Running back Raheem Mostert of the 49ers has been attempting to renegotiate his contract with the 49ers and apparently it has not gone well. Mostert’s agent Brett Tessler just posted this to Twitter today:
After months of unproductive talks with the 49ers about fairly adjusting Raheem Mostert’s contract (which paid him for special teams) we have requested a trade. Disappointing that it would come to this for a guy who led all NFL RBs in YPC & helped lead them to the Super Bowl.— Brett Tessler (@TesslerSports) July 8, 2020
Mostert’s career has been a great story about determination and hard work paying off as he has bounced around the NFL for a few years before finding a home in San Francisco. Last year was Mostert’s best season as a pro rushing for a career high 772 yards in the regular season and having a true playoff moment with a 220 yard effort in the NFC title game.
I would not have expected the 49ers to entertain a new contract for Mostert despite this so this is not really a surprise. Mostert was a restricted free agent in 2019 and had been tendered at the $2.025 million level. Mostert had finished the last two seasons on IR and was primarily a special teams player. The 49ers made him an offer that guaranteed him $2.4 million in 2019 (with an upside of $2.65M) and gave him an additional $600,000 in injury protection on his 2020 salary.
In return rather than hitting free agency in 2020 he would effectively sign a two year contract extension with the team. The three year contract is worth $2.9 million a season and if we valued it as a two year extension the annual value would be $3.3 million per year, which is the amount exclusive the RFA tender for the added two years.
Mostert’s contract was likely based somewhat off Damien Williams $2.55 million a year contract with the Chiefs, which was for a player who was a special teams player that participated a bit on offense. Still I would argue, and I am sure the 49ers did, that those numbers are not just representative of just a special teams player. Recently Latavius Murray signed for $3.6 million a year, Jalen Richard for $3.5 million a year, and Carlos Hyde for $2.75M and this deal was higher than the Williams contract.
Another issue for Mostert here is that he and the 49ers agreed to up to $1 million a season in incentives that would compensate him if he developed into more of a full time offensive player. So from their perspective his contract already accounted for the possibility of more playing time and performance levels that would pay him around the base value of teammate Tevin Coleman.
Per a league source with knowledge of the contract the incentives in the contract are highly unusual in that they exist in two but not three years. My assumption is that this is because the rules at the time of the negotiation would have seen incentives count on the 2020 salary cap immediately if earned which would have been hard for teams. That would explain why Mostert has a 2021 escalator tied to 2020 performance as that would avoid the cap treatment. This escalator, however, was not guaranteed if earned.
If my theory is correct the 49ers should be willing to move that escalator back into the 2020 incentive column since the salary cap issue with the prior CBA no longer exists. That would be a fair compromise on their part. Maybe even adding a few dollars two it to account for even more yards would be fine. Still the fact that these incentives exist makes it much more difficult to argue that the team in this case is taking advantage of a situation.
Im not sure how much more Mostert would receive had he been a free agent. Running backs have very difficult times in free agency and how much higher would they go than where he is at now? Maybe a few hundred thousand but that is not a given and how many teams would extend after a trade? Former teammate Matt Breida (623 yards last year) was traded and did not receive any extension and is playing the year for $3.259 million on a tender.
Maybe the Breida trade gives Mostert a little leverage since the 49ers are down a proven running back from last year, but given the way this contract was structured and the fact that the 49ers are one of the better front offices in the NFL I’m not sure I really see them giving in here outside of some incentive tweaks and making a trade demand public could give the 49ers some incentive to even resist that.