Over the weekend news broke in Indianapolis with an extension between the team and interior defender Grover Stewart. Initial reports were courtesy of Jim Ayello of the Indy Star.
Stewart is playing the 2020 season on the Proven Performance Escalator in the final year of his rookie contract after being drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft by Indianapolis. The 2017 NFL Draft was the first for newly installed General Manager Chris Ballard.
The base contract value of $10.25 million per year slots Stewart inline with defensive lineman of his performance and work. Stewart does not stay on the field for all three downs; coming off the field for certain passing situations. The extension will add to an already expensive defensive line that employs DeForest Buckner
The extension slots Stewart in below last year’s interior defensive linemen free agent group headlined by DJ Reader and Javon Hargrove, both who topped $13 million APY. Stewart’s contract will place him among Eddie Goldman ($10.5 million), Jordan Phillips, and Malik Jackson (both at $10.0 million) APY.
Stewart was facing a 2021 free agency marred by a down salary cap year plus teams fighting ways to cut back cash spending. In a normal free agency period, Stewart would have commanded money upwards of $12.5 million APY on an open free market.
Indianapolis varies in their contract structure throughout the season. Sometimes they deploy a cash model structure with no signing bonus and guaranteed salary plus roster bonuses.
With Stewart’s contract, the team went with a hybrid structure. Small signing bonus of $5 million (which a large portion is deferred to 2021 installments) as the primary guarantee at signing. Stewart has a rolling 5th day league year vesting schedule for 2021 and 2022.
What this means is Stewart’s full guarantee protections will not vest until the 5th day of the 2021 league year, and the same for 2022 league year. The salaries are guaranteed for injury at signing.
Stewart’s contract is very team friendly. Surprised the agent was not able to secure any kind of full guarantee on the 2021 money. At a minimum the 2021 roster bonus should have been guaranteed at signing. If things went sideways quickly (barring an injury) Indianapolis can get out of this contract before March 21, 2021 with very little dead money.