Edmonton Eskimos’ Kenny Stafford on his approach to CFL free agency

Calgary Stampeders Tre Roberson (31) tries to stop Edmonton Eskimos Kenny Stafford (8) as he makes the catch for the touchdown during first half CFL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday Sept. 8, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

Receiver Kenny Stafford has played six seasons in the Canadian Football League, three with the Edmonton Eskimos including 2015 when he was part of a Grey Cup Championship.

Stafford has been through free agency a few times before, including signing with the Eskimos in 2017 and 2018. Before, during and after CFL free agency, Stafford has agreed to check in with to provide a first-hand look at what it’s like to go through the process.

This is part one. You can read part two here

Editor’s note: Late Monday afternoon, the Edmonton Eskimos announced they extended Stafford’s contract through the 2020 season.

The beginning of free agency is very critical.

I have elected to represent myself and act as my own agent for the third straight season.

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Each season brings on a different strategy. This means I have to transition myself from Kenny Stafford the player, to Mr. Stafford, the agent.

READ MORE: Edmonton Eskimos receiver Kenny Stafford moves from walk-on to bonafide starter

This creates an interesting dichotomy. My burning desire is to play football and stay loyal to the fans, but I have a responsibility to manage my brand and business — this requires taking the emotion out of the equation.

My approach to free agency is to balance my evaluation. I’m starting with assessing my performance over the course of the season from a GM’s perspective, I’m focused on my full contribution on the team and community including lessons as well as areas of improvement.

Statistics and analytics are vital from a business perspective, especially in comparison to other wide receivers across the league. As a member of the CFLPA [Canadian Football League Players Association] I also have access to players’ salaries.
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READ MORE: Kenny Stafford returns to the Edmonton Eskimos

All of this is challenging being, at the end of the day, I am a player first and extremely competitive. This is where I wear dual hats as agent then player to truly review the insight and access my true value.

This is not my first time in the negotiation process with Brock [Sunderland], and I have had positive talks with him so far.
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The free agency process has been smooth thus far. Patience is key, requiring me to have an understanding there are mutual feelings occurring as my possible deal is being considered and worked through, but communication is key.

It has been shared they truly want me to remain a part of the organization but time is a virtue. This requires “zen power” and presents an interesting split for me as a player-agent.

READ MORE: Winnipeg Blue Bombers add receiver Kenny Stafford

As a competitor, I desire to be of the utmost priority based on my year-round training and performance over 21 games — including having my best season of my six-year career.

My focus is rooted in the team and winning the Grey Cup. But again, I must manage my brand and business and ask the hard questions. Does the GM take me seriously? Will I have to hit the market?

I LOVE EDMONTON and consider it home! I have great memories playing football as a player and as a member of the community!

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But from a brand and business perspective, no offer has been extended as of Sunday, Feb. 10 at 8:45 a.m. So I must live in faith and hope for the best, which may be Plan B.

I am prepared to hit the market should the situation collapse. My desire is to stay home and be a key teammate and member of the Edmonton community while winning a championship! My gut tells me we I will complete our agreement soon and secure residence, but I do realize the volatility.

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