Ryan Harris talks about negotiating tips.

3 Negotiating Tips I Learned From The NFL

One thing people forget about the NFL is that it is a $12 to $16 billion entertainment industry. Critical negotiations take place every day in life and business. We all are in constant negotiations between teams, advertisers, family, workplace, media, players, and coaches. 

Because of this constant reality, people in the NFL know how to negotiate. 

Based on the ten years I spent in the NFL, these are the three tips I recommend when you find yourself in a negotiation. 


The first tip is to understand the market and your value. Many people reading this feel that they are underpaid at their job. That may be strategic and it may just be for the time being, but many of you feel underpaid. 

What is your market? What is the market rate for your skills? What additional skills do you have that make you even more valuable to a company? Once you know the market, you can understand your value. 

One thing people often forget in negotiations is that data wins. When you have the data on your market, you can use it comparatively to make sure you can prove your correct value.

After I left the Denver Broncos, I knew my value as a Super Bowl champion had increased. My value also increased due to the number of games I played and by how I interacted in the locker room. 

When the Pittsburgh Steelers offered me an undervalued contract, I turned their initial offer down.


Save money. Detox from debt. Own what you buy.

When it comes to money, you create the definition of value.


No NFL team wants to be seen as a below-market operator. Rarely are other successful companies looking to have a stable of employees that feel they are not valued. 

When you know your market and know your data, you prevent yourself from being undervalued and underpaid. Smart companies accept that. 


NFL teams often win their negotiations because so many players are unprepared for the negotiations they are walking into. This phenomenon goes beyond the NFL. 

In a new broadcast contract that I recently signed, I prepared for what I wanted but I also prepared for who I was talking to. 

One of the people I was negotiating with is a “relationships first” type of person. They cared about the relationship, staying in business, and remaining amicable. They also cared about employees being happy more than anything else. The other person I was negotiating with was data-driven. If you are negotiating with someone who is data-driven, emotions and relationships do not matter.

Part of being prepared is to know who you are negotiating with. What is important? How do they see value? 

With the first person, I said, “I love working here. I love being a part of what we are doing. I am excited to continue our relationship.” 

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When questioned about compensation by the data-driven negotiator, I referenced comparative data that showed that X person was doing the same Y job and was getting paid Z. What I was asking for was in line with market value and within my worth. 

Be prepared by knowing who you are talking to, how they view value, and how you can demonstrate value to them. Also, understand what they do not care about.


Finally, create urgency by showcasing tangible independence. 

At one point In that same discussion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, I told them, “This is below market value contract. I will go home.” 

They knew because I talked to the coaches and different players about saving money and being financially stable that I did not need to take any deal. If they wanted me to play, then they had to meet me at my price. 

Far too often, people fear that they will not be able to find work outside of the current job they are in. Yet experience proves that wrong in just about everyone’s career.

I was speaking with a CEO recently and I asked him what made him start his own company. 

“My boss did not think I would quit”, he replied. “I went to my boss and I asked for a raise. He said no, so I quit. He did not think I would and was shocked when I did.” That CEO has not looked back.

So many people are in this situation. They are afraid that they will not find a job in their career, afraid they will have to move, afraid they may have to change, or afraid they did not save enough to take the job they really want. So they stay in jobs. When you are negotiating, oftentimes the people you are negotiating with are literally banking on your comfort costing you money.

Related: Free Money NFL Players Leave on the Table

Do not let your comfort cost you money. Negotiate by showing your independence. You want this job. You love this job, but you never need this job.

What other companies do you know in that same space that you can talk about? What other people in different companies in the same industry can you talk about? What other hiring practices can you talk about in your industry that highlights that you are aware of other opportunities? This awareness totally changes the negotiation. 

Remember, negotiations occur in every part of your life and we are continually making deals. You have to understand each situation clearly and be prepared to get what you want.

When someone knows you are willing to go past comfort to get what you want, you become a powerful negotiator. Start with these three tactics from NFL negotiators.