Another rule could hinder QB deals


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We’ve been over the 30 percent rule, and why it won’t really stop a new deal for Patriots QB Tom Brady from being struck.

But tucked inside Jets LT D’Brickashaw Feguson’s new contract is a condition that results from a little-talked about nuance in the “Final League Year” restrictions in the collective bargaining agreement. I touched on it in my Sunday Notes this morning.

Here’s the deal: If you’re working on an extension, off an existing contract, future money can be guaranteed against “skill and injury” (basically the language in contracts ensuring the player gets paid, even if he’s cut or is badly hurt) can only total what a team had left over on its 2009 cap. You can guarantee that money against skill OR injury above that, but not both. And that complicates things quite a bit, since the guaranteed money is the important money in any new deal.

If you look at Ferguson’s deal, because of the uncertain future of the league, the Jets wanted to be careful about committing money now that could be penalized seriously later. But they were willing to give Ferguson a bump on his 2010 figure (from $3.1 million to $5.322 million) and guarantee his base salaries from 2011-13 (totaling $22.85 million) if he’s on the roster on Feb. 15 (a virtual certainty … he’s a 26-year-old Pro Bowl left tackle). There’s also an option bonus, due at the start of the next league year or after the lockout. So if he’s on the roster beyond this year, he’s guaranteed $34.8 million.

Except that … All the money, outside of his 2010, is not guaranteed against injury. Because of the aforementioned nuance in the uncapped-year rules, and because the Jets finished 2010 with less than $1 million left in cap space, Ferguson had to pick between guaranteeing it against skill or injury. He chose skill, and is in the process of taking out an insurance policy to cover himself in the event of injury.

It’s a little complicated, of course. But the bottom line here, from the standpoint of a quarterback like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, and the teams that employ them, is this: You cannot fully guarantee any money past 2010 above what you had left on your 2009 cap and neither the Colts nor the Patriots had much left in that regard.


The easy way out of this, of course, is to write one, big, fat check. Or write a big check now and load up the player’s 2010 base salary, which is covered by the CBA

A huge signing bonus is, of course, guaranteed, because it’s in hand. But in this environment, teams just aren’t as willing to hand over that kind of hard cash, particularly with the prospect of a 2011 lockout coming and future penalties against a salary cap (if it returns) possible. The Jets tried to get around this in Ferguson’s deal by, in essence, giving the tackle a roster bonus right after he was paid the signing bonus, since roster bonuses haven’t been prorated over the life of deals in the past. Still, the league could decide to penalize those, too.

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Brady and Manning could well take out insurance policies like Ferguson did to cover against injury, and the teams could guarantee future salaries against skill, but there’s no telling whether they’d be willing to do that.

And … see? It’s complicated.

I talked to Colts president Bill Polian the other day, and from what he told me, it seems as if the toughest things about these deals and how they relate to the future is the enormity of them, and that’s why he and Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, have been talking since the spring about a new deal. There’s simply a lot to cut through here.

This rule would be one more thing.

One thing that’s important to note here — This only applies to guys with existing deals, and is another reason you’ve seen so few extensions. So for a guy like Logan Mankins, who may be a restricted free agent, but is not under contract, this rule won’t be a problem.

UPDATE (11:34 p.m.): Made a switch in the above language to indicate that you can guarantee money up to what you had left on your 2009 cap. Was in my Sunday Notes, but neglected to mention that here. So it reads correctly now.