Profootballtalk.com wrote:FITZGERALD HAS JAW-DROPPING ESCALATORS
One thing that we've learned over the past several weeks is that the sports media at large spends little time breaking down the real terms of contracts paid out to rookies, specifically those drafted in the first round.
Part of the problem is that, in their zeal to "break" the story, many sports journalists rely upon information straight from the kid's agent -- and that information in the end may prove to be less than accurate. Of course, writers who find themselves in this specific predicament rarely do anything to fix the problem. The real numbers typically become available several news cycles later, so the safe thing for the writer who got it wrong is to keep his head low and move on to the next story.
In theory, other writers could be pointing out such mistakes. However, there seems to be a professional courtesy among these paid writer types, which prevents them from calling each other out.
Unfortunately for some, we're not courteous. And we're not professional.
But our goal for now isn't to rip certain rotund members of the media for obsessing over bonus money while ignoring the other key terms of the deal -- or spinning the terms in a way that makes the agents who feed them scoop look good. Instead, we're trying to help fill in a fairly significant information gap that exists regarding the amount and the attainability of the incentive payments and escalators contained in these contracts.
Our round one contract analyzer specifically doesn't focus on these aspects of rookie contracts because the terms vary greatly from deal to deal, and because we've yet to devise a remotely objective formula for assessing the real value of future payments tied to specific events. Sure, a player might have a $15 million escalator for 2008, but if it's due to be paid only if the team wins the next four Super Bowls and/or the kid leads an expedition to Jupiter, the chances of the money being paid aren't very high.
And that brings us (after six yawn-inducing paragraphs) to the point of this piece. Based on our review of the contracts paid out to date to the guys at the top end of the draft (and given that we haven't yet eye-balled the terms given to Kellen Winslow), the guy with the greatest likelihood of cashing in on his incentives and escalators is receiver Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals.
Beyond more than $15 million in bonus money, Fitzgerald can earn a string of escalators beginning in 2006 based on the so-called "minimum playing time" trigger, which generally refers to participation in 35 percent of the snaps for his side of the ball.
Specifically, achievement of minimum playing time by Fitzgerald puts him in line for a $2.75 million escalator in 2006, $2.75 million in 2007, $3.5 million in 2008, and a whopping $11 million in 2009. That's a total potential haul of $20 million based solely being on the field for slightly more than one out of every three offensive snaps.
He can get another $5 million in 2007 if he has 270 catches in his first three years (that's an average of 90 per year). He also can get $10 million more for making one Pro Bowl ($5 million in 2008 and $5 million in 2009) along with another $5 million in 2008 if he makes it two two Pro Bowls in his first four years, or if he's in the top five in receptions for two of his first four years.
Other deals might have more total potential dollars, but earning the dollars doesn't get any easier than in Fitz's deal. As a result, a league source explained to us on Wednesday afternoon that the Cardinals will be begging Fitzgerald to restructure after four years, since the big escalators kick in for 2008 and 2009 (unless, of course, the Cardinals are otherwise far under the salary cap).
So whether he gets it in the form of escalators or in the form of an extension prior to the 2008 season, Fitzgerald will be paid handsomely over the next 48 months. Our guess is that, by this time in 2008, Larry will have deposited more than $50 million in checks with Bill Bidwill's name on them.
And that, my friends, is what we call a financially advantageous position.
That my friends, is one fatty contract.