Evaluating Full Guarantees in NFL Contracts

Evaluating Full Guarantees in NFL Contracts
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Evaluating Full Guarantees in NFL Contracts

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One of the more carelessly reported figures surrounding new NFL contracts is the "guaranteed dollars" associated with the deal. For many years this was a cut and dry process, as signing bonuses generally made up the majority of guarantees a player would receive throughout a contract. But the modern contract has a number of ways to get player cash in hands quickly and without many conditions.

The recent extension to Colin Kaeprnick isn't unique in the sense of maximum dollars - or even upfront money. But, staying true to the 49ers standards in contract structuring, the "pay as you go" combined with a heavy set of conditions probably raised a few eyebrows to teams across the league who are looking to lock in their franchise players with a little less risk in the long-term.

In light of this, we'll take a look at a list of free agent signings and extensions over the past few months with at least 5 year lengths. We'll assess the total contract value, the amount of cash to be earned in the first three years of the deal, the maximum amount of fully guaranteed dollars available (if all conditions are met), and the fully guaranteed dollars available at the time of signing.

Player Pos. Team Contract Value 3 Yr Cash Max. Guarantees Initial Guarantees
Jay Cutler QB CHI $126,700,000 $54,000,000 $54,000,000 $38,000,000
Earl Thomas S SEA $40,000,000 $27,725,000 $25,725,000 $25,725,000
Joe Haden CB CLE $67,500,000 $41,478,193 $36,778,193 $22,678,193
Branden Albert OT MIA $47,000,000 $28,500,000 $26,000,000 $20,000,000
Eugene Monroe OT BAL $37,500,000 $24,000,000 $17,500,000 $17,500,000
Michael Johnson DE TB $43,750,000 $25,750,000 $18,000,000 $16,000,000
Eric Decker WR NYJ $36,250,000 $21,500,000 $15,000,000 $15,000,000
Lamarr Houston DE CHI $35,000,000 $21,000,000 $14,900,000 $14,900,000
Colin Kaepernick QB SF $126,000,000 $40,173,766 $61,000,000 $12,973,766
Richard Sherman CB SEA $56,000,000 $34,771,970 $40,000,000 $12,431,000
Jairus Byrd S NO $54,000,000 $27,900,000 $26,300,000 $12,300,000
Aqib Talib CB DEN $57,000,000 $27,000,000 $25,500,000 $11,500,000
Jason Kelce C PHI $37,500,000 $13,008,000 $13,000,000 $10,398,000
Linval Joseph DT MIN $31,500,000 $18,750,000 $12,500,000 $12,500,000
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB NYG $35,000,000 $22,100,000 $13,980,000 $11,980,000
Paul Soliai DT ATL $32,000,000 $19,500,000 $11,000,000 $11,000,000
Rodger Saffold OT STL $31,700,000 $19,875,000 $19,500,000 $11,000,000
Jared Veldheer OT ARI $35,000,000 $20,000,000 $17,000,000 $10,500,000
Golden Tate WR DET $31,000,000 $18,000,000 $13,250,000 $10,500,000
Arthur Jones DE IND $33,000,000 $20,500,000 $16,000,000 $10,000,000
Austin Howard G OAK $30,000,000 $18,500,000 $13,800,000 $9,900,000
Tyson Jackson DE ATL $25,000,000 $16,500,000 $11,000,000 $9,500,000
Zane Beadles G JAC $30,000,000 $18,000,000 $12,450,000 $9,475,000
Anthony Collins OT TB $30,000,000 $18,000,000 $9,000,000 $9,000,000
Zach Strief OT NO $20,000,000 $12,100,000 $8,400,000 $8,400,000
Dan Bailey K DAL $22,500,000 $9,100,000 $6,600,000 $6,600,000
Jeremy Zuttah C BAL $18,000,000 $11,000,000 $6,500,000 $6,500,000
Jon Asamoah G ATL $22,500,000 $14,000,000 $8,000,000 $6,000,000
Mike Mitchell S PIT $25,000,000 $15,000,000 $5,250,000 $5,250,000

What Are We Saying?

What you can start to see with this fairly small sample size is, A) upfront guarantees are almost ALWAYS less than the reported total figure; B) The maximum guarantees generally align with the 3 year cash built a contract - giving teams a fair out after the 3rd year, or in some cases even after the 2nd.


What About Last Year?

While the numbers appear somewhat similar, a close look shows that players who signed extensions or free agent contracts at least 5 years long in 2013 were given more initial/upfront guarantees. The decrease in upfront guarantees is a trend we expect to continue over the next few year, as contracts are structured with more brevity, and the rookie wage scale continues to de-value veterans.

Player Pos. Team Contract Value 3 Yr Cash Max. Guarantees Initial Guarantees
Tony Romo QB DAL $108,000,000 $57,000,000 $55,000,000 $40,000,000
Aaron Rodgers QB GB $110,000,000 $62,000,000 $54,000,000 $35,000,000
Joe Flacco QB BAL $120,600,000 $62,000,000 $51,000,000 $30,000,000
Matt Ryan QB ATL $103,750,000 $63,000,000 $59,000,000 $30,000,000
Mike Wallace WR MIA $60,000,000 $37,000,000 $30,000,000 $27,000,000
Clay Matthews LB GB $66,000,000 $33,550,000 $20,500,000 $20,500,000
Gosder Cherilus OT IND $35,000,000 $25,000,000 $20,000,000 $20,000,000
Paul Kruger LB CLE $40,500,000 $27,000,000 $20,000,000 $20,000,000
Greg Jennings WR MIN $45,000,000 $27,000,000 $17,800,000 $17,800,000
Sam Baker OT ATL $40,850,000 $22,750,000 $14,250,000 $14,250,000
Jared Cook TE STL $35,100,000 $21,000,000 $16,000,000 $16,000,000
Geno Atkins DT CIN $53,327,000 $28,000,000 $15,000,000 $15,000,000
Percy Harvin WR SEA $64,245,000 $36,000,000 $25,500,000 $14,500,000
Dannell Ellerbe LB MIA $34,750,000 $22,500,000 $14,000,000 $14,000,000
Philip Wheeler LB MIA $26,000,000 $16,000,000 $13,000,000 $13,000,000
Brian Hartline WR MIA $30,775,000 $18,525,000 $12,500,000 $12,500,000
Desmond Bryant DE CLE $34,000,000 $21,000,000 $12,000,000 $12,000,000
Jermon Bushrod OT CHI $35,965,000 $22,765,000 $11,715,000 $11,715,000
Carlos Dunlap DE CIN $39,370,000 $23,300,000 $11,700,000 $11,700,000
Brian Cushing LB HOU $55,643,000 $23,630,500 $21,130,500 $11,000,000
Keenan Lewis CB NO $25,550,000 $15,050,000 $10,500,000 $10,500,000
Danny Amendola WR NE $28,500,000 $16,125,000 $10,000,000 $10,000,000
Elvis Dumervil LB BAL $26,000,000 $17,000,000 $8,500,000 $8,500,000
Andy Levitre G TEN $46,800,000 $26,000,000 $8,400,000 $8,400,000
Connor Barwin LB PHI $36,000,000 $13,500,000 $8,000,000 $8,000,000
Chris Houston CB DET $25,000,000 $15,500,000 $7,500,000 $7,500,000
Glover Quin S DET $23,500,000 $13,750,000 $6,250,000 $6,250,000


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