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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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NFL Free Agency: $1B+ Plus in Deals, but the Fine Print Shows True Value

  • Dozens of NFL players have already agreed to terms with new teams.
  • A lack of fully guaranteed contracts dramatically reduces what they will be paid.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agents can’t officially sign with their new teams until 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, but already, well north of $1 billion in contracts, and counting, have been agreed to during the league’s two-day negotiating period that began Monday afternoon. However, given it’s the season of misinformation, those payouts likely won’t all end up being as high as what’s been reported.

For example, take the five contracts below, which involve some of the biggest names in the market. Together, the deals represent $627.75 million over 21 years. The catch is that just 55% of that money is fully guaranteed, and opportunities for teams to end deals early could reduce the deals to as little as $394.8 million.

Falcons QB Kirk Cousins

  • The headline: Four years, $180 million
  • The fine print: $100 million is guaranteed, with a potential out after 2026 that would essentially turn the contract into a three-year, $135 million deal. (Nothing is guaranteed in ’27, when Cousins will turn 39 and would be owed $45 million, carrying a cap hit of $57.5 million.)

Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield

  • The headline: Three years, $100 million
  • The fine print: $50 million is guaranteed, with a potential out after 2025 that would essentially turn the contract into a two-year, $60 million deal.

Packers RB Josh Jacobs

  • The headline: Four years, $48 million
  • The fine print: $12.5 million is guaranteed (just over 25% of the total contract value), with a potential out after 2024 that would essentially make it a one-year, $14.8 million deal.

Chiefs DE Chris Jones

  • The headline: Five years, $158.75 million
  • The fine print: $95 million is guaranteed, with a potential out after 2026 that would essentially turn the contract into a three-year, $95 million deal. (Base salaries of $28.25 million in ’27 and $35 million in ’28 are not guaranteed.)

Giants DE Brian Burns

  • The headline: Five years, $141 million
  • The fine print: $87.5 million is guaranteed, with a potential out after 2026 that would essentially turn the contract into a three-year, $90 million deal.

For the players’ sakes, hopefully that full $627.75 million amount will be realized. But unfortunately, most NFL fans know that won’t be the case. (contract numbers via Spotrac)

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