Editor’s note: Brian McIntyre regularly covers the Seattle Seahawks and the rest of the NFL on his own football blog, and has graciously agreed to provide his weekly personnel files and analysis on player contracts on the Seahawks here on a semi-regular basis. McIntyre also is a staff writer for Football Outsiders.
By Brian McIntyre
The first unrestricted free agent the Seahawks added was quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who agreed to a two-year, $8 million contract that immediately drew comparisons to Charlie Whitehurst’s deal from last March. While Whitehurst’s contract was technically a one-year, $6.8 million extension – Whitehurst had signed a one-year restricted free agent tender worth $1.176 million before the trade – the structures of the deals for the two quarterbacks are nearly identical.
Whitehurst received a $2 million roster bonus and $2 million base salary in 2010, with a $4 million base salary in 2011 and $1 million in incentives in each year of the contract. Jackson received a $1.5 million signing bonus and will receive a $500,000 roster bonus if he’s on the 53-man roster for Week One. Jackson has base salaries of $2 million in 2011 and $4 million in 2012, with $2.05 million in individual and team performance incentives available between the two years ($1 million in 2011, $1.05 million in 2012).
Jackson’s former teammate Sidney Rice struck it big with a five-year, $41 million contract that includes $15 million in fully guaranteed money at the time of signing. Rice received a $6 million signing bonus and $2 million guaranteed base salary in 2011, and his $7 million base salary in 2012 is also fully guaranteed – $3.5 million of Rice’s $8.5 million base salary in 2013 is guaranteed for injury only.
Rice is scheduled to receive $23.5 million over the all-important first three years of the deal, which includes an additional $3 million in base salary escalators tied to Pro Bowls, an event no Seahawks receiver has participated in since 1989. (When Rice was two years old)
Seattle hopes to have another Pro Bowl pass-catcher in tight end Zach Miller, who signed a five-year, $34 million contract that includes $13 million in fully guaranteed money at the time of signing. Miller received $5 million to sign, and his $2 million 2011 and $6 million 2012 salaries are fully guaranteed.
Miller is due $6.8 million in base salary in 2013, of which $4 million is guaranteed for injury only. If Miller is on the roster on the 5th day of the 2012 league year – and it’s highly unlikely that he won’t be – the $4 million becomes fully guaranteed. Miller also has $6 million in roster bonuses from 2013-15, with cascading base salaries on the back end of the deal. ($4.8 million in 2014, $2.8 million in 2015)
Left guard Robert Gallery signed a three-year, $15 million contract that included a $1 million signing bonus and a fully guaranteed $4 million base salary in 2011. Gallery has $5 million base salaries in both 2012 and 2013. If Gallery is named to a Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012, he will earn a $1.5 million roster bonus on the second day of the following league year.
On the defensive side of the ball, the big-ticket free agent item was the base salary-heavy re-signing of defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. The five-year, $25 million extension includes a $1 million signing bonus and $4 million in fully guaranteed base salaries in 2011 and 2012. Mebane’s base salaries in the final three seasons are $5 million (2013) and $5.5 million (2014-15).
Defensive lineman Alan Branch received a two-year, $7 million contract that included a $500,000 signing bonus and a fully guaranteed base salary of $2.5 million in 2011 and $3 million in 2012. $1 million of Branch’s base salary in 2012 is fully guaranteed, bringing the total guarantee of the deal to $4 million. Branch also has a $500,000 roster bonus and $500,000 workout bonus in 2012 and can earn up to $1 million in playing-time incentives over the duration of the contract.
Defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson received a $100,000 signing bonus to go with his $1 million base salary, with an additional $400,000 available in playing-time and sacks incentives. Linebacker Leroy Hill’s one-year deal includes a $100,000 signing bonus, $685,000 base salary, and $50,000 in per game ($3,125) roster bonuses along with $165,000 in playing-time incentives. Cornerback Kelly Jennings received a $200,000 signing bonus and a $1.8 million base salary.
Had the NFL and NFL Players Association not revamped the rookie compensation system this offseason, the Seahawks and representatives for 25th overall pick James Carpenter would have been negotiating off of the deal that last year’s 25th pick, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, received. The base value of that contract was $11.25 million over five seasons, but with $8.7 million in guaranteed money, with Tebow received a mini “quarterback premium” in terms of base salary escalation that pumped the total maximum value of the deal to $33 million.
With the process simplified to four-year contracts for all draft picks (with a fifth-year option for first-round picks), the Seahawks got Carpenter under contract in a matter of days. Carpenter’s four-year contract is worth $7.641 million and includes a $4.057 million signing bonus.
The base salaries in the first three years – $375,000 in 2011, $722,341 in 2012, and $1,069,682 in 2013 – are fully guaranteed, bringing the total guarantee to $6.224 million. Carpenter has a non-guaranteed base salary of $1.417 million in 2014.
Third-round offensive lineman John Moffitt received a $637,500 signing bonus as part of his four-year, $2.895 million contract. Moffitt will play for the league minimum base salary in 2011 ($375,000) before earning $505,000 (2012), $625,000 (2013), and $752,500 (2014) in the outer years.
From there, the rookie contracts get very basic. Each draft choice is slated to play for the league minimum base salary – $375,000 in 2011, $465,000 in 2012, $555,000 in 2013, and $645,000 in 2014 – with the only noteworthy difference in each contract being the signing bonus.
Fourth-round linebacker K.J. Wright received $486,000, while wide receiver Kris Durham, who was chosen eight selections after Wright, signed for $464,260.
Fifth-round cornerback Richard Sherman signed for $182,424, and two picks later safety Mark LeGree received $178,532 to sign.
Sixth-round cornerback Byron Maxwell signed for $113,452. In round seven, defensive lineman Pep Levingston received a $68,900 signing bonus and linebacker Malcolm Smith was one of 17 compensatory draft choices this year to sign for $45,900.
In the new collective bargaining agreement, undrafted free agents are signed to three-year contracts, with teams limited to spending $75,000 in signing bonuses and amounts treated as signing bonuses on those players each year.
For the Seahawks, the highest signing bonuses were paid to wide receiver Doug Baldwin ($17,500), safety Jeron Johnson ($15,000), and defensive end Pierre Allen ($10,000).