The excellent Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post broke down the particulars of Jake Long’s contract with the St. Louis Rams.
Earlier today, we broke down Jake Long’s new four-year deal with the Rams and told you how the Rams are betting that Long is going to be healthy and productive over the next three seasons.
It’s true, the Rams are making that bet. But upon further review, they built plenty of protection into the contract in case Long, who has suffered a multitude of injuries over his five-year career, doesn’t last.
Essentially the Rams built a great deal of protection into the contract via the use of a “health” based guarantee for the oft-injured Long. If Long is healthy for the final game of the 2013 season he will earn another $4 million in fully guaranteed salary. If not healthy he runs the risk of being cut from the team and collecting $12 million for one season of work. The Rams have structured the contract in a way where, if unhealthy, the release of Long in 2014 will create an additional $1.5 million in cap room and $4 million in free cash for the Rams. If there are offsets in the contract they would gain credits for salary earned, up to $4 millon, if he signs with a new team.
His $8 million takehome in 2013 represents his lowest one year cash total since 2008 the year he was drafted. Since then his lowest cash salary was $9.725 million in 2010. Long was ultra productive early in his career, grading out in my own metrics as one of the top 2 or 3 pass blocking LTs in the league until he started to get banged up and fell to around 30th in the NFL in 2011 and 2012. While Long has an injury history he has only missed 6 games over the course of the last two seasons, though both came at the end of the year which may show a lack of durability especially for a playoff team.
That being said it is a pretty stunning reversal of fortunes for a former number 1 pick that exemplifies the fiscal constraints most teams are showing in the NFL and the poor job the union has done in negotiating the current CBA agreement. Not only do teams not have money to spend in terms of cap dollars but now they have low cost rookies draft picks to hang over the head of a player. “Why would I give player X $12 million a year when I can draft in the top 5 and pay less than $5 million for a younger player at the same position?”. Those are the ripple down effects of the rookie slotting system that now exist.
DE Mario Williams, a former number 1 draft pick, has not been near the player Long has been over the duration of his career. Long is a 4 time Pro Bowler and was once named All Pro. Williams was awarded 2 Pro Bowl nods. Long always graded out near the top of the charts in pass blocking. Williams has been around top 10-15 for most of his career in pass rush. Williams had missed 14 games in the two years prior to becoming a free agent. and both years finished the season on injured reserve.
Even with all of those red flags the fact was Williams was a high profile player due to his draft status and lofty sack totals in 2007. The Bills, not understanding the changing landscape of the league (and they were not the only ones), paid Williams an outrageous $96 million dollars over 6 years with $24.9 million in fully guaranteed money and an extra $13.4 million in functionally guaranteed money. Williams, completely ineffective in 2012 with rumors of nagging injuries as an excuse, will earn $40 million dollars in the first two years of his contract. If all goes well for Jake Long he will earn $36.5 million over the next four years. Thats a gigantic disparity.
The market has completely changed for a player like Long. The Bills are stuck on a bad contract that doesnt fit in at all with what the marketplace has become. The Rams got a steal for a player that would have cost millions more had he signed in 2012 giving them a chance to get an elite player to help protect their investment in Sam Bradford. If Long fails no big deal, just a handful of cap dollars lost for a season.