Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald Hammer Out New Contract

One of the big salary cap stories of the last two seasons has been the contract showdown that would happen between the Arizona Cardinals and future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald was set to count for $23.6 million against this year’s salary cap leading to the two sides to come to an agreement on a new deal. According to Pro Football Talk the two sides renegotiated the terms of the 2015 and 2016 seasons, guaranteeing Fitzgerald $22 million in the process and reducing his cap number by about $13 million.

If the $22 million in full guarantees is true it is a pretty staggering number for Fitzgerald. The only other active wide receivers to have gotten a true guarantee of that much money are Calvin Johnson, Mike Wallace, and Vincent Jackson. Fitzgerald’s prior contract also had a guarantee that large, none of whom were Fitzgerald’s age at the time if signing.

Fitzgerald was set to earn $16.25 million this year and $15.25 million in 2016, none of which was guaranteed. So it sounds as if he will take a $9.5 million pay cut in return for $22 million guranteed over the next two seasons. That’s a pretty good take for Fitzgerald, whose career contract negotiations have probably been the closest thing to perfect from the player’s perspective as is possible in the NFL.

While there are no details of the actual restructure the Cardinals had characterized the contract as a two year deal. Fitzgerald had four total years remaining on his contract and my guess would be those are now void years.  Assuming they did not add a fifth season the contract could look something like this:


The above chart assumes an $8 million signing bonus and a voidable 2017 that woud leave Arizona with $8.7M dead against the salary cap. As soon as we see the details reported somewhere or find out ourselves we will post the correct  numbers and update Fitzgeralds charts accordingly.

Thoughts on the Tom Brady Restructure with Patriots


According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Mike Reiss Tom Brady resturctured his contract with the Patriots to convert his guarantees from skill, injury, and cap to injury only in exchange for an extra $1 million per year. This is not really a salary cap maneuver but simply a move made to improve the cash situation of the Patriots next year.

Teams that have a skill guarantee with a player prior to the season will be required to set aside that money such that it is guaranteed to be covered in the event the player is terminated from his contract. For the Patriots that meant in March they would have to deposit $24 million, Brady’s full guarantee, in an account that they could not touch. Once converted to injury only the Patriots are not required to deposit the money unless Brady was so injured that the injury guarantee could kick in. This is one of the reasons some teams will use vesting guarantees in a contract when the guarantees seem as if they are fully guaranteed upon signing.

Brady’s actual salary this year was set to be $7 million and it will now increase to $8 million, so the real cash flow gain for the season by the Patriots is going to be $16 million rather than the $24 million being reported. Based on the reports this move will reduce New Englands available cap space next year by $1 million. For Brady this is a no risk restructure as he would likely earn at least what he gave up if he was released and put on the open market.

Brady’s relationship with the Patriots is one of the most interesting dynamics in all of sports. His willingness to do these things almost creates an unfair advantage as no other high end QB has ever played ball to this level with a team.  Brady’s initial $24 million extension was signed at a time when he would have likely commanded between $55 and $60 million over the same timeframe on a regular contract extension.

Brady’s $8 million salary in 2015 ranks 17th in the NFL, a ranking that will fall further once quarterbacks are extended and other drafted in the top 5. His cap charge of $14 million also ranks 17th. Meanwhile his closest contemporaries of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tony Romo will carry cap charges of $21.5, $26.4, and $27.7 million and actual salaries of $19, $19 and $17 million. There is likely no other player in the NFL that would work with a team in this manner and the Patriots should be thankful for having a player like Brady.


Cardinals Sign QB Carson Palmer to 3 Year Extension


Arizona has locked up their starting QB Carson Palmer for another three years according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen

While Mort didn’t give any contract details outside a range of annual values, it sounds as if Palmer will make $20.5 million in new money between now and 2015 and max out at $16.6 million a year.

Palmer is one of the more interesting quarterback. Palmer retired a few years ago when he wanted out from the Bengals who were making it known they felt they could go as far as they could with the former number 1 overall pick.  Palmer ended up being traded to Oakland where he was eventually asked to take a paycut from what was an already relatively modest salary. He refused and Oakland decided to trade Palmer to Arizona and instead go with Matt Flynn and later Matt Schaub as veteran replacements, two pretty bad decisions. Palmer has had two efficient years with the Cardinals and it was a given that they would need him to QB what is win-now contending type team for the forseeable future. Palmer had never been able to get over the playoff hump and may have the best chance of his career in 2014 to do so.

Palmer was likely able to leverage the teams strong record and the lack of good quarterbacks around the NFL into this contract. Palmer is certainly on the older end of the age scale and never had those Peyton or Brady-esque seasons that would limit those age concerns. Palmer did miss a few games earlier this season.

If the $20.5 million is his true new money number that would place him about $3 million less than Alex Smith in his most recent contract extension. The 3 year value should be just below what Smith makes over the comparable time period. This extension should push him beyond the three year value held by Andy Dalton who replaced him as Bengals starter in 2011.

Given the Cardinals current salary cap space I’d say a reasonable signing bonus for Palmer would be $10 million.  At that figure they can walk away from him in 2016 in the event the window closes and they want to get younger on offense. I would not be surprised if most of the guarantee was protected for injury only in the event the wheels fell off this year or Palmer was injured again and missed significant time.

