While we don’t yet have the particulars of the four year, $40 million contract extension signed by Earl Thomas I thought it was worth discussing the potential impact we are seeing on the Safety market.
At an annual value of $10 million a season, Thomas becomes the third highest paid defensive back in the NFL, behind only Darrelle Revis ($16 million, but in reality a $12 million contract) and Brandon Carr ($10.02 million). I think in light of that, the extension for Thomas is really beginning to drive home the fact that the Safety is slowing becoming as valuable to the NFL franchise as the Cornerback, something that never really existed in the past as there was a clear distinction between the two positions in terms of salary.
Thomas and fellow Safety Jairus Byrd, who signed a contract worth $9 million a season this offseason with the Saints, represent two of the largest contracts for DB’s awarded this offseason. The top six would be Revis, Thomas, Sam Shields ($9.75 million), Aqib Talib ($9.5 million), Byrd and Vontae Davis ($9 million).
What is even more interesting is the guaranteed structures of the contracts, basically a nod to the fact that teams are considering the Safety a less risky investment than the Cornerback. While we don’t know the true guarantee of Thomas’ contract (it was reported at over $27 million, but that likely includes injury only guarantees), it should be at the top of the position. The current top true guarantees for veteran safeties are held by Eric Weddle ($19 million), DaShon Goldson ($18 million), and Byrd (18.3 million).
The only veteran corners with a larger guarantee are Brandon Carr of the Cowboys with over $25 million in full guarantees and Jonathan Joseph of the Texans with over $23 million. The most recent high water marks for guarantees at the position are Brent Grimes ($16 million), Davis ($15 million), and Shields ($12.5 million). I think we could be entering a period where a standout Safety may be considered more valuable relative to his position than a standout corner. That can all change when Richard Sherman signs a contract extension, but for now the Safety is jumping up in NFL value.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.