Friday, August 14, 2009

The Contracts of Mike Vick & Roddy White

Vick’s Contract Structure
On the first night of the first full weekend of pre-season football, the games of the evening took a backseat to the signing of quarterback Michael Vick by the Philadelphia Eagles. While the numbers are generally being reported by various outlets as $1.6 million for year one and $5.2 million for the option year of year two, I’ll reserve comment on the compensation aspect of the deal until I can get the specific details of the contract, as the numbers reported are very vague and tell one nothing about how those amounts are broken out amongst guaranteed and non-guaranteed money.

Regarding the reported structure of the contract, in an article that I penned for the The Washington Post, I discussed the advantages of signing Vick to a one-year “prove it” contract with a club option for multiple years thereafter. In the end, Vick and the Eagles did indeed agree to this type of structure, but instead of an option for multiple years, Vick’s agreement is only for one option year. Without re-hashing the Washington Post article, the spirit of the “prove-it” option structure is that it allows the club to get a one year evaluation of the player, without the commitment of a substantial amount of guaranteed money and contractual years, and more importantly, this structure allows the club to be in complete control should they decide they would like to retain the player after year one. In his one year with the Patriots, Donte Stallworth signed a one year “prove it” contract with an option for multiple years thereafter; the Patriots chose not to exercise the option. Conversely, Saints quarterback Drew Brees also signed a contract with this structure after coming off of off-season shoulder surgery; the Saints opted to exercise Brees’ option.

In short, if the player stinks, then with this structure the club doesn’t pay the option bonus and the player becomes a free agent, but if the player turns out to be good, then the club pays the negotiated option bonus and retains the services of the player. If the retention of the player equates to multiple years, then this is to the advantage of the club, as they’ve locked in the future value of the player’s contract. To this point, it makes sense that Vick’s option is only for one additional year. Assuming Vick proves to be a high-level player, then the agent’s responsibility is to get his player to free agency as soon as possible, hence the one option year agreed to by Vick’s agent Joel Segal in lieu of multiple years. If Vick is playing at a high level through 2010, he’ll be in line for a potentially lucrative deal as he enters 2011. However, if Vick proves otherwise, then the club has protected its interests by not committing a lot to Vick beyond 2009.

All in all, the contract structure agreed to by Vick and the Eagles seems to be mutually beneficial. Given the well documented history of the Eagles’ propensity for locking up players for an extended amount of years, it’s interesting that Segal was able to obtain an agreement to one option year. One would have thought that the Eagles would have wanted the option to secure Vick’s services for a longer period of time after the “prove it” year.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, both Eagles starting quarterback Donovan McNabb’s and Vick’s contracts expire after 2010, assuming a Vick option. Come 2011, it’ll be interesting to see which one of these two end up with a new contract with the Eagles as the starter, or if neither is the 2011 starter or on the team for that matter.

Roddy White Analysis
While the NFL news headlines are filled with the signing of a former member of the Atlanta Falcons, lets take a look at the contract signed by current Falcon wide receiver Roddy White.

Wide Receiver Roddy White
Club: ATL
Analysis Peer Group: Wide Receiver Contract Extensions

Contract Length: Five new years

Total Guarantee: $18,600,000 (Peer: BUF Wide Receiver Lee Evans, $18,250,000; New England Wide Receiver Randy Moss, $15,000,000)
Guarantee Per Year: $3,720,000 (Peers: CHI Wide Receiver Devin Hester, $3,750,000; NO Wide Receiver Marques Colston, $3,333,333)
Guarantee vs. Total New Money Value: 43.5% (Peer: ARZ Wide Receiver Anquan Boldin, 44.1%)

Total New Money Value: $42,720,000 (Peers: HST Wide Receiver Andre Johnson, $42,600,000; MIN Wide Receiver Bernard Berrian, $42,000,000)
Average Per Year (APY): $8,544,000 (Peers: DAL Wide Receiver Roy Williams, $9,000,000; Evans, $8,250,000)

Three-Year Total: (estimate) $31,120,000 (Peers: ARZ Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, $33,000,000; Moss, $27,000,000)
Guarantee vs. Three-Year Total: 59.8% (Peers: ATL Wide Receiver Michael Jenkins, 63.4%; Moss, 55.6%)

The first thing that stands out about the contract extension signed by Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is his three-year total of $31,120,000. At the wide receiver position, this amount is only rivaled and surpassed by the contract of Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, $33,000,000. This three-year total is an aspect of the contract that White’s agent Neil Schwartz can hang his hat on when selling this contract to the media or prospective clients.

However, from the club’s perspective, this is a good deal because even though Roddy White can earn a lot of money over the course of this contract, particularly over the first three years; he’s going to have to do just that, earn it via salary and not guaranteed money. While players like Saints wide receiver Marques Colston and Bears wide receiver Devin Hester are guaranteed in excess of 85% of the first three years of their contract, White is only guaranteed 59.8% of his three-year total. In the case of White and the Falcons, this agreement benefits the club in that the player should be satisfied with a guarantee amount as a whole that is going to pay him as an upper-tier wide receiver but at the same time doesn’t over expose the club from a guaranteed compensation standpoint should Roddy White’s development regress. Sounds like a win-win deal.

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