Contract Futures: Mike Vick
Posted by Sam
It is a hot topic, this question of whether to extend Vick now or after the season. What is especially interesting about it is that there seems to be no urgency on either side to get something done.
I’m going to go down the path of what such an extension might look like and what implications it would have for the rest of the roster below, but first, I want to make an important point:
We Are Still Stuck With The 30% Rule.
This rule, you will recall, is the reason that we haven’t had any extension talks with DeSean Jackson, and why neither he nor his agent, the venerable Drew Rosenhaus, have complained much about it. Essentially, it limits the amount of salary – defined not just as the base salary, but also as things like roster bonuses, likely-to-be-earned incentives and other non-guaranteed payments – that a player can make going forward.
Vick’s defined salary for 2010, as I understand it, is $3.75 million. He also got a $1.5 million roster bonus, but I believe that doesn’t count as “salary” because it was treated as a signing bonus for cap purposes due to one of the other arcane features of the Uncapped Year.
If we extend Vick for four years, that limits the amount of non-guaranteed compensation to a total of $26.25 million. But let’s assume that he wants a 4 year deal worth at least $50 million. I think that is pretty conservative; that would be $12.5 million per year, which is really low. That would mean that we would have to give him signing and/or option bonuses of at least $23.75 million.*
Contrast this with what Tom Brady got. His bonus money (outside of roster bonuses, which as I mentioned earlier is considered salary) was “only” $16 million. His total fully guaranteed money is $28.3 million.
Another benchmark, of course, is Donovan McNabb. His signing bonus was $3.5 million, with a $10 million option bonus in 2011, for a total bonus of $13.5 million.
Contrast those two numbers with the $23.75 million minimum hole we’d have to fill in for Vick. Then remember that for all the good that we have seen from him since he has been in Philadelphia, this guy is a single bad night away from a permanent ban from football.
Also remember that Joe Banner prefers the pay-as-you-go model. He would rather have the cash obligation in any year approximate the cap figure for that player. So he dislikes large signing bonuses. Further, he really dislikes back-loading deals, which makes the option bonus route somewhat unlikely, because it pushes cap hits into the future.
The right way to pay Vick is going to be through roster bonuses and/or rolling guarantees of salary. Both Brady and McNabb signed deals that feature those things as well. For McNabb, it is essentially a series of one-year contracts. For Brady, it is a series of one year contracts with (more or less) one extra year of termination pay. That structure works for Vick, and I can’t imagine any team wouldn’t protect itself by using this structure.
Now, I will concede that there are ways around this limitation, as the 49ers and Jets have shown. But Mike Vick is a bit of a different animal than the rookie deals were. In both cases, large signing bonuses were used, which as we discussed, doesn’t make sense in this situation. They also used escalators that are deemed unlikely to be earned, but in fact are pretty likely to be earned. But I can’t imagine that a guy like Vick will be interested in accepting a “pretty likely” salary level when by waiting a few months to sign he can get the full amount for sure, assuming he is on the roster.
So if there is one thing I’d like you to take away from this post, it is that, much like with DeSean Jackson, this deal is not especially likely to happen this year because of the rules in place. It makes more sense for both sides to wait until after the season to start fresh, and without the current inhibitions that are here. That doesn’t mean a deal won’t get done – a Kolb-style one year extension could always be a solution, for example – but don’t count on it.
Do We Even Have Room For A Big Vick Deal?
This was a question put to me by bsencore. Actually, he had two questions. The first was what the rules for the franchise tag were for 2011. The answer there is that there aren’t any. There is no CBA. Everyone assumes that there will be a franchise tag concept in the next CBA, but the current deal doesn’t cover free agency in 2011. Unless both sides agree to play 2011 with the rules in place for 2010 without striking or locking out, the tag is only hypothetical. So we can’t say how many tags, if any, teams will get and what rules will be in place for them.
That aside, the second question, which was what will happen to our cap space once Vick and Jackson are signed to big deals, is something I have been doing research on the past couple of days.
Let’s assume for a minute that there is a new CBA in place for 2011. Let’s further assume that the cap mechanics for veterans remain roughly the same as under the current deal – not a stretch, since the big cap questions on the table are the level of the cap and rookie deals.
Under those assumptions, by my calculations, the Eagles currently have $79 million of cap space committed to 42 players.
If the cap is set at the 2009 level (which would be a big hit to the players, by the way, since revenues have continued to rise the past couple of years), then there will be a $123 million cap, which means we’d have $44 million of space available.
However, we also have 17 potential free agents, and all of them may well be unrestricted, assuming the threshold for that returns to four years. Just looking at starters or key contributors, Vick, Max Jean-Gilles, Nick Cole, Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Dimitri Patterson, Quintin Mikell, David Akers and Sav Rocca will all be up for new deals.
I did some really rough guesswork on what it would take to resign those guys, plus a couple of other backups I thought we’d want to retain (Akeem Jordan and Jerome Harrison) under the theory that even if we didn’t want to retain those particular guys (e.g., Sims), we very well might want to spend the same amount of money on their replacement. I came up with a cap figure to do that of about $39 million, which includes a $16 million figure for Vick. Tack on some more money for signing draft picks, and we have eaten away at much of our cap space pretty quickly.
Part of that is a byproduct of having lowered the cap to a constraining level. My guess is that if we set the cap based on the current CBA’s formula, we’d be looking at something in the neighborhood of $135 million for 2011. Player salaries leaguewide would have to compress if the cap became more binding.
But then the question of extensions begins to crop up. Next year, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Trent Cole are certainly going to start to want a big extension. Key players like Antonio Dixon and Mike McGlynn will be entering the final year of their contracts.
That leads back to the question of what we should do in 2010. The short answer has to be that, for the lesser guys who we’d want to extend and who aren’t really limited by the 30% Rule, we should get those deals inked and move as much of their cap hits as we can into the Uncapped Year. Candidates are probably Sims, Jordan, Nick Cole, Akers and Rocca. The big Aussie is a good example, because it isn’t that he will cost much to extend, but why not take his future cap hit down by $100K per year if you can? That will help a little bit.
But if owners are successful in lowering the level of the cap, we will re-enter the era of having to be very choosy about which veterans we keep and which ones we let walk. The cap will be constraining for our roster management – and roster management league-wide – in a way it hasn’t been since 2005.
How Can You Not Talk About The McNabb Deal?
Ok, since you asked. The numbers that actually came out are reasonable for both sides, in my opinion – it isn’t nearly as absurd as the initial reports made it out to be. McNabb is roughly on a $13 million per year series of one year deals. That’s reasonable for a veteran starting quarterback. The team and the player both should be happy about that. Andrew Brandt discussed this yesterday and today, and it is worth a read.
The Redskins in general are very good cap managers. “Wait, what did you say?” That’s right, I think they are quite good at the cap. I think the people who have picked the players and who have chosen to invest in veterans to build their team are crazy. And they can’t seem to get the head coach right. But the guys who structure the deals have done a pretty good job.
We always talk about the Redskins signing big deals. But they never enter “cap hell” despite seemingly having to eventually cut every big name player they sign, and still they never are really constrained from going after the next guy that they want. And now that Bruce Allen is there, they seem to have picked up their cap game even more. The adjustments to the Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall deals were genius, burying huge cap hits in an Uncapped Year and allowing a team with bottomless cash pockets to use that spending advantage in the future. And the McNabb deal is also one where the team is able to walk away clean if it doesn’t get what it pays for.
* Even if the $1.5 million roster bonus were treated as salary for these purposes, which it shouldn't be, the max salary is $36.75 million, leaving a $13.25 million bonus obligation.