Yesterday the San Francisco 49’ers signed CB Eric Wright to a one year contract, which was noteworthy because they traded for him a few weeks ago only to nullify the trade based on a failed physical. His contract numbers came in today and I thought that they were a bit interesting.
Wright essentially took the minimum salary for a player with 6 years of service in the NFL, which is $715,000. Normally when one signs for that number their contract qualifies for the Minimum Salary Benefit, which allows you to pay a veteran player the minimum salary but only take on a cap charge of $555,000 in 2013.
Seemingly to avoid Wright’s contract from qualifying for that treatment the 49’ers gave Wright, according to NFLPA records, a salary of $715,001. The one extra dollar disqualifies the contract from being treated as a qualifying contract and thus he will carry a cap charge of $715,001 rather than $555,000.
Other teams have done this in the past. I remember the Jaguars doing it for someone simply because they needed to use cap dollars to comply with the salary cap floor of the old CBA. New England did something similar with WR Anthony Gonzalez last season. Why do such a thing? The answer likely lies in the potential upside of the player. For an older player on a Qualifying contract, like Calvin Pace of the Jets, there is no upside. The player is at the end of his career and is never going to get a big contract again.
Wright is a different case. He is only 28 years old and just one year removed from signing a five year, $37.5 million dollar contract with $15 million in guarantees. He has the talent to be a long term contributor. Once you sign a qualifying contract the CBA does not allow a team to extend or renegotiate the player’s contract, even after the season ends. While there is an exclusive negotiating window between player and team it is only applicable to a one year extension for the MSB.
In essence if Wright signs for the MSB he is going to hit free agency in 2014 and the 49’ers would need to compete with 31 other teams for his services. By taking the extra cap charge for just $1 dollar in additional cash payouts the 49’ers maintain an in-season negotiating window plus a February/early March period where they can extend him at any reasonable price the two sides agree upon.
The $715,001 salary represents the second paycut for Wright this season. Wright was originally scheduled to earn a fully guaranteed $7.75 million with the Buccaneers in 2013, but his suspension in 2012 voided the guarantee. He renegotiated his contract to reduce his salary to $1.5 million with a chance to earn an additional $1.5 million in incentives. That potential $3 million dollar contract was what the 49’ers originally traded for. Unless there are hidden costs to this contract that I am unaware of (and I’ll update you if I hear anything on that) he will now earn a maximum of $715,001 for the season, a far cry from the $7.75 million he was supposed to earn this year.