The price sounds like a pretty reasonable one for Palmer who is a known commodity. Had Palmer been three years younger he would likely earn in the $19 million a year range as he is a superior player to Jay Cutler.  As long as he can maintain his levels of play he is a bargain compared to others in the same salary range.

I would think the next move for Arizona is to work with Larry Fitzgerald on a reasonable new contract. Fitzgerald has a monster cap hit and salary next season which is not really in line with his production. My estimates for Arizona, which already included a $10 million salary for Palmer, in 2015 had them with one of the five tightest cap situations in the NFL. Fitzgerald is really the key for them getting the books in order to improve further in 2015.



Rams Restructure Contract of Jared Cook for Cap Relief


I had speculated the other day that the Rams needed to restructure a contract in order to execute the trade for safety Mark Barron and as it turns out the Rams did just that. According to Brian McIntyre, the Rams tweaked the contract of tight end Jared Cook this time around to comply with salary cap restrictions.

In the restructure it seems that the Rams reduced Cook’s P5 from $3 million to the minimum of $730,000 and converted the balance to a signing bonus. The Rams gained $901,323 in cap space with the restructure. Cooks salary cap charge will now rise by $300,441 over the next three seasons. I believe Cook had incentives in his contract which I am assuming were removed as those would have counted against the cap following the restructure.

The Rams, probably more than any other team in the NFL, ride the cap as close as possible to their salary cap limit. This leads to the need for potential in-season restructures if a big move comes along, like the trade, or if injuries force them to sign additional players. The Rams have been decimated by injuries the last two seasons so they have had a handful of restructured deals leading into and during the season.

It’s a bit of a different approach than most teams in the NFL. Usually teams that ride this close to the salary cap do so because they have very little choice based on how they have managed their roster and the costs associated with cutting certain players. The Rams operate this way by choice, maintaining flexibility in future years to pick and choose the contracts to restructure, in part based on current performance rather than trying to project that performance at an earlier date.


Jets Extend WR Jeremy Kerley for 4 Years, $16 Million


According to multiple outlets the Jets and wide receiver Jeremy Kerley have agreed to a four year contract extension worth $16 million with $5.4 million of the contract guaranteed.

The reported numbers put Kerley right below recent contracts signed by Julian Edelman ($4.25M per year) and Doug Baldwin ($4.33M). The total dollar figure and guarantee seem to indicate a contract very similar to the one signed by Andre Roberts with the Washington Redskins at $16 million with a $5.25 million guarantee.

I would assume Kerley’s $5.4 million guarantee is a true guarantee and not a combination of full and injury only guarantees based on the other contracts. Kerley’s salary this season was $1.431 million following his earning of the Proven Performance Escalator, and if I had to venture a guess would imagine is now guaranteed. That would leave a signing bonus in the region of $4-$4.6 million depending on how much, if any is guaranteed, in 2015.  Regardless the cap hits on the contract should be very reasonable for the Jets.

Kerley is one of the few bright spots in recent years on the Jets. He developed nicely since being drafted in 2011 into the best receiver on the team and I believe would have put up very strong numbers on a better offense. Following the trade  for Percy Harvin I had assumed that it would have meant the end for Kerley in Jet green, but the front office must believe the two can complement each other in the office.



Chris Long Restructures Contract with Rams


I have said for some time that star defensive end Chris Long is the “go to guy” for the Rams front office when it comes to salary cap relief and the two sides once again came to an agreement to help the Rams become cap compliant for the 2014 League Year.

Long converted $3 million of his guaranteed base salary into a signing bonus that will be prorated over the remainig three years of the contract. This creates an additional $2 million in cap room for St. Louis in 2014.

As part of the restructure the Rams agreed to move $1 million of Long’s 2015 base salary into a roster bonus that will be paid on the 3rd day of the League Year. Long is one of the top defensive ends in the NFL so it is hard to imagine him being released, but this slight tweak is a way to ensure a quick decision on his future. Long now has $3 million in March roster bonuses coming his way next offseason while also improving the timing of his cash next year.

The Rams salary cap situation is still tight so I would not be surprised if they have to go back to Long for more cap relief during the season either to help extend Robert Quinn or to deal with another injury that eats away their cap space.

View Chris Long’s Salary Cap and Contract Page



Austin Pettis Reworks Contract with Rams


I know I had read some things recently about the St. Louis Rams potentially parting ways with 2011 3rd round draft pick Austin Pettis, but it would now seem as if his roster spot is safe moving forward.

Per a source, Pettis agreed to a $481,000 pay cut, reducing his base salary from $1.431 million to $700,000 and also receiving a $250,000 signing bonus. This is a common type of contract negotiation that occurs in the late summer where a borderline player is essentially offered a guarantee in return for taking a pay cut. Pettis will still be a free agent after the season.

The Rams have likely reworked at least one other contract in order to comply with the salary cap. As soon as we know which that is we will get it out there and update their cap tables accordingly.

View Austin Pettis Salary Cap and Contract Page