Quick Thoughts on Mychal Kendricks $29 Million Contract

On Monday the news broke that the Eagles extended the contract of inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks to the tune of $29 million over four years. Of course the immediate reaction was where the contract ranked among the hierarchy of linebacker contracts and how it was a pretty big deal for Kendricks, especially given a logjam of players at the position. Reuben Frank of Comcast Sportsnet was the first with the details of the contract which can help us look a little more at the line of thinking the Eagles may have used in extending Kendricks and why its a solid deal for the team.

The base value of the contract is $29 million with the opportunity to earn another $2.5 million based on Pro Bowl selections. Beyond those escalators it is a relatively straight forward contract with yearly workout bonuses of $150,000 and an $8 million signing bonus. Slightly over $11 million is guaranteed upon signing and just over $16 million is guaranteed for injury.

My immediate thought was that the Eagles were modelling the contract after Sean Lee’s 2013 extension worth $7 million per year with the Dallas Cowboys. Because of all the injuries I think people tend to completely forget about Lee, but when he signed that extension the general thought was that he had the potential to be one of the top players at the position and people were in love with his game.

Both are former 2nd round picks and statistically he and Kendricks were relatively similar. In his extension year Lee racked up 68 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 0 sacks in 11 games. Kendricks last year had 62, 0, and 4 in 12 games. Another likely comp was Donald Butler of the Chargers who had 85, 1, and 0.5 in 12 games the year prior to signing a $7.4 million contract in 2014. Kendricks’ deal falls right in between the two, but using annual value to rank contracts always has its drawbacks, especially when the contract length is so different. Here is our year by year breakdown of the contracts:

PlayerYear 0Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4

In this case Kendricks trails Lee by a pretty significant amount over the initial contract years before slowly surpassing him in year 3, the point at which he is going to be expendable anyway if he does not perform. He will earn slightly less than Butler in the first new contract season before moving ahead in year two.

Butler has a unique contract in that there is an expensive option at the end of the third year which kicks in the big money. In essence that is the same as the escalators contained in the other contracts. Kendricks will earn a $250,000 escalator for each Pro Bowl that he makes. That would max his contract out at $31.25 million over four years. Lee can earn $3 million in escalators for 80% playtime, which is an easier threshold than the Pro Bowl nomination. That brings his four year compensation to $31 million. Id argue that the escalator structure holds more value to the team than the contract within a contract structure used by the Chargers with Butler but that may depend on where the market moves in the position.

Either way I think when you look at these contracts the Eagles one is the strongest of the three. Kendricks received the least amout of bonus money up front ($8 million vs $10 million and $11.15 million) and will need to prove his worth that much more than the others to secure the full value of the contract. The incentives are harder to reach and the contract is signed at a later date wth a consistently rising cap in place.

Kendricks also has the benefit of being very young which would make him more attractive to other teams if he reached free agency. Lee was 28 in his first extension year while Kendricks will only be 26 in 2016.  That puts him on a track similar to Butler where the Chargers had to put in the high priced option to try to maintain their control. The one concession from Philly is the high guarantee when you consider the shorter length of the contract. On a per year basis this is one of the best guarantees at the position, but I think that also shows why teams are better off with shorter term contracts. Odds are those backend seasons will never occur and haggling over guarantees to sign a 6 or 7 year contract is a waste for the team. Overall its good value given the production of the comparables.

This will lock Kendricks up for the next few years while the Eagles decide who will grab the other linebacker position. Both Ryans and Alonso have some injury history so its probably important for the team to hold both for the next two years. They had redone Ryans deal to bring his money more in line with his production and Alonso is already on his rookie deal which is low cost. Since Ryans is over 30 there is likely not a long term there so the Eagles could not have squeezed Kendricks after the year because they had a numbers advantage at the position. While there may be an odd man out they should now  be protected for the next two seasons at the position with this three man group.