An NFL agent of influence Marvin Demoff: The attorney who forced John Elway's trade from the Colts to Denver in 1983 will be negotiating with a Baltimore team again, representing Ravens No. 1 pick Jonathan Ogden.

July 07, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

In NFL circles, Marvin Demoff is the power broker you never see and only occasionally hear about, often after the fact, like some sort of twister that levels the local trailer park.

Oh, you mean he was the attorney who backed Bob Irsay into a dark corner in 1983 and forced the Baltimore Colts' infamous trade of No. 1 draft pick John Elway to the Denver Broncos?

Yes, he is that attorney -- a man so esteemed in those NFL circles he sometimes is referred to as the "Monsignor"; a man so trustworthy it is said he is a confidant of Al Davis, the inscrutable owner of the Oakland Raiders; a man so powerful he is the contractual voice for Dan Marino and Jeff Hostetler, Rick Mirer and Jim Everett, Rod Woodson and Leslie O'Neal, to name a few of the league's elite.

Until this summer, Baltimore's only connection to this 53-year-old agent was his orchestration of the Elway trade in the Colts' last draft before fleeing to Indianapolis.

Now, 13 years later, there is another.

Demoff is representing Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens' top pick of 1996 and the fourth overall in the draft.

"The Marvian link," is how Ravens vice president David Modell describes the connection. "He's the only link between the Colts team that left and the new Ravens."

Demoff intones no such self-importance to the fact. "I don't take myself that seriously," he said from his office at the Los Angeles law firm of Mitchell, Silberberg and Knupp.

Not taking himself seriously is a trait that helps distinguish Demoff in an industry filled with notorious self-promoters such as fellow West Coast agent Leigh Steinberg. Demoff keeps a low public profile, doesn't negotiate through the media and operates with an absence of malice.

"He's a dream to work with because he's honest," said New York Giants executive Ernie Accorsi, who was with the Colts at the time of the Elway deal. "He's got integrity. . . . Where do I rank him? I don't rank him, [but] I couldn't put anybody better than him. He gets top money."

Even his peers offer praise of Demoff.

"He has an excellent reputation," said Pittsburgh-based agent Ralph Cindrich. "He's generally considered in the top half-dozen in the upper echelon. He can be friendly to the point of being disarming, but there certainly is a lethal side to him."

The Colts and Irsay saw that lethal side in 1983, when they spent the first pick in the draft on Elway, who indicated he sooner would play baseball for the New York Yankees than football for coach Frank Kush.

Demoff tells of a pre-draft meeting in Los Angeles in which Kush was amenable to trading Elway because of overall needs of the club. When no trade was forthcoming, Demoff met with commissioner Pete Rozelle and played the trump card, Elway's threat to play baseball.

Irsay refused a number of attractive deals that featured first-round picks. Among the players he rejected were Atlanta quarterback Steve Bartkowski, and a Dallas package of quarterback Danny White and defensive tackle Randy White.

On May 2, after taking over negotiations, Irsay traded Elway's rights for offensive tackle Chris Hinton, reserve quarterback Mark Herrmann, a No. 1 pick in 1984 (which became offensive guard Ron Solt of Maryland) and money from two preseason games at Denver's Mile High Stadium.

"John is always blamed for being a California kid who didn't want to go East," Demoff said. "That was never the situation. We were always asked by the Colts, in anything public regarding John's efforts to be traded, not to give reasons pertaining to the Baltimore franchise. So we picked a nondescript thing, geography."

It was a huge victory for Demoff and Elway, but big Demoff victories are not unusual. In 1986, he held out Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick Woodson for 95 days. The result? A four-year deal worth $1.98 million, then the largest rookie contract in club history.

Last year, Demoff had a difficult negotiation with the Chicago Bears over Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, the 21st pick in the draft.

When talks stalled in July, Bears negotiator Ted Phillips gave this insight to the Chicago Tribune: "If a deal doesn't get done by Monday, I'll be about as disappointed as I've ever been since I've done contracts. Demoff is the best agent in the business, but obviously he is looking for something that maybe we can't provide."

Salaam signed a four-year, $3.8 million deal less than two weeks later.

Demoff is less likely to stage a holdout with a veteran who has a contract than a rookie who doesn't.

"I think the most important thing you have to do is be honest," he said. "I don't think you hold a client out without there being a reason that has integrity to it. Either that, or there's an absolute broken promise by the club that may not be public. . . . I can't think of more than three or four times in 20 years that I had a player not report who had a contract."

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