The Bills had recently extended C Eric Wood to a 4 year contract worth a reported $24.5 million. We were able to nail down some of the specifics of the contract extension. Per a league source, Wood’s contract contains $14.5 million in guarantees, comprised of a signing bonus of $9 million and his first two years base salaries. Woods will receive workout bonuses of $150,000 in each extension year and will receive a $250,000 roster bonus if he is on the roster in the final year of his contract. The Bills used up an additional $1.7 million of their salary cap space in 2013 on the extension.
The closest comparison to Wood would be the Seahawks’ Max Unger. Unger was a second round pick who, like Wood, began he career at Guard before moving to Center for his team. Unger would be injured in 2010 but reclaimed the starting job in 2011 and started 15 games for the Seahawks. Seattle paid Unger in part based on expectations when they extended him in the summer of 2012 to a 4 year contract extension worth a base value of $24.935 million.
Wood has a bit more pedigree than Unger since he was a late first round selection in the draft, though it did not seem to translate into more money as is sometimes the case when extending players in the final season of their rookie contracts. That partially could be because He is 27 while Unger was 25 when signing his contract extension. Teams can afford to be more forward looking with some of the financials when players are that young.
In terms of cash flow Wood will earn $12.4 million in year 1, $16.6 million through year 2, $20.875 million through year 3, and finally $25.4 million if he completes the contract. Unger’s contract contained $11.435 million in the first year prior to his earning a $900,000 escalator. Wood also has escalators in his contract based on playing time, which could be difficult to earn considering he has yet to play in more than 14 games in a season. He will need to earn the escalators to keep pace with Unger.
In terms of contractual protection and likelihood of cash flows, Wood’s contract is more player friendly than Unger’s. In 2015 the savings for cutting Wood are only $600,000 due to $5.4 million in potential dead money in his contract. In the same contract season Unger would save the team $2.3 million giving the Seahawks much more incentive to cut Unger if the play declines. That also holds true in the 3rd extension years with cost savings on Wood being just $2.475 million compared to $3.4 million for Unger. The discrepancy is because of the disparity in signing bonus money given to the two players. Wood’s workout bonus also give him early access to cash in the event of a summertime cut. Unger’s contract contains no such bonuses. Both have a final year roster bonus.
Both contracts are a far cry from the major deals given to Nick Mangold and Ryan Kalil. These are contract figures that likely will not be approached again as teams have begun to reassess both the time and financial commitments made to Center position. Both Unger and Wood signed 4 year extensions whereas Mangold and Kalil received 7 and 6 year contracts.
Wood’s deal should set the stage for an extension for Cleveland Center Alex Mack. Mack is also a former 1st round draft selection but has been more durable than both Wood and Unger, starting 16 games in every season for the Browns. He also has a Pro Bowl nod. Mack will be a free agent after this season and should receive a deal that surpasses these contracts. Mack’s durability should be a point of negotiation in which his contract should not require the playtime escalation that the other two contract’s contain. The question will then be if he can push the base value of his contract over $7 million a year and get closer to the Mangold numbers on an annual basis.
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.