins | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Most professional athletes enter contract negotiations with an agent by their side, but NFL linebacker Bobby Wagner decided to take a different approach as he enters his eighth season with the league.

In a recent interview with ESPN, the 29-year-old said that instead of using an agent to negotiate his three-year, $54 million contract extension with the Seattle Seahawks, he relied on his own smarts — and the advice of six-time NBA champion and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan.

The deal, according to ESPN, makes him the NFL's highest-paid inside linebacker.

Wagner said that his conversation with Jordan took place earlier this summer, when the billionaire invited him and a few other Jordan brand athletes on a trip to France.

Michael Jordan attends a press conference for the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Air Jordan Shoe during the 'Palais 23' interactive exhibition dedicated to Michael Jordan at Palais de Tokyo in Paris on June 12, 2015 in Paris, France.
Catherine Steenkeste | Getty Images

"We talked about his playing days, talked about his mindset — tried to steal some of his mindset — talked about training, talked about a bunch of different things," says Wagner, a five-time Pro Bowl player. "I asked him how he would feel if one of the players came and tried to negotiate a deal. What would be different? How would he see it? We just talked about a lot."

Wagner says that ultimately, he decided not to use an agent because he wanted to learn more about business by negotiating his own contract, so that he can use that knowledge when he's done playing football.

"It was about challenging myself and showing players that there's another option, showing players that no matter what you do, whether you have an agent or you don't have an agent, it's really about educating yourself, educating yourself in the business that you perform in," he said. "We know the statistics. We know that whenever you're done, a lot of us tend to go broke or don't take good care of our money and I feel like it's because we don't educate ourselves while we're here."

Last year, Wagner's former teammate Richard Sherman revealed that he also opted to negotiate his three-year, $39.15 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers.

"One of the main reasons I had decided to represent myself in negotiations was because I knew it would be a big challenge, and I never shy away from a challenge," Sherman wrote in The Players' Tribune. "But also, I wanted to be represented by somebody who was going to look out for my best interest and nothing else. So I thought, 'Who better than me?'"

To prepare, Sherman says he downloaded past contracts from the National Football League Players Association database and spent a lot of time studying the language and structure of the documents. When it was all said and done, Sherman explains, "there were a lot of things I got out of the deal that I wanted."

Like Sherman, Wagner says he's proud of the deal he negotiated. When asked if he sees himself representing players in the future after he's done with football, the 29-year-old said, "I envision myself negotiating deals down the line and, so, I told myself [if] I wasn't willing to risk challenging myself with my own money and my own cash then I'll never take that risk down the line. That's why I was focused on it. I'm trying to be like Magic [Johnson] when I get out of here."

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