Over the weekend there was pretty big buzz coming out of Philadelphia when the Eagles signed their right tackle Lane Johnson to a huge $11.25 million per year contract extension with over $35 million in guarantees. My initial thought was the same as everyone else’s: “what in the world are they thinking”. Johnson was drafted 4th overall back in 2013 and has been a bit of a disappointment. He’s not a left tackle and these are the numbers for an elite left tackle. While I still don’t have all the numbers on the contract I have enough information now to I think put the contract in a context that we can all understand better and see why the Eagles signed the contract when they did and for this huge figure.
According to Paul Domowitch, Eagles tackle Lane Johnson has been suspended for four games under the Leagues PED policy. Johnson, a top draft pick just a year ago, will now face mandatory salary forfeitures that will require repayment of signing bonus money.
Per the CBA rules Johnson will be required to pay back 4/17ths of his signing bonus proration for the season. In addition he will forfeit a portion of a roster bonus that he will be paid in August and will lose 4/17ths of his $495,000 base salary. All told that should add up to a loss of $934,226 for Johnson. He had been scheduled to earn $1,307,404, so he will now play the season out for just $373,388. It is also likely that his guarantees will void with the suspension as it is common for teams to have clauses that coid future guarantees following suspension. Johnson’s contract is fully guaranteed.
Things could have been worse for Johnson and his case should provide an example for why teams could, in the future, fight over roster bonus payments in lieu of Paragraph 5 salary. For top rookie picks the roster bonus has become a yearly mechanism that all contracts use. it is my understanding that for the purposes of salary forfeiture a roster bonus will be prorated over the remaining term of the contract (in this case three seasons) making Johnson only responsible to pay back 7.8% of his roster bonus rather than 23.5% had his salary been all Paragraph 5 base salary.
In a battle over offsets, many of which would never come into play, the Eagles may have cost themselves $127,435 due to that roster bonus decision. With a long term suspension having been to Justin Blackmon of the Jaguars and now a four game suspension to Johnson the forfeiture aspect is something that teams should consider when they strategically structure the contracts. Thus far it looks to be more of a factor than the offset clauses teams are fighting so hard over.