Here’s one way: The structure of contracts.
Take the two biggest contracts handed out by this team in the first decade of this millenium — Given to Tom Brady and Richard Seymour. Brady’s six-year, $60 million deal, signed in 2005, included a $14.5 million signing bonus and a $12 million option bonus in Year 2. Seymour’s four-year, $30 million deal had options bonus $6.66 million and $12 million due before and after the 2006 season, respectively.
Notice the trend? In the past (presumably for cash-flow reasons), the Patriots tried not to hand out lump-sum bonus money, preferring to spread that cash out.
In 2010, though, that isn’t exactly what players are looking for. For more than a year, agents have put an emphasis on what players are receiving “before the lockout.” And now, since a potential lockout is less than a year away, players aren’t going to be as receptive to allowing their bonus money to be spread out.
So New England has adjusted and, outside of workout bonuses and the like, almost all the bonus money is being paid in Year 1. Vince Wilfork got an $18 million signing bonus. Tully Banta-Cain and Leigh Bodden got respective $6 million signing bonuses. Those deals (the only 2010 deals negotiated by the Patriots that extend into 2012) don’t have roster or option bonuses down the line at all, with the rest of the money tied into base salaries, the aforementioned workout bonuses and incentives.
We knew some things would change in 2010. This is one of the under-the-radar aspects to shift.