Patriots, McCourty have been talking

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Earlier this morning, I put up a post on the pace of rookie signings and how things could change over the next 10 days, leading right up into training camp.

Devin McCourty’s status was the biggest question mark. It remains that way.

The Patriots and McCourty’s people at PlayersRep, led by Andy Simms, have engaged in dialogue on a contract on a daily basis for more than two weeks now. And so some ground has been covered and it’s the hope of both sides to have the 27th overall pick in camp on July 29 as the team starts its full-squad work.

But the sticking point in these talks is the same as it is in plenty of first-round negotiations across the league: The option bonus. We’ve discussed this before, over and over. But to illustrate how important it is, how about we use an important example?

Last year, the Colts selected UConn RB Donald Brown 27th overall, in the spot where McCourty was taken this year. In 2009, Brown got a $1 million signing bonus, a $660,000 roster bonus and $310,000 in base salary. At the start of the 2010 league year, he collected a $3.26 million option bonus. So within the first 12 months of that deal, his took home $5.23 million, and 62.3 percent of it was tied up in that option bonus, which was to be paid on the first of the “2010 League Year.”

He wasn’t the only one with a big option-bonus number. Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, taken one pick in front of him, got a $3.72 million option bonus this offseason. Vontae Davis, taken one pick before that, collected a $4.04 million option bonus earlier this year.

So obviously, considering that percentage, it’s important for players to have that money protected, money that serves as a way of getting around the rookie salary pool allotted to each team. That rookie salary pool, of course, keeps teams from pushing the money into Year 1 of the deal and now, in 2010 and going into ’11, the potential for a lockout makes the language of the contract and protection of that bonus money vital.


As we mentioned earlier (PFT addressed the subject as well), the language in D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s contract could create something of a blueprint for a deal.

He’s got an option bonus that is to be paid, “not earlier than the first day of the League Year immediately
following the 2010 League Year, and not later than the day after the
1st regular season game the Club has played in the same League Year.”

We’ll see whether that works for rookies or not.

What’s probably more important here is when the rookies start signing. Because usually, one leads to another leads to another … And so on.

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If Sam Bradford signs? Well, that likely won’t have as much of an impact on McCourty, because the conditions aren’t the same. But if Anthony Davis of the 49ers signs, as rumors have indicated he might (I heard they were close all the way back to before he changed agents in June)? That might be a sign that the ball is starting to roll down the hill on these things, since that’s outside the category of silly money (Top 7-10 picks).

The question really is who will be the first to take the plunge. I’ve heard teams are very reluctant to give in on the language on these things, and the agents and players are being very careful about it.

And no one wants to be the guy who gave in and gave everyone else an example of how not-to-do-a-deal in this new environment. Which, it seems, is turning all this into one big staring contest.

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