Contract Showdown: The $14 Million Players

With Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas joining the $14 million club today, I thought it would be interesting to see how their money breaks down compared to some other players. I think that helps us draw some perspective on the negotiating process and the way various contracts can be used to help constuct a deal acceptable to both sides. So let’s see how things break down for the players/

The Wide Receiver Comparison

The most logical comparison here was Calvin Johnson’s $16.2 million contract which most hold as too high to be considered in the deal making process. While this is true to some extent there are still ways to use the contract to some extent and this is what likely happened with these deals.


The thing that jumps out the most to me is the three year contract values for the players. While Johnson leads the group at $45.75 it is barely above Bryant’s $45 million three year salary. Despite the disparity in APY the team was willing to meet the cash flows up front in concession for slightly better terms in year 4 and 5. Thomas will get the strongest two year payout which helps make up for the (slightly) poorer year by year cash flow on the deal. In general I think it is fair to say that while the Johnson deal in its entirety was thrown out, portion of the deal had merit in the eyes of both sides.

The Defensive Player Comparison

One of the takeaways I had watching the deals come down in the last few days is that the defensive players are having an easier time convincing teams that they are the most important non-QB’s in the NFL. I think that holds true to some extent here as well. Revis’ deal clearly pulls away from the pack with his huge up front payments while Peterson pretty much surpasses our receivers as well. The others are all relatively close.


Still as we look at these numbers we see a reasonable pattern in our two and three year payouts that is in line with that Calvin Johnson mega deal.  These contracts likely added credibility to the Johnson numbers and, in the case of the corners, may have been a justification for a contract for a player who lines up across from them.

Dez vs Demaryius

Both players received very fair contracts that I think play well for all people involved. Bryce will likely weigh in with his ECV comparison, but at quick glance I think Bryant got the stronger of the two contracts. The structure dictates that to me. Bryant received a $20 million signing bonus which makes it more difficult to move on or renegotiate in the later years. While not as much as the Johnson deal, this bonus was far superior to all the others which were mainly in the $11 million range, which is what Thomas received. Bryant will basically trend $1.5 million above Thomas through the first four years which is favorable.

With Bryant earning $45 million in guarantees by next March he also has the stronger guarantee package, though neither would be released anyway in that first three year period unless they did something off the field to warrant removal from the team.  According to Joel Corry there are no offsets in Thomas’ contract, but the odds of the offset coming into play is about 0.01% making it something nice to talk about but functionally is worth little.

  • McGeorge

    Jason, Am I understanding this correctly – As a player I want to be paid XXX up front as a signing bonus, and not earn it as a salary, because in a few years, if the team wants to cut me, they would have to accelerate the cap hit. So they may instead extend me, or at least keep me an additional year. OR at least the team has some incentive to work with me and give me a small pay cut, so they don’t have to accelerate the cap hit.

    So a signing bonus protects the player while a big upfront payment leaves the player vulnerable down the road.
    The only disadvantage of the signing bonus is can the team claw back some of it under certain circumstances (suspensions, retirement, prison)?

    • The signing bonus usually adds a layer of protection because of the dead costs associated with releasing the player. I think there is also a mental aspect to it as well because we tend to have our judgement clouded more by that than an equivalent year of salary. Look at Suh in Detroit last year. The Lions could not do a thing because of all that excessive bonus money they paid him.

      The downside is, as you said- subject to forfeiture. My opinion is that is one of the reasons why Bryants signing bonus was this large since Dallas would then have an option to recover if there was a problem. Teams usually are not concerned about that first year salary being lost but its that year 2, 3, and 4 years when I think they fear the most people getting in trouble. In terms of actually receiving the money there can be some benefits to salary over bonus, depending on the payout schedule of the bonus, but in general all oney is received in one year.

  • Roscoe418

    I’m a little confused on the breakdown of the Demaryius Thomas contract. Before you had posted the breakdown yesterday, I was calculating it in my head. I understand the first three years of the deal, where the 43.5 million guaranteed comes into play. Since the $11 million signing bonus was prorated over the life of the contract, I also understand the $2.2 cap charge for that per year. I get hazy when it comes to 2018 and 2019, though. In the (hopefully unlikely) event that they want to cut Thomas after 2017, shouldn’t they only have $4.4 million in dead money (the remainder of the pro-rated bonus)? According to your chart, you have it as $8.4 million, which would include the $4 million option along with the rest of the bonus. But if they cut him before 2018, why would that be considered dead money? As I understand it, the Broncos cap charges for the first three years would have been $39.1 million and the only guaranteed money still to hit the cap through that year would have been the $4.4 remaining. Am I missing something? You’re clearly more of the cap expert than I am but I’m trying to understand how it would work in this case.

    • You are right but its a quirk of the system I have. Options are pretty rare, especially those late year ones so it just treats them as a signing bonus when it calculates. But yes the option total wont be included in dead money if hes released before its due,

      • Roscoe418

        Cool, thank you! That makes a lot of sense, and you’re right, I don’t remember often seeing an option that kicks in mid-contract. I often use your site as a quick reference when I get into salary arguments with people, so I usually have an idea of what I’m looking it. This one threw me. Like I said, as a Bronco fan, I hope it doesn’t come to that, but who knows what’ll happen in three years.

  • MattR

    Looking at the DT deal, it seems like his option bonus has to be excercised between the Feb 2018 Super Bowl and the start of the 2018 League Year in March. That means that the proration for the option bonus would be split among 2017, 2018 and 2019. Does this mean that if Denver does not have 1.333 million in free cap room at the end of 2017 that they can’t excercise the option? (By the time the bonus is due, the 2017 season will be complete so the team wont have the ability to renegotiate another player’s contract to free up some 2017 cap room at that time)