Pro Football Talk reported yesterday about the possibility of a Justin Pugh holdout over what is likely to be around $750,000 in year 4 guarantees. Though I doubt there is any real reason to lead to a holdout it’s probably a legit point of contention between the two sides.
Typically the way many of the picks around where Pugh was selected have their contracts structured are to have a 4th year non-guaranteed roster bonus worth about 50% of their fully guaranteed base salary. The roster bonus is often due the 3rd day of the League Year forcing the team into cutting a player in the early stages of free agency.
The Giants had selected 19th in the draft in 2011, a pick used on Prince Amukamara, and they used that structure with Amukamara. However, the Buccaneers that season fully guaranteed all four years of salary for the 20th pick in the draft, Adrian Clayborn. The Chargers picking at 18 got a similar deal to the one the Giants got with Amukamara.
Last season most teams followed the roster bonus model. The 16th pick, Quinton Coples of the Jets, was the last player to receive a fully guaranteed contract (his contract contained a partially guaranteed small workout bonus in the final contract year). All the other players selected from 17 thru 20 had the non-guaranteed roster bonus as part of the contract.
The difference is that this year the agents have won in the battle to get full guaranteed for the late teen selections. My guess is most teams are realizing that haggling over $750,000 is not worth the trouble. In the grand scheme of things a $750,000 roster bonus is next to nothing and could be considered virtually guaranteed. Remember that no draft compensation is awarded for a player who is cut and signs with another team, so at worst it’s a $750,000 gamble that this first round talent nets you a 6th or 7th round pick in the draft when his deal runs out.
Jarvis Jones, selected 17th, received a fully guaranteed contract as did Eric Reid of the 49’ers. Reid’s contract contains no offset language, which is surprising, though the 49’ers did go away from the norm last year as well with AJ Jenkins in regards to a 4th year roster bonus. Kyle Long at 20 did accept the roster bonus structure.
So Pugh does fit in at that one spot where the Giants have precedence on their side, but Pugh can argue based on the Jones and Reid deals that the new full guarantee should run through the top 19 picks. Will the Giants concede the point? Maybe and I would guess it boils down to how much they want him in cap right at the start. Eventually someone will concede the point and keep trying to push the envelope with guarantees, which eventually will lead to all first rounders having their contracts fully guaranteed within the next few years. Regardless, I would not be concerned about a true holdout. There is very little for either side to gain by that occurring.
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.