The Miami Dolphins are readying themselves for their own version of the Ian Fleming icon James Bond, as the staff prepares to converge on Indianapolis next week for the NFL Combine, the Phins will be pulling out their own cloak and daggers as they not only watch the incoming rookies perform, but work the side tables to get a jump on free agency.
Call it James Bond, Spy vs. Spy, call it whatever you want, but at least here, videotaping is legal. So much more goes on behind the scenes than 40 times and speed drills. Sure, the NFL team reps are there to see college standouts invited to show their wares perform under the micro-scope that has become television. They will be poked, prodded, yelled at by some bench press trainer in motivation mode, they will run, jump, walk, and even false start. All the while, in the stadium seats, beyond the stopwatches and notepads, there are deals being discussed.
It is always interesting to see who from where is sitting with whom from somewhere else. Will Jerry Jones and Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano, or Bill Parcells sit together? If so, will that throw more gasoline on the rumors of a trade? That is precisely what it will do, and the reason is because, that is precisely what is going on.
Deals. Shaken not stirred. On the down low. This is pre-free agency business…and a lot gets done.
Have you ever sat at your computer or glued to ESPN at midnight on the eve of free agency? Then amazed that at least two teams have already managed to strike deals with a player that was a free agent for a nano-second? It is because that deal was already made a week before. At the Combine.
Where else are general managers, head coaches, and player agents all in the same place? They are not…ever! Sure, those agents are pumping up their 22 year old wonder kid sprinting 40 yards and talking about rough figures, but they are also talking about their other clients, the ones that in less than a week would become targets for 31 other teams. Guys like Lance Briggs and Assante Samuel.
How hush hush is this? A few years ago I read that one deal was discussed by two parties that were on opposite sides of the room with one being close to a bathroom at a hotel bar. The GM would wander to the bathroom, drop a piece of paper or bend over to tie his shoe and pick one up. This went on for over 2 hours before a deal had been made. No handshake, no verbal communication whatsoever.
So while you watch the Combine from the confines of your Lazy-Boy recliner with the beer in hand and you see the NFL Network pan of the stadium seats and you see two guys shaking hands, no that they are not likely saying “wow, did you see how fast Darren McFadden hit that 40?” but instead, “Hi, I’m Bond, James Bond”. There is after all a secret agent in all of them, a double agent in others. Welcome to the NFL Combine.