According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Patriots and linebacker Jerod Mayo have worked out a contract that will reduce Mayo’s salary from $7 million to $4.5 million for the season, all of which is guaranteed. The contract will contain a non-guaranteed option, apparently worth $4 million, for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
The move should coe as no surprise. Mayo has been relatively invisible since 2012, struggling with injuries and seeing action in just 12 games over the last two seasons. He had a large amount of guarantees in his contract and was currently protected from release by a $4.5 million injury guarantee that would have kicked in if he did not pass a physical upon termination. That $4.5 million is the figure used as his new base salary, bascially a way to keep the player on the team for the same price that they would have owed had they released him.
Mayo had been set to count for just under $10.3 million against the cap this year and the cost to release, factoring in the injury guarantee, would have been $10.5 million, making that difficult for New England. While no details are known about the structure, they should be able to lower that to just under $6 million if they maximize his signing bonus but do not include voidable contract years. His cap charge could also be impacted by the option decision at the end of the year, if there is a bonus attached to it and not a contractual guarantee. The Patriots have typically opted for the latter, though Rob Gronkowski’s has the bonus payment.
Eventually these types of option contracts are either going to come under more scrutiny by the NFL or will become a common practice around the league. In general these are contracts designed to manipulate the rules of the compensatory draft system while still exhibiting some control over the player’s future. The Patriots had three such contracts last season and did not pick the option up and any of the three players. The Cowboys are currently the other team in the NFL that seems to be moving in this direction with some of their players as well.