Thomas comfortable tackling contract negotiations as well as opponents

Fans of the Blue Bombers have become quite familiar with Jake Thomas over his nearly 10-year CFL career in Winnipeg.

They’re familiar with his on-field prowess, as a significant piece of the Bombers’ defensive line, and some might even know he has a career outside of the game in real estate, back in his hometown of Fredericton.

But did you also know he’s his own agent? In fact, Thomas has represented himself for years now, and was the sole negotiator in his most recent deal: a one-year contract extension signed earlier this week.

“I represent myself so there’s not too much telephone tag,” Thomas said in a phone interview with the Free Press. “It started in in 2018, the year I came back like the second day of training camp. So, I guess I’ve done my last five contracts.”

Thomas said he used to have a dedicated agent earlier in his career, but as he grew more comfortable with Bombers general manager Kyle Walters, who was his special-teams co-ordinator his rookie season in 2012, he felt he could take over the process.

“The CFL’s Player’s Association does a good job so that you can find other player’s contracts. There’s only so many starting Canadian D tackles out there or just Canadian D-lineman, so usually what I do is just kind of take a little look at theirs and just kind of go off that,” Thomas said, adding: “But at the end of the day, it’s all about a number you’re comfortable with. I’m not at the point my career where I’m chasing top dollar; I’m very comfortable in Winnipeg and I think we have something really good going there and you just want to be a part of it.”

Thomas, 31, said he’s been contacted by teammates curious about self-representation, and while he wouldn’t disclose who has approached him, he did say others have started to negotiate their own deals. He said it was especially prevalent in 2021, when nearly every player was asked to renegotiate their contract owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Anyone can kind of negotiate their own pay cut. Obviously, that was a unique situation,” he said. “For some guys, they have thought about becoming an agent afterwards so they kind of want to dip their toes in it in their later years. But I also talk to some guys that could probably do it very easily, but they don’t want that direct line of communication.”

That direct line of communication, of course, includes debating your value directly with your employer. It can me a messy process and often thick skin is a requirement.

“I just kind of had a number and this is what I tell all the guys, is that sometimes when you look at other people’s contracts, that’s where you really get lost, right? You see player X is making $150,000 and you want to make $150,000. Well, for me, I live in the east coast of Canada and while cost of living here is going up, just because COVID, it’s not like I have to pay for a house in Toronto,” Thomas said. “So, whatever dollar amount I feel comfortable with, and if you’re comfortable with the organization, I don’t think you can really put a dollar amount on that. You go into a new environment, I don’t think a difference of $10,000 would be worth not having that comfort level.”

Thomas is acutely aware the CFL is a business and while he’s fairly confident several players from the 2021 Grey-Cup winning team want to be back for a chance to three-peat, he also knows everyone won’t get that chance. With nearly every player up for a new deal, including the likes of quarterback Zach Collaros, defensive ends Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat and linebacker Adam Bighill, that’s a lot of money to go around before free agency opens Feb. 8.

“What’s really going to throw a wrench into everything is just it being a CBA year as well. No one really knows what the cap is going to be. For the most part right now, it’s all guesswork,” Thomas said. “But, as a player, you hope everyone’s back. I’m sure if money wasn’t an option, everyone would be back. I’m sure we’ll lose a few guys and then hopefully wherever they go, they do their best and hopefully they don’t beat us when we play them.”

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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